Putting One's Identity to Work

Dr. Monte Harris
Dr. Monte Harris

 Monte O. Harris, M.D., has always had a knack for building things. “As a kid, I would spend hours creating structures with my Erector sets.” Dr. Harris grew up in Gary, Indiana, just a short drive from Chicago and its intricately-designed buildings and energetic art scene. “Initially, I wanted to be an architect, but that changed after participating in the summer science programs at Purdue University. I found myself gravitating towards biology and living science.”

Dr. Harris entered Morehouse College as a biology and pre-medicine major. Morehouse was and still is committed to helping students cultivate their sense of identity and how to put this identity to work to make a difference in the world. Dr. Harris took this to heart, and it continues to permeate his life. “I knew I wanted to find a worthwhile profession that would allow me to make an impact.”

Following graduation from Morehouse College, Dr. Harris went on to pursue his medical degree at Case Western University. The school’s non-traditional approach to education allowed Dr. Harris to flourish. He spent weekday mornings in lecture, but the afternoons were his to fill. “It really allowed me to craft my own educational experience.” Dr. Harris took an extra year to pursue a pathology fellowship, which gave him a more in-depth look at disease processes. It was during this fellowship that he decided to pursue a career in otolaryngology-head and neck surgery, specifically facial plastic and reconstructive surgery. It was the perfect blend of science, art and architecture.

When it came down to selecting potential residency programs, Dr. Harris had his sights set on the University of Michigan. “I knew I wanted to get into the best otolaryngology-head and neck surgery training program possible, and for me, that was Michigan.” Dr. Harris matched into our program and began his training in 1992. He completed our six-year residency program followed by our one-year fellowship in facial plastic and reconstructive surgery. Following fellowship, Dr. Harris accepted a faculty position at U-M as an assistant professor and helped to develop a joint oculofacial plastic surgery clinic at the U-M Kellogg Eye Center. During his eight years at U-M, Dr. Harris remembers fondly the department’s collaborative spirit and investment in cultural diversity. “I was blessed to train in an ideal, nurturing, academic environment.”

After leaving Michigan, Dr. Harris went on to establish Cultura in Washington, D.C., the first multidisciplinary medical spa with niche aesthetic expertise for individuals with skin of color. In 2008, he launched his own boutique practice, the Center for Aesthetic Modernism in Chevy Chase, Maryland, where he remains today. There he strives to make a difference, working under the mission, “Look good. Feel good. Do good.” The practice strives to chart a new path for plastic surgery in the 21st century by nurturing the whole person through a celebration of beauty, spirituality and culture. “I realize I’m a little radical, but I’ve always been committed to doing my work in my own unique way.”

In his spare time, Dr. Harris enjoys playing tennis, visiting museums– he is actively involved with the Smithsonian Institution– design and travel.