Dr. Janet Sung -
A Story of the American Dream Come True

by Joseph H. RADDER

Thirty-three years ago, Dr. Janet Sung and her husband John Sung, C.P.A., arrived in the United States with only the $200 that at that time, their native country of South Korea allowed its emigrants. Today, Dr. Sung heads up the medical side and John Sung the business side, of the Windsong Radiology Group in Williamsville. Now recognized as the second largest free standing diagnostic imaging center in America, almost 240,000 procedures were performed at Windsong last year. Only one center in the country, in Houston Texas, is larger. Windsong out-serves similar centers in ten other states.

The Sungs first stop in the U.S. was in New Jersey, where Janet completed her medical education and residency before securing a position in 1977 as associate radiologist at Sisters of Charity Hospital in Buffalo. Meanwhile, John completed his education and began building a career as a CPA, eventually founding his own firm.

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Janet (right) with childhood neighbor. Janet (left) with middle school teacher and friends.
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Janet (seated 2nd from left) with high school friends. Janet’s graduation from Korea University, Seoul, Korea - 1967.

At the same time, the Sungs were building a family. Son Brian is now a lawyer. As this is written, as a result of a promotion within his law firm, he is moving his practice from Manhattan to San Francisco. Daughter Janice is a graduate of University at Buffalo Medical School. She is a first year resident physician completing her radiology residency training at the University of Pennsylvania. Following in her mother's footsteps? "I hope so," Janet said, smiling.

Dr. Sung continued at Sisters Hospital until 1983; when she moved on to hold increasingly responsible positions in the nuclear medicine and ultrasound departments at St. Joseph's Intercommunity Hospital.

The Sungs had come to America in 1972 and to Buffalo in 1977, right after the blizzard. There was plenty of snow in their future, however. It was a snowy February morning in 1987 when they opened their new radiology practice in a renovated Pizza Hut building on Harlem Road. Classic risk-takers, they had pooled everything they owned, sold their apartment, and taken out a loan to finance the Harlem Radiology Center. Equipment, of course, was extremely expensive even then. The Sungs had given up comfortable situations to take this high risk. However, 32 patients arrived on the first day, and the practice has been growing ever since.

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John and Janet on a date - mountain climbing in Korea - 1970. Janet and John’s wedding day reception, Korea - 1971.
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Entrepreneur of the Year Award - 1998. Janet and John’s new home being built - 1992.
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John and Janet Sung.

In a recent meeting with Dr. Sung, she said, "We have thirteen radiologists, all board certified. Each has his or her own specialty: mammography, ultrasound, CT scan, Nuclear Medicine, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and general radiology. That's very unique," Dr. Sung continued. "When you go to other practices, everybody is doing everything." This specialization helps Windsong live up to its motto "Where patients come first."

"For example", she explained, "we have a neuro-radiologist. He is more experienced and skilled in the neuro area than the rest of us. All of us are capable of doing everything, but we find it best to specialize in just one area." Dr. Sung herself, for example, concentrates on mammography. Another unique service at Windsong is a non-invasive imaging device called PET/CT scan that allows evaluation of most organ systems in a single examination. Windsong is first to offer PET/CT scanning and professional expertise in Western New York, with full diagnostic accreditation from the American College of Radiology.

Dr. Janet Sung has come a long way from her childhood in Seoul, South Korea. "I had an ordinary childhood," she said. "Like all children everywhere, we loved to play outside."

She attended elementary school and high school in Korea, and earned her doctorate in medicine at the Medical College of Korea University in Seoul. Additional study was required to pass a rigid examination for a medical degree in the United States.

Janet Sung lost her Army officer father when she was only three years old. "He was a graduate of Korea's equivalent of West Point," she said, "but he was killed in the war." Suddenly, Janet Sung's mother found herself as a widow with two young children, who she raised from pre-school age to young adults. Janet's younger brother is also now in the United States and is in the construction business in New Jersey.

John and Janet Sung were married in Seoul in 1971, the year she graduated from medical school.

When one meets a person like Dr. Sung, nationally-known in her field of medicine, it's natural to ask the question "What brought you to Buffalo?"

"We were living just outside New York", she said. "And I didn't like the big city. I didn't feel it was the right place to raise a family. There was an opportunity in Buffalo, so I took a job at Sisters Hospital and my husband found a job at the same time at Peat, Marwick, Mitchell & Co. (now KPMG).

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Janet with her children Janice and Brian - 1976. Family vacation to Korea - 1980.
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Family cruise to Alaska - 1999. The Sung’s with Janet’s mother, Soo.
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First black-tie party - 1977.

When we asked Dr.Sung about her philosophy of life, she said "Do unto others as you would have done to yourself. I always try to be a person who makes a difference and is remembered for the good I've done for others. It's never about me; it's about my patients and helping others."

On the question of trends in medicine, she said "There used to be a (much better) relationship between patient and doctor. But that has been taken away, unfortunately, because of the environment. There's so much pressure from insurance carriers. The cost of medicine is getting so high that you always have 'big brother' (the insurance company) behind your back. This is hindering the doctor-patient relationship."

Because of the insurance company pressures, Dr. Sung told us it is very difficult, but not impossible, to live up to the Windsong motto, "where patients come first."

People often wonder why medical care is so expensive. Dr. Sung gave us one answer. "The mammogram machine we used to buy for $70,000 10 years ago now costs $700,000!"

On the development of the Buffalo Medical Campus, Dr. Sung said "It's a good thing it's happening. Buffalo needs something unique, to bring people here from outside the area. I really hope it's going to work out, although I'm sure it won't be easy."

Not satisfied with Windsong's number two ranking, Dr. Sung says "My goal is to make our center the best in quality (not size) in the United States."

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Son Brian’s graduation from Fordham Law School - 2000. Daughter Janice’s graduation from University of Buffalo Medical School - 2003.

To know Dr. Sung is to know this is sure to happen. Her list of achievements fills several pages. Not only is she president of Windsong Radiology, P.C., but president of Lancaster Radiology, Williamsville Medical Imaging, and Suburban Medical Imaging in West Amherst. She serves as Clinical Assistant Professor in both the Department of Radiology of the State University of New York at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and Medical College of Korea University.

She is affiliated with twelve professional associations like the New York State Medical Society, the Erie County Medical Society, the American Medical Association, and the American College of Radiology.

Awards and honors have been numerous. In 2003 she received an Entrepreneur of the Year award from Junior Achievement, and recognition for providing excellent service to the community from Zonta International.

In 2002 she received the Governor's Award for Excellence; she was named a "Local Hero" for raising breast cancer awareness in Western New York from the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Also in 2002, the Erie County Legislature recognized Windsong for being the largest private radiology group in the country.

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Harlem Radiology - 1987.
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Windsong Medical Park groundbreaking - 1992. Windsong Medical Park groundbreaking - 1992.

Business First named her in their Who's Who among Executive Women in 2002, and she was published in the "Consumer's Guide to Top Doctors", with twelve separate nominations. In 1998, Dr. Sung was awarded the Upstate New York Entrepreneur of the Year award, which was sponsored by Ernst & Young, USA Today and NASDAQ.

Space doesn't permit us to list all of her awards and honors.

Community leadership? Indeed! She joined with her husband to establish the John and Janet Sung Scholarship Endowment Fund, donating $1 million to the U.B. Medical School. She is an active member of the Korean Methodist Church. The Sung's also established the Sung Family Foundation, which supports both local and worldwide charities.

John Sung was quoted in a 2002 article in the Multi-National Business Review saying "Professional and personal successes are the same - success is about the people. It's also about the power of a dream deeply held".

Clearly John and Janet Sung had that dream when they opened their new facility in the old Pizza Hut in 1987. And a ruptured sewer line that flooded their building the day before opening couldn't shatter that dream. They worked night and day repairing the sewer leak under the snow, and cleaning up in preparation for their first patients. They opened on schedule, and the dream began to take shape, the dream that has come true is truly the classic American dream.
The Sung's idea for a free-standing diagnostic center was clearly an idea whose time had come, an idea that was in the right place at the right time.

This brings to mind an opinion we heard recently, that Buffalo's aging population may be a cloud, but it has a beautiful silver lining. And that's the fact that this aging population creates a market for the very finest health care professionals and facilities. This is proven over and over again, with Roswell Park Cancer Institute, for example, with the Kaleida Group of Hospitals, with ECMC, our Catholic hospitals, with literally thousands of fine physicians and surgeons, and, of course, the Windsong Radiology Group.

Congratulations, Dr. Sung. How fortunate we are that you chose Buffalo when you and your husband decided the big city of New York was no place to raise a family.

Joseph H. Radder, a frequent contributor to Living Prime Time, is author of the book, Young Jesus, the Missing Years. For more information, phone 1-888-280-7715 or visit www.1stbooks.com

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