Are you a doctor? Click to book your free podcast appearance!
Aug. 7, 2023

Jimmy Sung, MD - Plastic & Reconstructive Surgeon in New York City

Jimmy Sung, MD - Plastic & Reconstructive Surgeon in New York City

Dr. Jimmy Sung doesn’t see his work as a job, it’s his vocation. When people visit him, they can expect a candid, unfiltered assessment of what’s best for them, even if that means suggesting reversing past procedures or treatments.

An early...

Dr. Jimmy Sung doesn’t see his work as a job, it’s his vocation. When people visit him, they can expect a candid, unfiltered assessment of what’s best for them, even if that means suggesting reversing past procedures or treatments.

An early proponent of regenerative aesthetics, Dr. Sung views fat as a “treasure trove” and uses it everyday in his practice to not only replace volume, but also to repair tissue and improve the healing process.

Hear why he considers himself to be an honest bartender or a locksmith, and what he demands from himself for the privilege of caring for his patients.

To learn more about Dr. Jimmy Sung

Follow Dr. Sung on Instagram


The purpose of the Meet the Doctor podcast is simple. We want you to get to know your doctor before meeting them in person because you’re making a life changing decision and time is scarce. The more you can learn about who your doctor is before you meet them, the better that first meeting will be.

When you head into an important appointment more informed and better educated, you are able to have a richer, more specific conversation about the procedures and treatments you’re interested in. There’s no substitute for an in-person appointment, but we hope this comes close.

Meet The Doctor is a production of The Axis.
Made with love in Austin, Texas.

Are you a doctor or do you know a doctor who’d like to be on the Meet the Doctor podcast? Book a free 30 minute recording session at


Eva Sheie (00:03):
The purpose of this podcast is simple. We want you to get to know your doctor before meeting them in person because you're making a life-changing decision, and time is scarce. The more you can learn about who your doctor is before you meet them, the better that first meeting will be. There's no substitute for an in-person appointment, but we hope this comes close. I'm your host, Eva Sheie, and you're listening to Meet the Doctor. Welcome to Meet the Doctor. My guest today is Jimmy Sung. He's a plastic surgeon in New York City. Tell us about yourself.

Dr. Sung (00:40):
Well, my name's Jimmy Sung. I'm a plastic surgeon. I started practicing here in New York over a decade ago, and uh, I've been in downtown New York where we're at ever since.

Eva Sheie (00:53):
Do you have a specific, um, procedure focus or part of the body that you, that you specialize in?

Dr. Sung (00:59):
I think that over time, as, as you know, for plastic surgeon, we're supposed to be able to fix anything from head to toe. We're not organ specific, but over time I gained more and more of interest into this whole, uh, approach of regenerative aesthetics. Basically, we try to do everything possible to let the body heal itself and try to kind of pull back from using things that are artificial or foreign or chemical base.

Eva Sheie (01:29):
There's a lot of research happening in this area.

Dr. Sung (01:31):

Eva Sheie (01:32):
Can you speak to what kinds of things surgeons are looking at in this emerging field?

Dr. Sung (01:39):
Well, surgeons are looking at many, many things. Probably in particular, the study of fat has made the most progress. More and more we understand that fat is actually not a bad thing and it's actually a treasure trove. And we're gradually beginning to understand the biological function of fat. And we're not there yet. I mean, we haven't completely solved all the puzzles, but more and more we kind of understand that it's more than just something that, um, store, um, extra calories. It itself has many, many biological functions that we can tap into to help us to heal ourselves.

Eva Sheie (02:17):
How does that fit into traditional procedures now? Like can you give me an example of a procedure where you didn't treat the fat differently before but you are now? Does that make sense?

Dr. Sung (02:28):
Sure. Everybody heard of fillers?

Eva Sheie (02:30):

Dr. Sung (02:30):
And the invention of injectable fillers is groundbreaking. The reason that it is groundbreaking is, is truly is pretty safe and effective. Right? It's replacing volume, but it's not you. It's a pharmaceutical product and it doesn't last you hope. It doesn't last. Whereas fat is yours. You make it yourself. Everybody has it, even somebody as skinny as me and we can use our own fat to replace the loss of volume. That's probably the best thing.

Eva Sheie (03:00):
I picked up something that you said there about you hope that it goes away and this is something I've been seeing lately is that people are starting to worry and even doctors on YouTube are starting to say that the filler isn't dissolving in some places. Are you seeing this happen?

Dr. Sung (03:18):
Sure. I invest in the ultrasound just to make sure, yes, every patient that comes to my office that has filler before, that gets a ultrasound study and evaluation because this is what we've been observing, right? The reason that our filler is so safe and effective is that we're able to make these bacteria in the lab making the Hyaluronic acid that is not from animals. So we don't have to worry about things like virus or PreOn and stuff like that. And the best part is that once we inject it into the patient, the patient's body's gonna be able to break it down over time and it's supposed to completely leave your body. But more and more we have seen patient over time that the filler and the body kind of go into a, a detente situation where the body's not breaking it down and the filler is kind of just sitting there, sometimes they do migrate as well. Now there's an easy solution for it 'cause there is an enzyme that can dissolve it. But it's something that probably at the beginning of this whole filler, I'll say the filler revolution that the injectable revolution did not foresee.

Eva Sheie (04:29):
Is there a part or parts of the face where it tends to stay?

Dr. Sung (04:34):
Usually we're seeing them in the periorbital area, especially under the eye. It kinda just sits there. I have seen fillers that's been there for years.

Eva Sheie (04:45):
Does it change the way that it looks over time? It's not like leaving it there is a good thing.

Dr. Sung (04:51):
I don't think that having it sit there cause any harmful health effect, but it doesn't look good <laugh> because two things happen. Uh, number one, you have a lump there, right? Number two, there's a discoloration from the reflection of the filler itself. The filler, even though in a syringe is clear. But much like on seawater, when you have a glass of seawater, it's clear. But you look at a sea, it's blue. Depends on where you're at. Some places emerald and that's a reflection.

Eva Sheie (05:22):
Or brown

Dr. Sung (05:23):
<laugh> <laugh>. Yeah. Yeah. Well, you know, good point.

Eva Sheie (05:27):
Depending on where you are.

Dr. Sung (05:29):
Absolutely. And you really think about it. Seawater turned brown a lot of time because we have done enough ecological destruction that caused the overgrowth of algae, et cetera. And that was a unforeseen side effect of um, progress. And uh, perhaps what we're seeing with these residual filler is an unforeseen result of progress.

Eva Sheie (05:54):
Well said. So in under eye area, which has always been notoriously challenging, you would never want an inexperienced injector to treat your under eyes. That would be very scary.

Dr. Sung (06:08):
Well, you wouldn't want anybody inexperienced to do anything.

Eva Sheie (06:11):
Right. What is the treatment if you don't want filler, what is the treatment for the under eyes that it actually will work?

Dr. Sung (06:20):
Well, the issue's more complicated than that, right? 'Cause um, first of all, exactly what is going on. Were you a good candidate to have filler to begin with? 'Cause some people, their issues has beyond what filler can do. And probably the best thing is never even use the filler in the first place. If people who are actually good candidate for filler, but it just needs a little adjustment, then we can, um, do that easily by, uh, dissolving whatever was in there before and do a better job.

Eva Sheie (06:52):
Are you using fat in the face as a filler? Is that something you do all the time?

Dr. Sung (06:57):
Yes. I love fat. It's just a wonderful, I hate to use the word material, but it's just a wonderful substance to work with. Everybody has, it is from the patient and it's more than just filler because part of the reason that filler is so safe is because it's what we call biologically in earth. Right? Meaning that it doesn't really trigger the body to have reaction. But fat, your own fat actually do more than that. More than just replace the volume loss. But it itself is making the tissue surrounding it repair itself. And we have seen this in research where people who has some radiation treatment wounds that doesn't heal radiation fibrosis where skin and tissue become fibrotic. And by using fat, the tissue start healing itself.

Eva Sheie (07:48):
This is especially true in patients who have things like breast cancer, right?

Dr. Sung (07:53):
Oh yes.

Eva Sheie (07:53):
So you have a radiated breast and you're saying that transferring fat there will actually help the skin heal?

Dr. Sung (08:00):

Eva Sheie (08:00):
On the outside?

Dr. Sung (08:00):

Eva Sheie (08:01):
Oh, that's amazing. When you are seeing someone and you're gonna move their fat around, where do you get the fat from? Is there a better location on the body than other parts or, you know, what's your preferred method of doing this?

Dr. Sung (08:19):
Well, one of the thing about plastic reconstructive surgery is that by trying to fix one problem, you don't want to create a second problem. So, um, usually I get fat where the patient don't want it <laugh>. So everybody's a little fat around the abdomen, the flanks, and also the inner thigh. Usually those are the preferred area.

Eva Sheie (08:38):
There's been a lot of talk, especially in the last year or two about moving fat around and not just getting rid of it. And I've heard some really interesting things. Someone recently told me that in men, it's actually a terrible idea to get rid of the fat and that it should be replaced. You know, if you're gonna move it, if you're gonna take it out, you should move it somewhere else.

Dr. Sung (08:59):
I think that that's too much of a generalization.

Eva Sheie (09:02):
Very much so.

Dr. Sung (09:03):
It really depends on individual circumstances and that, that's the thing about plastic surgery is such a individualized problem solving project. It's really not. Something might work for one patient or even your sibling doesn't work for you. And the job of the plastic surgeon is really understanding what the issues are for this particular patient and then using all your arians to try to solve the problem for them. So I always hesitate about affirming these general statement because next thing you know, people run out and go get it because it might not be what's best for them. And this is really something that's extremely important to have the solution designed on an individual personalized basis.

Eva Sheie (09:54):
Another big buzzword is, uh, exosomes, which has started rolling around recently.

Dr. Sung (10:00):

Eva Sheie (10:01):
Can you tell us more about exosomes?

Dr. Sung (10:04):
Sure. First of all, there's no product that has been approved by the F D A, but it's out there, right. Exosome basically to make it easy to understand this, it's just a way for cells to communicate with each other. And supposedly these exosomes in a bottle is able to do exactly the same as what's going on actually in our body. But I think there's still so much research and data that, uh, need to be done. And the problem with the whole aesthetic industry is that usually the pay per click goes way ahead of the science and the regulation. And in many ways it's detrimental to the progress of the science because what happened is that a trigger, some sort of regulatory response and then it actually impedes the progress that we truly need to make. So I'm very interested in exosomes. I read about it at night <laugh>. I think that it is something that's very promising, but we're not there yet.

Eva Sheie (11:07):
You told me earlier that you love fat and you work with fat every day. So let's maybe go in the direction of what procedures do you do with fat and how are you helping patients?

Dr. Sung (11:19):
Well, this is New York City <laugh>. So I have a very diverse patient population. So everybody, men, women, people with different skin type, different shapes and sizes, different age group. So the way I see fat really at this point is more than just a filler. I really see them kind of like the smoothie or protein shake that I usually stimulate a body using energy devices or surgery itself. And then now using fat as a way for it to boost the response and improve the outcome. So for example, let's just say that something as simple as this, if somebody want to improve their skin or they have scars or something like that, what I need to do first is some sort of control trauma. So what is that? It could be radio frequency microneedling, it could be some sort of laser treatment. And these energy devices, they're there to cause injury, literally causing a control injury. And now the body's gonna respond and try to repair it. That's where the fat can come in and really help because like I said, it's more than just a volume occupied, it's more than just a filler. What it does is now it's gonna become part of that healing process. I have seen pretty amazing result.

Eva Sheie (12:37):
Is there a patient you can think of whose story you can tell us where this really illustrates the concept?

Dr. Sung (12:44):
Yeah, I have a lady that probably has some longer experience with aesthetic medicine than I have. I mean, she's been doing it.

Eva Sheie (12:53):
She's an enthusiast.

Dr. Sung (12:55):
Yeah, that's right. That's right. When I first met her, she was asking for my opinion, what she should do, and then I listened to her and she's a new patient and, but, I just couldn't help myself. I said, you know, you should stop. <laugh>

Eva Sheie (13:09):

Dr. Sung (13:12):
After I listened for 30 minutes, she was like, you know, you should just stop. She said, what do you mean? And I explained to her, I listen, you don't look authentic and natural anymore. And the solutions that actually not more products and procedures, the solutions actually first of all stop and let's reassess and perhaps allow me to dissolve some of the stuff and take out some of these things. Then for the next, um, five years and throughout the pandemic, we took out implants, we dissolved fillers. And then it's kind of funny, she introduced me to her husband and then, uh, the husband say, ah, thank you. <laugh>

Speaker 3 (13:52):
He said, thank you.<laugh>

Eva Sheie (13:54):
So your candor won her over and you ended up undoing, which was the right thing to do for her. So it sounds like when people come to see you, they could really expect the truth and, and a real honest assessment from you.

Dr. Sung (14:08):
Well, I, I think that's a basic thing, right? I mean, I always think of myself as, as an honest bartender or a locksmith. The honest bartender have to say, Hey, listen, you got enough. Let me call you Uber or Lyft. I don't hold any stocks in these companies. So it's not an advertisement. <laugh>

Eva Sheie (14:26):
<laugh> I think they're both losing money. That's okay.

Dr. Sung (14:28):
So, uh, and then it's a stop. The locksmith holds the key, but he should never become a burglar. So as plastic surgeons, we have all these trainings and we have all these knowledge. Our job really to be the advocate and the advisor and the, the most trusted advisor to the patient. That's what they need. Platforms like RealSelf, that's great, but nothing's better than somebody on your side that's always thinking on your behalf and knows how to solve your problem using the most scientific safe way.

Eva Sheie (15:11):
If I had to guess, I would bet that you have a lot of loyal patients that are with you for this very reason.

Dr. Sung (15:17):
Yeah. That's why I never left New York despite the pandemic <laugh>.

Eva Sheie (15:21):
They won't let, they won't let you <laugh>.

Dr. Sung (15:23):
No. Well, they laugh, but, uh, I stay and now they're coming back. It's great.

Eva Sheie (15:26):
Oh, I'm glad to hear that. So tell me about yourself a little bit. You've gone through a ton of training, maybe from the patient perspective. Speak to why the training is important and what was great about yours.

Dr. Sung (15:41):
Oh, well, like I said, to be a trusted advisor, you better know what you're doing and you better keep up with all the new knowledge that's out there. I've been very fortunate. I spent a lot of time training. I was trained before the ADR work week period, <laugh> where, where things that we went through probably, uh, oh, well, actually it's not probably, but it's no longer allowed, which is really like bootcamp, Navy Seal type of training, right?

Eva Sheie (16:10):
Where was this?

Dr. Sung (16:11):
University of Pittsburgh.

Eva Sheie (16:12):
Pittsburgh. So yeah, I've heard this about Pit <laugh>.

Dr. Sung (16:16):
I would never trade those days for anything. I, I'm very, very happy with what I got. Very fortunate. And I think that, um, me in particular, you know, Pittsburgh's a wonderful place. A lot of my colleagues, my contemporaries are now chairmans of departments, but I love this scene and, uh, Top Gun too. Have you seen that movie?

Eva Sheie (16:36):
The recent one?

Dr. Sung (16:37):

Eva Sheie (16:37):

Dr. Sung (16:38):
Okay. So there's a scene with Tom Cruise and Ed Harris and there's Ed Harris asking Tom Cruise like, shut down three enemy planes, you know, this and that. You ought to be a two star Admiral by now, captain and Tom Cruise answered. Well, you know, sir, that's one a life's mystery. And for me, I just love to operate and take care of patients. So, uh, I stay in the operating room. In fact, after this podcast, I'm going back <laugh> to operate. So I kind of figure out what life mystery is for me. Being a doctor is my vocation, it's my passion, it's what I do. I had actually a very thin resume. But I have a lot of flight hours.

Eva Sheie (17:19):
Fantastic. Vocation is not a word I hear very often from plastic surgeons.

Dr. Sung (17:27):
Well, it's funny 'cause uh, you know, uh, New York's kind of, well, at least the banking industry is going some interesting process right now. So last week I was reading the Financial Times. There's actually a good article about a difference between career and vocation. And one of the example that the author used was Jiro. Yeah. There's a movie called Jiro Love Sushi. And then Jiro, basically that's all he did, right? Like his entire life, ever since he was a teenager, just want to make sushi. And he has a little tiny, very understated restaurant that has like 10 seats that honestly looks like an office in Tokyo. There's no chain. Jiro doesn't brand, Jiro doesn't do podcasts. Now he did make a movie, but, but all he wants to do is make sushi and that's all I want to do, to be a good doctor. And that's a difference between a vocation and a career. I'm not much of a career list, but I definitely is devoted to my vocation.

Eva Sheie (18:31):
Two little points about this. Anecdotes, really, one of my jobs over my marketing career was actually at a survey company and we surveyed about 200,000 plastic surgery patients over five or six years. And we had this massive data set, and it was the first time I'd ever seen whose patients were actually really, really happy with benchmarks. So no one else could see it. Like you wouldn't be able to look yourself up and say, I have the best scores, but I could see it on the back end. And there was a doctor, a surgeon in Fayetteville, Arkansas who had hundreds upon hundreds of 5.0 survey responses that of patients that said they were highly satisfied. And the the famous doctors in our system whose names everyone know, we're at the bottom. And this doctor in Fayetteville, Arkansas was number one.

Dr. Sung (19:27):
And you know, I, I know exactly who he is.

Eva Sheie (19:30):
Yeah. <laugh>

Dr. Sung (19:30):
He's who I want to be the best plastic surgeon you never heard of.

Eva Sheie (19:35):
That's right. And I have so much respect for the data, but for what the data represented, that was a major moment in the way that I thought about marketing really. And the other one is, there's a podcast that I love, which I talk about often on this podcast called Founders. And he goes through the most famous entrepreneurs and business people of the last 150 years. He from Henry Ford to Steve Jobs. And he reads the book and then tells you about the book so you don't have to read it. And he starts to see patterns between the people. And that's one of the patterns with these extremely successful entrepreneurs that we all know is that they become hyper obsessed with one thing. So like Estee Lauder is one of the ones I loved, and she was obsessed with making potions and putting them on people's faces. And she started doing this when she was eight years old. She would go to people in elevators in New York City and kind of attack them to put lotion on their face, <laugh>. And it, it paints this just incredible picture that she couldn't not do that thing. And that's you, that's the thing. You can't not do. You have to be in the OR.

Dr. Sung (20:49):
Yeah, I know. I kind of get my inspiration from the skateboarders in downtown Manhattan <laugh>. And like hours after hours.

Eva Sheie (20:58):
They just can't stop themselves.

Dr. Sung (20:59):
They just keep doing this exact same thing. <laugh>,

Eva Sheie (21:03):
Are any of them adults?

Dr. Sung (21:05):
Yeah, some of them in their forties now. Yeah,

Eva Sheie (21:06):
Exactly. <laugh>, that's a perfect analogy.

Dr. Sung (21:11):
<laugh>. Yeah. The downtown kids.

Eva Sheie (21:15):
Tell me about your family.

Dr. Sung (21:17):
I have a very loving family. I'm very, very fortunate. They're still around me, especially my parents. And they're so much from my parents as far as value, et cetera. And then, I mean, to be honest, for the longest time you are wondering like, Hey, did I choose the right path? Right. You know, that's one of the signs of people that you mentioned, like Steve Jobs and stuff like that. They're always like wondering like, Hey, am I doing the right thing? Like constantly. But I knew I did the right thing when I was able to, um, put my dad in an ambulance transferring from one hospital to another hospital in the front seat, sitting next to the ambulance driver crossing, uh, the George Washington Bridge. And when everybody told him that, you know, it's time to get the family together and, and say goodbye. And thank God, thanks to my colleague who was able to do what needs to be done, and he's still with me. And that was five years ago. So finally I think I was able to express some gratitude and be useful to the person that really influenced me most in my life.

Eva Sheie (22:25):
Do you have siblings?

Dr. Sung (22:26):
Oh yeah. They're, they're all doctors. <laugh>

Eva Sheie (22:29):
They are. Are you the only plastic surgeon?

Dr. Sung (22:33):
Uh, yeah.

Eva Sheie (22:33):
Yeah. Boy, I'd love to sit at that dinner table with you.

Dr. Sung (22:37):
I'll invite you to our family dinner table at Thanksgiving and you go listen to my father and mother telling us about educating us about medicine. And then we're looking at each other and say, wait a minute, we're the one who actually went to medical school. And it's like, no, you guys don't know anything. Let me tell you how <laugh>, I was like, this is great. It's, this is great. Yeah.

Eva Sheie (22:57):
That sounds fun. Well, if someone's listening today and they're interested in getting to know you better or reaching out, maybe scheduling a consultation or just checking you out on Instagram, where should they go?

Dr. Sung (23:10):
Oh. Oh, no, no. I, I haven't updated my Instagram for like, months.

Eva Sheie (23:14):
Don't go to Instagram.

Dr. Sung (23:15):
But the best thing, no, send us an email.

Eva Sheie (23:17):

Dr. Sung (23:17):
And let us know, you know, what you need. And then, uh, we promptly reply.

Eva Sheie (23:38):
And what's your website?

Dr. Sung (23:40):

Eva Sheie (23:43):
Tribeca And I'll put that in the show notes, so we'll make it easy. Yeah.

Speaker 4 (23:48):
Thank you very much.

Eva Sheie (23:48):
Thank you Dr. Sung. It was a a pleasure getting to know you.

Speaker 4 (23:52):
Oh, pleasure is all mine, Eva.

Eva Sheie (23:58):
If you are considering making an appointment or are on your way to meet this doctor, be sure to let them know you heard them on the Meet The Doctor podcast. Check the show notes for links, including the doctor's website and Instagram to learn more. Are you a doctor or do you know a doctor who'd like to be on the Meet the Doctor podcast? Book your free recording session at Meet the Doctor Meet the Doctor is Made with Love in Austin, Texas and is a production of The Axis, t h e a x i