During a routine office exam this past July, Edward Zimmerman experienced a first in his career as a cosmetic surgeon. Not only did one of his clients want to take a selfie with him after surgery, she sent it to her daughter who asked if she could meet him at her follow-up appointment. It wasn’t just because he does excellent work lasering away imperfections and liposuctioning fat — it’s because the daughter wanted to meet someone TikTok-famous.
Zimmerman, 65, has been a well-known Las Vegas cosmetic surgeon for decades. With a trimmed white beard and ever-present surgical cap, he looks like a clean-cut Santa who gave up on gift delivery and went to medical school instead. Speaking with a clear, resonant tone that commands attention, it’s easy to see why he keeps popping up on TikTok’s “For You” page, a corner of the app where he’s become especially popular as of late.
Known rather aptly as the Dick Doc on TikTok, he’s amassed more than 1.8 million followers over the past six months, just by talking about sexual health and answering penis-related questions from his followers. With the help of Richard, a baby-blue stuffed penis, Zimmerman explains conditions like lichen sclerosis and ripped “banjo strings,” pausing every now and then to muse thoughtfully about things like whether dick size really matters.
Zimmerman began using TikTok in April, at the behest of Staci Taylor, the Director of Aesthetics for Aesthetic Revolution, Zimmerman’s cosmetic surgery center. Both the concept for the TikTok and its name, @dickdocontiktok, were her creation. Still, it took some convincing to get Zimmerman to agree. “I was the one who dragged my feet because I’m not necessarily one to be theatrical in public,” Zimmerman tells me, explaining that social media fame had never been something he’d aspired to.
But given that he’d be far from the first doctor to ply their trade on social media — Dr. Miami, the plastic surgeon famous for performing Brazilian Butt Lifts has been boosting his image through Snapchat, Instagram and TikTok for years now — he decided to give it a try. “It seemed to work,” he says. “We’re providing education with a bit of humor to make subjects that are relatively taboo in our society more acceptably discussed.”
He came out swinging in his first video, too. “Gentleman, has your one-eyed willy turned into more of a hiding turtle?” he asked. “Your pocket rocket is more of an earthworm?” Next, he introduced himself and explained a procedure he’s developed, coined the “Happenis Procedure,” wherein a client’s own body fat or FDA-approved dermal fillers are injected into the shaft of the penis in order to increase girth. He ended the TikTok by revealing a fistful of syringes and a measuring tape. “Bring me your man parts. I can help.”
Naturally, the video blew up, receiving over 2.2 million views to date. Ever since, Zimmerman has been posting multiple times a week, promoting his brand of “happenis” and expanding into other topics. According to him, Taylor is the brains behind the operation and he’s the talent. “We work together on the questions that come in,” he tells me. “Some of them are good teaching topics, but there’s a lot of repetitiveness, because people don’t go back to the first ones [they’ve already posted on a topic]. Two months later or two weeks later, they’ll ask the same question again: ‘What’s a curve, what’s a curve, what’s a curve?’ So we’ll say, ‘Okay, let’s do another talk on Peyronie’s and how to treat that.’”
One challenge with TikTok is that using certain language can get Zimmerman in trouble, either by suspending his page entirely or limiting the reach of his videos. For that reason, he uses carefully coded words and phrases to discuss sexual health (a penis is often called a “pickle,” for example). In addition to Richard the stuffed penis, which was given to him as a gift from a staffer, they also have a stuffed vagina named “Virginia,” a name Zimmerman often uses for vaginas more broadly. But of course, as the name DickDocOnTikTok suggests, he mostly discusses dicks.
“Guys are always asking about size, usually length or girth,” he explains. “Then we run into a lot of questions about erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation. And then all the little variations — circumcised, not circumcised, pearly penile papules, sexually transmitted diseases, testosterone replacements. We get asked everything under the sun. It’s all routine medicine, there’s nothing taboo about this. People have been dealing with this since humans have existed.”
TikTok doesn’t offer Zimmerman much data about the demographics of his viewers, except that he has a growing female audience. He imagines some of them may be teenagers, as is true for TikTok at large, but much of it includes people who are simply concerned about their bodies and are unsure where else to ask the questions they have.
“I think a lot of the audience are truly concerned people that are reaching out for help,” he says. “They may not have been able to broach the subject before because they were embarrassed, because they just figured no one would take them seriously. I think that because we’re pretty laid back about it that people feel more comfortable asking the questions. And then they feel better afterward.”
This does more than just produce good social media content — it lessens some of the shame and awkwardness many people have when it comes to discussing sexual health with their doctors. Studies from the Cleveland Clinic have found this to be a problem with men in particular, 65 percent of whom reported in a survey that they avoid going to the doctor for as long as possible, regardless of the nature of the visit. Across genders, many people are so shy about addressing sexual health topics that they choose to suffer through physical pain instead. By talking about sex on TikTok, Zimmerman encourages a more open and honest attitude toward the subject for viewers. It obviously helps that he makes it fun as well.
All the while, he continues to work full-time doing cosmetic surgery, spending a few minutes at the end of the day recording a handful of new videos. Before bed, too, he often responds to questions in the comments sections via text. “I hope we’re doing some good,” he says. “I hope that we’re bringing some knowledge into a world where things shouldn’t be taboo. And I hope we’re having some fun doing it.”