Cleveland Clinic Appoints Patrick Byrne, MD, MBA, as Head & Neck Institute Chair

Innovation in patient care, education and research to be major focus

Patrick Byrne

Patrick Byrne, MD, MBA, has joined Cleveland Clinic as the Chair of the Head & Neck Institute. Dr. Byrne comes to Cleveland Clinic from The Johns Hopkins Hospital, where he served in a variety of roles including as Director of the Division of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery in the Department of Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery.

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He also served as Professor of Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery, Dermatology and Biomedical Engineering at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine; Director of the Johns Hopkins Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Fellowship program; Medical Director of the multidisciplinary Johns Hopkins Ambulatory Surgery Center at Greenspring Station, and a Co-Director of the Johns Hopkins Face Transplant Team.

Dr. Byrne succeeds Michael Benninger, MD, who served as chair since 2008.

“I believe that the clarity of the priorities here at Cleveland Clinic where the patient always comes first, as well as the core value around innovation – it’s those two attributes that I find incredibly motivating and inspiring, and it led me to jump at this opportunity,” says Dr. Byrne.

International leader in facial reconstruction

Primarily specializing in complex reconstruction of the face, head and neck, Dr. Byrne is internationally renowned for his work with patients with facial paralysis. He has focused his clinical and research interests on facial deformities, skin cancer surgery and reconstruction, facial aesthetic surgery and facial reanimation.

“I fell in love with facial plastic and reconstructive surgery during residency,” says Dr. Byrne. “I just became amazed by the complexity of the cases and the incredible need to focus on fine detail. I think the fact that the specialty is so intimate and personal with patients also appealed to me.”

Dr. Byrne earned his medical degree from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, followed by a surgical internship at the University of California in San Francisco and a residency in otolaryngology/head and neck surgery at the University of California San Diego. He was a research fellow at the San Diego Cancer Center at the University of California and then completed a fellowship in facial plastic and reconstructive surgery at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Byrne also completed a fellowship in Health Care Management at the Advisory Board Company. In 2015, he earned a Master of Business Administration degree from the Wharton School of The University of Pennsylvania.

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Getting to know Dr. Byrne

Recently, Consult QD had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Byrne as he shared his vision for the Institute, thoughts on coming on board during the COVID-19 pandemic and humanitarian work.

Tell us about your clinical focus.

I specialize in facial plastic and reconstructive surgery. Probably my biggest area of focus over my two-decade career is on the treatment of facial paralysis. The field of facial reanimation has exploded over the past 15 years, and I’m really proud that. The efforts we’ve made in that regard have helped push the field forward. I believe there is enormous value in having a significant experience in both microsurgical facial reconstruction and aesthetic facial surgery.

What are some of the things on your agenda for Cleveland Clinic’s Head & Neck Institute, and what are you hoping to achieve long-term?

One of my hopes for the Head & Neck Institute is that we will really push innovation in all aspects of patient care, education and research. We’re looking forward to creating teams that will really focus on engineering an environment where we can accelerate the pace and quality of innovations. I would say there is a need for this in surgical technique and medical devices, as well as patient experience. It’s one of the main reasons why I’m excited about being here. What I envision for the Head & Neck Institute is that patient outcomes for very complex care and the patient experience exceed everywhere else. I also want to make sure the staff – the surgeons, the professional staff and non-professional staff – are happy here, that they feel engaged with what they do, that we’re united in a sense of purpose and that they’d prefer to work no place else.

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You’re assuming leadership during an extremely difficult time in healthcare. What will it take to navigate the months and years ahead?

This is a very unique time in history because of COVID-19 and other changes that are occurring. I think my role as the leader of the Head & Neck Institute is to be as supportive as possible to everybody in the organization, and to especially help us all focus on the mission of why we’re here. I’m a big believer in a meritocracy of ideas, and I believe the collaboration that has been forced because of this crisis will have lasting effects. Furthermore, it’s obvious to so many of us that having an inclusive culture where you embrace a diversity of ethnicities, backgrounds, gender, experiences and thought tends to produce better outcomes than less inclusive and less diverse groups. It’s important to engineer a culture in which we know that everybody’s ideas matter to an equal degree because it’s the idea that matters – not who generates the idea.

Can you discuss your humanitarian work?

I made a promise when I started medical school that I would always contribute to the less fortunate throughout my career. So at least once a year for my entire professional life, I’ve contributed to surgical trips around the world. The most sustained of these has been a 10-year effort that I’ve led to create a free-standing, multi-disciplinary cleft lip and palate program in Nicaragua. It’s been incredibly gratifying, and we’re now looking to replicate the same sort of institute or project in another developing country. Volunteering in the most challenging areas around the world and providing medical care is really an amazing experience, and I think everyone in medicine should experience it.

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