How has 2020 been for you so far? What is new in your practice since the beginning of the year?
2020 is very exciting. It is not only a new year but a new decade. I feel like I’m at a stage in my life where there’s a lot of new things that I’m looking forward to. I feel like I really accomplished a lot of what I had wanted to in my youth, so this is kind of like my second chapter and I am really excited. A lot of great things are going on, we are doing some new marketing and I have a lot of new products especially for men such as Neograft hair transplantation and PRP injections.
Honestly, I’m a big sports fan and an L.A. native so the passing of Kobe Bryant and those 8 other people on the helicopter, including his daughter, assistant coaches, parents, other kids, the helicopter pilot is just really, really, sad.
When people think about Kobe obviously, the first thing they think of is Los Angeles. People in Newport Beach and in Orange County have been really deeply hurt as well as he was a resident of Orange County.
The thing is I am a L.A. guy and I love Orange County but there’s a lot of wealth here. The neat thing about Kobe that I have always respected was he earned his money. He was not a poser. For a guy who made so much money, he was not trying to buy three million\ dollar cars. He was driving a Range Rover, which is an amazing car but not for a guy who was worth eight hundred million dollars. So anyways, I appreciate his humility.
He is two years younger than me and he really believes in hard work, perseverance and no excuses — you just have to get it done. I entered college when he was entering the NBA, and I got to see him work his way up, just like I was working my way through medical school and then general surgery residency and my plastic surgery residency. Kobe is like everyone’s friend; in this world of social media, where we have a thousand Facebook friends, 90 percent of which do not even have our home phone number. I talked to this guy more than most people do. You know I would be like, “come on Kobe, you could do better.” Or I’d think to myself, “if Kobe can wake up at five in the morning, so can I” then I’d go do whatever I had to do. I had a lot of conversations with him. He did not talk back to me but neither do most of my Facebook friends. It is the same thing, right?
His path towards success inspired me. He was there as a basketball player for 20 years of my life at different stages between being in college, medical school, general surgery residency, getting married, plastic surgery training, and so forth along with moving back to California and seeing him retire. Then you have this guy who’s an icon, and he could just say okay I am done. He is trying to do some new stuff. He would pick his target. He decided he would win an oscar and he did it. He found an area where a lot of people were not doing short stories and stuff and he did something amazing. He wrote children’s books. Imagine being in high school or junior high school and being able to get coached by one of the best players to ever play the game. He was giving a lot of attention to women’s basketball. He demonstrated that hard work and perseverance pays off no matter what stage of life you are in. So for me, as a guy who is 43 years old now and Kobe being just 41 when he passed, I was really excited to see what he was going to do next. That was the hardest hit. I loved that he lived in Orange County because I think it elevated the prestige of this place because I respected him so much. I will tell you, I think everyone around the world and especially in the U.S. felt like he was their neighbour because of the way that they saw him either play against their team or their hometown or they admired him. He was like the kid you knew in high school; you rooted for them. You might not be his best friend but he was always somebody you were proud of watching succeed because you felt like he was an inspiration. This is a tough one for all of us. Not the way I wanted to start 2020. Having one of my favourite basketball players ever die so tragically.
I know that outside of your practice, you are also involved in your community as well. What things do you do outside of work to be involved in your community?
I like doing charity and stuff. Since I went to Medical School in Memphis we had to rotate at St. Jude Children’s Hospital, which is larger than most universities and all you see are just kids with cancer who are getting treatments there and I’m donating a part of my proceeds to them and then I have some other money we donate to the World Hunger Organization. At my once yearly event, I had raffle tickets that I was giving away for different prizes, including a Louis Vuitton bag. If you spent a certain amount of money at my office, you get a raffle ticket but also if you bought in a toy for children, you would get a raffle ticket. I had more toys than I could put into my car for the Make-A-Wish Foundation so that was really, cool. I really enjoyed being a part of these kinds of things. I do try to speak at local events and I have various schools that ask me to speak to prospective people who want to be doctors. I’m actually speaking at my gym, Equinox – on April 24 to talk about my journey. I try to help people as much as I can. I try to get involved in my daughter’s school in whatever way I can.
On your day-to-day when you are not being a surgeon and you are just being a dad, what is your daily schedule like? I know each day is obviously totally different but what’s an average day for you? Walk me through.
I am really a plastic surgeon 24 hours a day because all patients have my cell phone number. I am a small business owner, I am in solo practice so I have to make sure everything is tended to, but usually what happens is, I will wake up Monday ideally at 5 in the morning and I’ll get to the gym by 6 o’clock in the morning, then I will work out at Equinox and I’ll be done by 7 or 7:15. I will shower there and I will get a protein shake that I will take with me as I drive back home to pick up my daughter so I can drop her off at school because her school is near my office.
Mondays and Thursdays that is my morning routine because I start my office hours at 9 a.m. because people in California do not like to wake up really early. I am in the office from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. then I am doing charts until about 8:00 o’clock or so. Then I call my mom, dad and my brother on my drive home. I am usually home by 8:30 and then I wrap it up by spending time with my family or watching a game if there’s a Lakers game on. Then I go to bed.
Tuesdays, I am usually operating. I wake up around 6 a.m., I get to the surgery center by 6:45 am, then I operate and depending on when I finish I will go to the gym or I’m going to go pick up my daughter from school (or I do both). Then I am reading articles, typically that are medically related and that is what I do on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. It is kind of a similar schedule on Fridays as well. Some Fridays I get to go out of town but it is not often. Usually my wife and I have a date night on Friday night or Saturday. Then the other days we usually have either a family event like an anniversary party, birthday, bridal shower, baby shower — you name it there’s always some event. One of those days on the weekend, I like to do something with my daughter where she and I get to have daddy-daughter time, whether it be Disneyland or we go bike riding together or we go to Boomers, which is a place that has video games and go-carts.
Some weekends I go to the racetracks and my brother and I will take our cars. We drive in what is called a ‘High Performance Driving Education Event’ where there is no speed limit but you have to have great driver control as it’s a complex speedway. Some straightaways we go up to 160 miles an hour or around turns between 40 and 120 miles an hour depending on how sharp it is. We do stuff like that and it is fun.
What kinds of things do you do with your daughter?
I just took her to a monster truck show. She likes sports and she likes to watch basketball. She knows the names of all the players on the Lakers (she’s only 5 years old) and she’s really into it. She’s asked me to take her to the Lakers games but I will have to find one that doesn’t end past her bedtime. With my wife, she is very girly and she wants to get her nails and her hair done, and she likes perfume and shoes and clothes. She knows exactly what kinds of things each person she hangs out with likes because she is a very giving, sweet, thoughtful person. My daughter is a lot of fun. She likes monster trucks and we watch cartoons together so I get to be a kid again. One of the cartoons she likes is called Blaze. Blaze has a bunch of monster trucks that go really, fast so she was excited about the monster truck show because it reminded her of Blaze.
Besides a good night sleep, a healthy diet and exercise, what things would you say are vital to your overall health outside of the obvious?
That is multifactorial. I will tell you honestly, most of the time you do not have time to have a healthy diet, workout and sleep enough. You can do two out of the three. You have to figure out which one is which. You can work out and sleep but if you do not eat well you have to figure, “okay I have had too many calories this week so now I have to clean up the diet” or “maybe I’ll sleep less and I will have more time to work out so I could burn off the calories while I eat better.” I think you have to be reasonable and realize you cannot be perfect at all things. That’s number one; realizing that you are not perfect. Number two, time management. There are days where I have a lot of things to do at the office and things to do at home. You feel overwhelmed and you just sit back and go, “Okay, today I did not win. The world wins. My day sucks… but tomorrow is going to be a new day and I am going to come back ready to kick butt.” If I sit here being depressed because the day did not go as I wanted, then tomorrow is going to suck too – so I’m going to make the best of it.
It is all about who you have around you. They say it’s lonely at the top and I’ve had to weed out a lot of people who are not excited about my success. Most people are not excited to see other people succeed because they feel like they’re left out. I work really hard and I give up a lot of things that other people consider fun so that I can succeed and it is lonely sometimes. My friends that are around are people who inspire me. They are people who push me. They are people who are genuinely happy for every good thing that happens for me but also when something bad happens, they actually care and they try to make it better for me. Those are all things that matter and you have to have balance. I’m really big on marketing and being on social media but there are certain days where I am burned out and I need to just stay away from it. If I am around a lot of people that irritate me, I love spending time with my daughter because she is so real. There is no political correctness or being emotionally sensitive with her. She calls it how it is, she accepts what I say and does not judge me.
The most meaningful conversations I have are with this 5 year old kid and that is the balance that I have. And my wife is amazing. She is my best friend. I am a plastic surgeon and I have beautiful people come to my office every day and she is very secure in her own skin. She works hard, she makes her own money, she expects a lot from me in terms of respect and being there for her; Also going to certain events and so forth but she also knows that I need time to decompress and I cannot go to everything and sometimes I need to do things that are fun for me. I think that is important. Also, I love reading. I talked about Kobe Bryant. He is an inspiration to me. I love his work ethic. I love his mamba mentality. At the same token, I have books that talk about tolerance. ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ is one of my favourite books or ‘The Magic of Thinking Big’. I just read the book ‘Outliers’. There are books that you read about other people having succeeded and you learn from their story. Kobe said this a lot too, “it’s not about how many championships you won – it’s how you got there.”
When you look at people who are successful, I do not want to read a book that says, this person made two hundred million dollars. That does not matter, it’s how they got there. The struggle. The book about the former CEO of Nike is called ‘Shoe Dog’ about Phil Knight’s story is incredible. Those things inspire me because they told me I am not alone. You can achieve greatness but you need discipline, perseverance, hard work and you have to have tough skin.
What men have inspired you along your journey, either professionally or people in your family or people in pop culture?
Well, I’ll start with my father because we moved to the U.S. when I was five and he would wake up before I was awake and he would be off doing work and trying to provide for the family, often coming home after I was asleep. When he had to step in and really talk to me or guide me he gave me amazing advice. He was not a man of any words but he really inspired me in many ways as my dad led by example. One of things I love about him is that he’s Teflon. He could have a hundred bad things going on at once, and he goes, okay, well, there is nothing you can do about it, time to keep moving forward. He wouldn’t dwell on stuff and he hated negativity. He’s just always a positive person and all the successful people I have met have found ways to not dwell on negativity and then move forward. My brother, who is six years younger than me has always been a safety net for me. He has always been my number one supporter in everything I have done and he has always had my back no matter what. He is just really sweet and well thought out. I am very extroverted and he is a little more introverted. I am better at math where he is really good at art and reading books. He inspires me a lot, I can tell you that.
Someone who has also always inspired me along the way was a teacher from high school whose name is Dr. William Levy. He was a World War II veteran with an amazing perspective on the world. He was one of T.S. Eliot’s best friends. He knew Eleanor Roosevelt. He taught me how to read Shakespeare. He made me look at so many different things. I would meet with him frequently, even when I was in college. Actually when I was applying for college, one of my guidance counselors told me not to apply to Vanderbilt and Dr. Levy told me that was ridiculous and that I should go for it and that he was going to write me a nice recommendation letter. I had fifteen places that I wanted to apply to and he said he would hand-write letters to each one. I asked him, “why don’t you type one and just Xerox it?” He said, “I hate technology. This is the reason why mankind is falling apart. There’s something more personal about a handwritten letter.” He wrote me fifteen handwritten letters of recommendation, and I’m really grateful to him to this day. He passed away unfortunately but I really looked up to him.
Then, of course, I love all my coaches that I had playing junior high and high school basketball and club sports. Of course, I am a huge Lakers fan but also, I love Michael Jordan. Before Kobe, Michael Jordan was my favourite player. He was resilient. I like people who do not believe in excuses. Those are the real influences in my life.
When you think of swagger, what defines that? What’s your personal definition?
When I think of swagger, I think of genuine confidence. When I think of people who have real swagger, I think of athletes like Russell Westbrook or Kobe Bryant. Swagger is not really what you wear, but how much confidence you have. If you wear fancy, shiny stuff and you are looking for attention, you’re a poser. Swagger is when you wear something and you being you makes it look good. I have friends in different walks of life and some of them at different stages of life weren’t wealthy and and didn’t have nice things but they would wear a suit and look like a million bucks, right? And no one knows that they bought it at K-Mart. That is swag, when you can make that look good.
How would you describe your personal style? What types of things do you usually gravitate to style wise?
I am more of a jeans and t-shirt kind of guy. I do like to wear one or two things that have some bling-bling so I have a Gucci belt or some Louis Vuitton. I love Gucci shoes and Air Jordans. I do not like to overdo it. I don’t like to be covered in Hermes from head to toe. I like looking nice but I don’t like to look as though I’m trying really hard to look good. It’s got to look natural.
What new procedures are you working on in 2020?
There are multiple things. Surgery is dear to my heart and with surgery, I am always constantly improving what I do. I feel like I can always get better. For me, plastic surgery is an art. I really want to be the best plastic surgeon I can be. In essence, to be one of the most recognized plastic surgeons because of how good the work is done. I have realized that the only person I am competing with in this world is myself. When you start thinking about other people they have already beat you – so I don’t worry about other people. I’m just worried about me. I have this vision of who I can be and I am just trying to be that person as fast as I can and I am always trying to push myself. I will tell you I look very closely at everything I do and I am always finding ways to do it better. I am really actually happy about the progress I’ve made and the cases I am doing now are more complex than the ones I used to do (and the outcomes are even better) which is really cool. In terms of surgery, I am just taking what I am doing and refining it.
In terms of non-surgical, I expanded my practice to have a med-spa even though I know how to do all the non-surgical treatments, there are a lot of people that don’t realize that a board certified plastic surgeon can do lip fillers or Botox. There are also people who are more comfortable going to a woman to do it so I have an amazing nurse injector who I have hired. I bought her a lot of toys and a lot of technology. We still have our radio frequency tightening treatment. We still do Botox. We still do lip fillers. We still have micro needling. Then, on top of that, I have laser hair removal because I have so many patients that come in after surgery to get a mommy makeover but they did not shave their private area. They are like, “oh, my god I am so sorry I forgot to shave” or they have ingrown hair and I tell them, “that’s okay, you can go and get laser hair removal if you want that service.” and they’re really excited about that. A lot of times in my practice, women come in with their spouse or significant other and they’re excited to get their mommy makeover or breast augmentation and the guys just sit there with a baseball cap on. I’ll ask them “hey, what can I do for you?” they say, “no nothing, nothing.” They have this macho kind of attitude but the reality is 1 out of 5 women think about their breast size every day and I bet all men think about their hairline every day.
As a guy if you lose a little bit of hair it is a big deal. That is why baseball caps are still in style. I have signs in my office that talk about hair loss treatments and when women are introducing their significant others to me some of the guys say, “hey by the way how does this work?” I have a technique that we do that has been tried and true for a long time. It doesn’t leave a scar, has no downtime, we do it while you’re awake, we only use local anaesthesia so you do not have to be put out for it. It is great. The results look amazing and natural. I am really, excited about offering that. Also because of all the work I was doing in female rejuvenation I had a company that let me be the first to introduce to Southern California a machine that helps women who aren’t able to achieve orgasm, achieve orgasms. This uses sound wave technology and it doesn’t hurt. It takes 10 minutes and the technology has been used for men with erectile dysfunction. The reality is that the clitoris has eight times more nerves than the male penis does. If it works for men imagine all the stimulation it can give to a woman so. The vibration that this causes makes the nerves wake up because it works at a frequency where they recognize the sound. The best way I can describe this is imagine when you blow on a dog whistle you cannot hear it but the dog can. It is really, amazing and helps to improve blood flow to the area. People get four of these ten-minute treatments and within two weeks their sex life goes through the roof. It stays that way and you get a booster treatment once a year.
What facial treatments would you recommend for men? I know that a lot of men are afraid of Botox.
For guys I think not doing Botox is silly. I think men need to get on board with doing Botox. Then once you go deeper into that you can do things like Vivace which has the microneedling with radio frequency I think that is great. You can do hydrafacials. There is a lot of stuff men can do to maintain themselves but you have to do some stuff regularly because you cannot just reverse all the aging neglect overnight with one treatment. You have to do things more routinely and keep up the maintenance.