Bahar Bassiri Gharb, MD, PhD

Photo: Annie O'Neill

You’re always learning something new. You feel like you’re growing. And you’re making a difference.

Bahar Bassiri Gharb, MD, PhD

I do my best thinking when I’m rested. If the weather is good, I like to go outside. For me, the best day of the week is usually Sunday. When everything else is done, I can sit down with a clear mind, go over different questions, review experiments and plan for the future.  

Innovation is intrinsic to human nature. Every time we deviate from the norm, it’s innovative on some level. Maybe you always go home from work the same way. Then one day you decide to drive along the lake instead of on the highway. It might be more pleasurable. It might be quicker. Regardless, when you change the process, you create innovation.  

Plastic surgeons close a lot of wounds. For years, we used a deep suture to bring tissues together. Then someone invented a dermal stapler. It’s much faster, and the outcomes are as good or better as the traditional technique.  

We’re always trying to improve care for patients. How can we make things better? How can we be more efficient? How can we improve outcomes?  

When I was a kid and they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always said that I wanted to be a scientist. I used to love the cartoons where someone would mix a potion. In a way, I’ve always loved research.  

What really makes me happy is when I go to the lab, where we have all of these research projects moving forward. It’s so exciting. You’re always learning something new. You feel like you’re growing. And you’re making a difference.  

It’s difficult to achieve something truly groundbreaking — the discovery of penicillin, for example. More often, innovation involves more of a slow-motion mentality. It’s all about steady progress. When you make a mistake, you rethink what didn’t work. Then you make another hypothesis, and you try again. You make little discoveries, and you learn from those. Gradually, you keep pushing and pushing, until you get results.


Bahar Bassiri Gharb, MD, PhD, is a plastic surgeon at Cleveland Clinic. She is Director of Plastic Surgery Research and Co-Director of the Craniofacial Program. Dr. Bassiri Gharb was a member of the team that performed Cleveland Clinic’s first total face transplant in 2017. Her research interests include face and hand transplantation, craniomaxillofacial surgery, hand surgery and microsurgery.