Beyond the Knife

An Interview with Dr. James Chao M.D. F.A.C.S., Plastic Surgeon



Dr. James Chao M.D. F.A.C.S.

Let’s start at the beginning. Tell me about your career in a nutshell. 

I studied at Stanford and then NYU School of Medicine. I also trained at Institute Kaplan in Spain for a bit. In addition to teaching in the Division of Plastic Surgery at UCSD, I’ve been practicing for over 22 years at 2 locations in San Diego. I also speak at various conventions across the country.

That’s a full plate! And your brother is a doctor as well. Have you ever worked together?

We operate in different fields so we don’t work together professionally, but we co-founded San Diego Sports Medicine Foundation 16 years ago. We collaborate often on behalf of that organization. 

Your annual event Taste of The Cove is notorious for being a great time.

(laughs) Thanks. I guess you can’t go wrong when you have Charger players and great food. The best part of the annual Taste of The Cove event in La Jolla is that in the 14 years that we’ve been running it, we’ve been able to fund over $2 million in free surgeries and health care to under-privileged children who’ve been hurt in sports. This has, in turn, helped these kids get college scholarships.

And you’ve received quite a few accolades in the industry over the years. In 2008, you were named a “Health Hero” by the San Diego County Combined Health Agencies. How did that one come about?

That was a great honor. For the last 12 years, I’ve been working with Fresh Start Surgical Gifts, which has allowed me to conduct over 100 free surgeries.

What is your most common surgery? 

In my practice, Breast Augmentation is definitely high on the list. It’s such a pivotal point of confidence for my clients. Really, the transformation is more than aesthetic, and my team has a reputation for excelling at it. 

We are also known for reconstructive surgery, hernias, mommy makeovers and, most notably, I specialize in micro-surgical reconstruction, which includes hand surgery and breast reconstruction. This specialization allows me to reconstruct and improve just about any part of the body with replacement parts. It’s highly rewarding because it allows me to be creative. Some days, I’m challenged with taking a leg bone and carving it into a jawbone. Other days, I take belly and turn it into breast.

What attracted you to plastic surgery?

Some think that plastic surgery is a field that is “purely aesthetic,” but what we do changes lives, and that has always attracted me. When people feel confident and look their best, it brings out their best self. 

Dr. James J. Chao, M.D. F.A.C.S.
Oasis M.D. Lifestyle Healthcare and Image Spa M.D.
499 N. El Camino Real #200, Encinitas, CA 92024
760-635-7800

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