I was raised in Gary, Indiana -- the birthplace of Michael Jackson. So Michael’s life story, one of controversy and creativity, has intimately shaped my identity and purpose as a plastic surgeon. I’ve often said that my calling was to ensure that there were “no more Michael Jacksons,” that is, individuals who ended up scarred or disfigured from elective facial cosmetic surgery. For the first decade of my professional career, I worked diligently and passionately towards that humanistic goal by cultivating my artistic and technical expertise in cosmetic surgery, sharing knowledge through presentations at national and international meetings, and writing scholarly articles on the subject of ethnic plastic surgery. As I was growing a very successful practice and becoming a well-respected surgeon, Michael Jackson tragically died on June 25, 2009, thereby complicating my mantra of “no more Michael Jacksons” . . . sadly because Michael was no more. His untimely death forced me to think deeply about the notion of “well-being disfigurement”, which I think of as invisible identity scarring that distorts health. Michael’s life performance had been a dangerous dance (which he ultimately failed to master) of misaligned beauty, health, and identity. The critical issue is that when poor health (mental or physical) takes center stage, it is often a show stopper.
Michael’s well-being disfigurement was extreme, but unfortunately not rare. Many others suffer from the same misalignment. In the seven years since Michael’s premature death, my practice focus has dramatically shifted towards creating a healing atmosphere that aligns beauty, health, and identity. Last year, I successfully piloted a series of engaging self-discovery experiences as a part of our growing Artisan of Self (AOS) wellness program including an Intro to Genealogy workshop with board certified genealogist, LaBrenda Garret-Nelson and a Collage Portrait Identity workshop with mixed media artist, Ellington Robinson. It has been a slow uphill march against the cosmetic status quo as I migrate to a more holistic practice consciousness that is life-enhancing for my patients and me. Poor health has an especially profound effect on the overall well-being of disparate groups across the globe. The world in which we live is changing at a disorienting rapid pace with violence becoming increasingly commonplace. Whether it’s a heart attack, terrorist attack or police attack; the end result is the same – folks are dying too soon.
The time is ripe to RETHINK HEALTH. There is a growing need for culturally tailored forms of healthcare to respond more effectively to the complexities of our modern life. I have long been enamored with the utopian ideals of Modernism and the idea of activating art + design for social transformation. I believe that there is an exciting opportunity to spark a Health and Well-Being Revolution – ushered in through a beauty doorway. It’s 2016 and I’m ready to leap ALL IN.
Get ready for a Big Splash,
PS – Here are some photos of our Artisan of Self workshops held at Pyramid Atlantic Art Center. I want to thank Insana Collins, our photography superstar who always graciously responds when called... often at the last minute to capture the spirit of these well-being experiences in photographs.
In 1988, I was featured on the cover of the Morehouse alumnus magazine as a top graduating senior. In the accompanying interview, I commented that my matriculation at Morehouse was “unparalleled to anything I had ever experienced and enhanced my awareness for the world, blackness, and myself.” With a Morehouse foundation, I said “You can do anything”. I hold firm to this youthful sentiment – almost three decades later!
Love quickens the roots of personality, creating an unfolding of the self that redefines, reshapes, and makes all things new.
– Howard Thurman, theologian, Class of 1923
Dr. Harris and Family at the Martin Luther King Jr. Collegium of Scholars Induction Ceremony,
Atlanta Georgia, April 9, 2015
On April 9, 2015, I was inducted into the Martin Luther King Jr. Collegium of Scholars in a special ceremony at the Morehouse MLK Jr. International Chapel in Atlanta, Georgia. It was especially rewarding to be recognized by my beloved alma mater for “Doing Good.” The theme of the program was - Fostering Dialogues in Education, Ethics, and Nonviolent Peacebuilding: Global and Social Religious Movements Today. Each inductee was given the charge to continue a life as co-creators of an inclusive, global society in which the full development of each individual’s potential is the central goal.
I am proud to be included in the community building legacy of Morehouse College. Given our current climate of social disorder and global violence, the season is ripe for us all to pick up spiritual tools and work to cultivate a fertile ground where Love grows.
We stepped into the New Year with a big bang offering a private dance masterclass hosted by Washington's acclaimed Step Afrika!
As many of you know, I'm passionately committed to transforming my plastic surgery practice into a beauty-centered sanctum for integrative health and well-being. My patient's positive feedback has been a welcomed source of energy and encouragement. Over the past couple of months, we have successfully piloted three experiential workshops as part of a new Artisan of Self wellness program. Each event was designed to be a holistic complement to our in-office face, hair, and skin cosmetic services. The programs have allowed me to cook, dance, and create art with my patient family. It's all been a communal creative blast!
We look forward to putting it all together in the 2015 and having you join the fun!
Here are a couple of recent testimonials and photos to let you know that we are definitely moving in the right direction.
If the world had more people like you, it would be a better place. I know it's cliché...
You are a blessing from God! Thank you for teaching me to love myself...
A gift from Kenya to thank you for the gift you have become in my life!...
The Center for Aesthetic Modernism recently kicked off our new Artisan of Self (AOS) program with a fantastic private cooking class held at L'Academie de Cuisine in Bethesda, MD. Our chef for the evening was Nichole Ferrigno, who also happens to be a holistic health coach, taught the 20 members of our class how to prepare a delicious, special "soul food" meal using fresh local produce and other healthy ingredients.
On the menu that night:
Chef Ferrigno demonstrated how each dish was prepared as our AOS class followed her lead. The food was incredible – and it certainly didn’t hurt that members of the L’Academie de Cuisine staff poured glasses of chardonnay and pinot noir while we prepped, grilled, sautéed, and baked our way through the delicious three-course meal!
What is Artisan of Self (AOS)? AOS has been years in the making and planning, and it has been a dream of mine to personally design a series of wellness experiences that will enhance my clients’ awareness of the essential role that nutrition, exercise and artistic expression play in living a good life.
As I see it, AOS is a truly unique system that allows our clients to experience a personalized solution for whole being health.
By the way, we have already planned a couple of future AOS events: dance and cardio classes with A-list instructors and a guest DJs, as well as art classes that combine meditation and self-portraiture.
Please call the office at 301-951-9292 to find out more about our Fall invitation-only programs.
Until then, enjoy the rest of the summer. Bon appetite!
- Dr. Monte Oyd Harris
MODERN ART has been a guiding force as I have sought to navigate my ambivalence with the Eurocentric canon of plastic surgery. The American artist, Robert Motherwell, once described the intent of his art as to unify the plastic and psychic. This sentiment resonated deeply with me. In many ways, the pattern of plastic surgery needs an undercurrent of psychic fragmentation in order to exist. We are often misled to think that focusing on “the body” in isolation can create sustainable improvement, that is, without integrating therapy to enhance the mind or spirit. We all too readily accept the incomplete notion of physical change over metaphysical transformation. I have found it exceedingly challenging to operate (literally and figuratively) within this divided space.
I believe now is the time for an aesthetic revolution – a fight to unify the plastic and psychic!
Africa 5, Screen-print on paper, 1970
Plastic (plas-tik): having power to give form or create
Psychic (sahy-kik): of or relating to the human mind or psyche
Every day that we are blessed to arise and breathe is a new opportunity for growth. As I look to the future, my growing edge extends well beyond the horizon of Western plastic surgery. Like a collage artist, I have deconstructed my notion of plastic surgery into fragments. In the fragments, recurring patterns have emerged. And in the patterns, I have glimpsed a unified vision of what it means to be beautiful, healthy, and whole.
I’ve always been a conservative surgeon, adopting a less is more attitude. I have dedicated myself to enhancing my knowledge for the when, how, and how much of elective facial plastic surgery. In other words, the nuances of when a particular procedure is indicated, the technical understanding of how best to perform the procedure, and the cultural competency of knowing how much change is the right amount to achieve a natural result. Somewhere along the path, however, my conservative tendencies slowly shifted towards reluctance. The reluctance has been fueled by an enlightened realization that patients need much more than physical change to truly embrace their own beauty.
A major part of my equation for achieving successful surgical outcomes has been dependent upon selecting the very best candidates. I’m sure many of my patients would find it quite amusing to know that much of the consultation is a two-way process where we both are feeling each other out to see if it’s a good fit. I essentially cherry pick those individuals with a combination of the right anatomy and right mindset. Consequently, many individuals are turned away. I have always felt that there was something much more than missed revenue in turning patients away—the opportunity for growth by turning them towards something else that may ultimately be life enhancing.
I am excited to say that I have the “something else.” I call it, Artisan of Self, a 12wk wellness program comprised of cosmetic treatments, mindfulness experiences, and artisan workshops. Think of it as a 21st century beauty wellness plan providing life support for individuals progressing along the path of well-being. Our well-being team includes an assembly of leading clinicians, cosmetologists, craftspersons, and curators. I’m happy to announce that we are in the final stages of selecting our initial pilot group to launch the plan. My evolving and intimate relationships with you have been the catalyst for a new way of thinking. I am forever thankful. So 2014 is indeed a year for amazing growth for us all, as we collectively embark upon uncharted territory to show the world what plastic and psychic unity looks like!
Monte Oyd Harris, MD FACS
Robert Motherwell. Africa 4, Screen-print on paper, 1970
I grew up in Gary Indiana, just 20 miles outside of Chicago Illinois. In stark contrast to the Windy City - Gary was a small steel town – most readily recognized by industrial odor and the smoke stacks of the U.S. Steel Corporation. Although the Gary community was nurturing, there was a definite void when it came to being stimulated by the beauty of my surroundings. Chicago, however, has always been a personal beacon - offering up inspiration for the amazing possibilities of a life engaged with art and design. As it turns out, Chicago and the Bauhaus have played a fundamental role in my evolution as a physician.
Founded in 1979, the Chicago Area Health and Medical Careers Program (CAHMCP) aimed to prepare urban kids for successful careers in the health professions. I was privileged to be among the earliest groups of students to benefit from the program. CAHMCP was housed on the campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) on Chicago’s Southside. I can remember as a high school student being equally excited by both the physical appearance of the IIT campus and the educational enrichment offered through CAHMCP. I often fondly reflect on my IIT/CAHMCP experiences as the creative catalyst for my career in plastic surgery.
It wasn’t until many years later as a surgery intern at the University of Michigan that I came upon a book on the Bauhaus and made the delightful connection between IIT, Chicago, and the emergence of Modernism in America. The Bauhaus is considered to be the most influential school of art, design, and architecture of the 20th century. After its closure in 1933, Bauhaus professors and apprentices spread a unifying principle of art integrated with industry throughout the world. Surprisingly, the life work of two Bauhaus masters, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, is intimately interwoven with Chicago and the rich history of IIT.
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, the last Bauhaus director, immigrated to Chicago to head the Department of Architecture at IIT. Mies designed the buildings and the master plan for IIT’s campus. Crown Hall built as the home of IIT School of Architecture is highly regarded as Mies’ finest work. So, it’s no surprise why I was enamored with the IIT campus as a CAHMCP student. Laszlo Moholy-Nagy moved to Chicago in 1937 to start a new design school which he named the New Bauhaus. The design school flourishes today as the IIT Institute of Design and has grown into the largest full-time graduate- only design program in the US with students from around the world.
Even in my youth, I felt a strong connection to the modernist spirit. I’ve always been energized by art, design, and architecture. A desire to build and create is ever-present in me. So, I continue to cultivate my passion for design and the art of healing to help others experience beauty and goodness in their lives.
Meditations with Dr. Monte Oyd Harris.
Everywhere I turn, there’s a new book, magazine, news article, or symposium celebrating the health and well-being benefits of meditation. With the constant distractions and stress of our daily lives, it appears everyone is looking for a path to greater happiness and peace of mind.
Nelson Mandela will forever represent the embodiment of beauty and goodness.
His spirit lives on as a powerful guiding light for any individual who seeks to take the road less traveled in service to humanity.
Monte Oyd Harris, MD FACS
What good would our message be if it didn’t reach our most valuable minds? On July 17th, Dr. Harris and the Center for Aesthetic Modernism visited the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center to share a special culturally enriching experience with the youth. As the children shared their thoughts about their identity, their minds were challenged to see themselves in new dimensions, celebrate their unigue beauty among a group of their peers, and channel their creativity into making African mask collages.
The relationship between Dr. Harris and the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center has been blossoming for some years now. Dr. Harris is quite passionate about tennis and continues to be blessed by the impact it has had on his life since childhood. He currently sits on the board of the Recreational Wish List Committee (RWLC), which has played an instrumental role in creating an environment to package tennis with educational achievement in Southeast DC.
To find out how you may be able to support over 2,000 children and teens to strive for academic excellence, inspire cultural connectivity and self-worth, log on to the RWLC website to become a volunteer or contribute a donation!
Click here for their donation page
Year after year, the Smithsonian unites art and culture from around the world to convene on the National Mall for the annual Folk Life Festival. Over the 4th of July weekend, Dr. Harris took his Do Good H.A.I.R. Project to the National Mall as a part of the Will to Adorn Smithsonian Folklife Festival. For the past 3 years, Dr. Harris has been a lead research advisor and “artisan of style” for the Will to Adorn Project. His involvement culminated with a wonderful experience on the Mall spreading the Beauty for Life’s Sake message. Through a collaboration with Pyramid Atlantic Art Center, Canfield Imaging, and African Ancestry, participants were able to explore their unique beauty in a new dimension with 3D digital imaging and printmaking mask portraiture. Discover the fun we had with our families!
For more information, click HERE