TikTok Star Dr. Anthony Youn Administers a Healthy Dose of Laughter

The plastic surgeon talks about leaving the Los Angeles market, internet fame, backlash from the medical community, and more
Dr. Anthony Youn
Originally from a small mid-Michigan town, Dr. Anthony Youn runs a cosmetic surgery practice in Troy.

Recent years have seen the emergence of the “medfluencer,” a term used to refer to the medical doctors who have begun amassing substantial social media followings. One exceedingly popular “medfluencer” is Troy cosmetic surgeon Anthony Youn, 49, who also happens to be a veteran of Hour Detroit’s Top Doctors and Best of Detroit lists. Youn grew up in the small mid-Michigan town of Greenville, graduated from Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine, and completed a yearlong fellowship in Los Angeles before returning to open his own practice, Youn Plastic Surgery.

Now a practitioner of 20 years, Youn also operates a TikTok channel, where he cracks up more than 7.5 million followers with advice, celebrity plastic surgery commentary, and behind-the-scenes peeks into the procedures he performs. Examples of his videos include “The Tummy Tuck I Did Today” and “Celebrity Butts: Real or Sus?”

Tell me about your journey into the field of cosmetic surgery.

Dr. Anthony Youn: My dad, a first-generation immigrant, grew up on a small Korean rice farm and became a doctor. To him, medicine equaled success — which isn’t uncommon with Asian parents — so, literally the day I was born, he decided I’d be a doctor. My parents hoped I’d be some high-powered neuro- or transplant surgeon, but while attending medical school, I quickly realized I wasn’t suited for that. I just didn’t have the intense personality necessary for those kinds of specialties. But I discovered cosmetic surgery, and that really spoke to me.

How so?

It was my fourth year of medical school, during my pediatrics rotation, when I encountered a child who had lost most of her face in a wild animal attack. I saw what the plastic surgeons were doing to reconstruct her face, and that was the first time I considered going into the field.

Back then, did you think you’d be internet famous someday?

No! When I first moved back to Michigan and started my practice, after my fellowship in LA, nobody knew who I was. I was hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, and I had no office, no employees, no patients. I did everything I could to get my name out there — printing shirts with my practice name, giving talks at any club that would have me. I even got my hair cut two or three times a week, just for the chance to give out my business card. I was really struggling.

Most plastic surgeons are eager to enter the lucrative Los Angeles market. Why leave?

The atmosphere wasn’t for me. It was all about appearance and money and not about truly helping people. To many doctors out there, patients are basically just dollar signs, and that wasn’t what I believed in. That wasn’t the way my dad treated his patients, and it wasn’t the way I wanted to treat mine.

Dr. Anthony Youn, known on TikTok as Tonyyounmd, has garnered 7.5 million followers on the platform.
So, when did things turn around for you?

I had filmed with Dr. 90210 during my time in California, and a couple months into all this, it finally came time for the episode to air. I sat down to watch, thinking, “This is my big break — I’m gonna be on TV!” I was on and off screen within three minutes. But in that time, they mentioned my practice in Michigan, and the next day, I gained 10 new patients. That little three-minute segment powered my practice for two years. That taught me the power of media. So, from there, I kept doing shows like Rachael Ray and Dr. Oz, and eventually, I got into social media.

How did you become TikTok famous?

I had been using Facebook and Instagram, but come late 2019, everyone was talking about TikTok. So, on a whim, I decided to check it out. I started getting a bit of a following — nothing special — then, when the pandemic hit, my office shut down for months, and I had tons of time. I volunteered in the COVID unit at Beaumont, but I wondered what else I could do to help people. I thought, “If I can entertain someone, give them a little chuckle, maybe I could lift them out of this dark time for 30 seconds.” So, I started making these videos, and they struck a chord. My audience exploded.

Why do you think people online gravitate toward you?

I think there’s a certain ego people expect from a plastic surgeon. But I’m just a small-town Midwestern guy who ended up doing pretty well for himself. I’ve never thought of myself as anything more than that, and maybe that comes through. 

Have you received backlash from the medical community for your online presence?

Definitely. People have come after me, calling me all kinds of names, saying I should lose my license. I’ve had other doctors call and say, “I just wanna warn you: Some people aren’t happy with you.” And you know what my answer to that is? I really just don’t care. If I feel in my heart that I’m doing the right thing — if my wife and kids love me — then I don’t care if some doctor in Boise, Idaho, thinks I’m a clown. 

What motivates you to get up and do what you do each day?

When I started out as a doctor, my goal was to establish myself. Once I hit that, my goal became helping more people by developing my practice. After that, I was looking for a way to impact even more people and got into social media. That allowed me to go from helping 20 patients per day in my office to helping 200,000 people each day. So, at each step of this journey, I’ve been able to impact more people than at the step before, and it’s been such a privilege.

This story is from the 2022 edition of Health Guide. Read more stories here