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Montreal’s Zahi Abou Chacra: Facial Plastics Reconstructive Surgeon

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Based out of Montreal, Quebec, Dr. Zahi Abou Chacra is a facial plastics and reconstructive surgeon, as well as the Medical Director and Principal Surgeon at the cosmetic surgery practice Clinique 7. He is a specialist in aesthetic, functional, and revision rhinoplasty.

Dr. Chacra began his medical education at McGill University, where he majored in Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery. After graduating from McGill, he sought further training in rhinoplasty and facial plastic surgery in Houston, Texas. As a result of his education on both sides of the 49th parallel, he is certified by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and the American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. Additionally, he holds a Master’s of Business Administration degree (MBA), issued jointly by McGill University and HEC Montréal.

Throughout his career, Dr. Chacra has held significant roles in the Quebec healthcare system. For a time, he was the Chief of Service at the Centre Intégré Universitaire de Santé et de Services Sociaux du Nord de l’Ile de Montréal, and he has also served on the boards of the Integrated Health and Social Services University Network (CIUSSS) and the Association des Conseils de Médecins, Dentistes et Pharmaciens du Québec (ACMDPQ). Outside of his clinical and administrative work, he is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Surgery at the University of Montreal.

Recently, Dr. Zahi Abou Chacra graciously agreed to sit down and respond to a few select questions about his life and career.

Q: What made you want to pursue facial plastics and reconstructive surgery as a medical specialty?

Dr. Chacra: The short version of that answer is that it combines two of my passions: helping people through medical science and artistry. When I decided to become a doctor, my goal was always to alleviate suffering and make a positive impact on the lives of my patients. But I’ve also always been fascinated by art. From an early age, I had a talent for it. There is quite a large element of artistic craftsmanship in facial plastics and reconstructive surgery. I think some of what I do could be considered sculpting. That’s always appealed to me.

Q: What sort of people tend to get facial plastics and reconstructive surgery?

Dr. Chacra: There’s no set criteria for who might need facial plastics or reconstructive surgery over the course of their lifetime. It could be anybody. For example, someone who has suffered scarring or other damage on their face as a consequence of being involved in a car accident might seek out my services. As might someone looking to correct a birth defect or ease difficulty breathing. Of course, there are also those who would simply like to improve their appearance, too.

Q: In the past, you’ve held some high-level roles with the Quebec healthcare establishment, such as Chief of Service at the Centre Intégré Universitaire de Santé et de Services Sociaux du Nord de l’Ile. You’ve also served on several prominent boards. Why do you think you were chosen to fill these spots?

Dr. Chacra: Aside from my familiarity with the healthcare system through my various medical roles, I think the fact that I have an MBA separated me from some of my colleagues. In the process of earning my MBA, I had to become well-acquainted with administrative structure, theory, and best practices, which really did help me navigate the provincial government apparatus. It’s hard for me to see how anyone without formal business training could possibly do those jobs.

Q: That must have been a lot of extra work alongside your medical duties. Did you hesitate before accepting any of those positions?

Dr. Chacra: Did I consider the pros and cons? Yes, of course. But I do that before any major decision. In the end, my sense of civic duty won out. I also thought that there was a good chance I could use my expertise to improve Quebec’s healthcare system and make the lives of my fellow Quebecois a little healthier and a little easier.

Q: You’re currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Surgery at the University of Montreal. Aside from teaching the nuts and bolts of medicine, what advice do you give to the future surgeons of Quebec and Canada?

Dr. Chacra: I do my best to instill in them the importance of empathy, compassion, and bedside manner, all the while still being up front with patients about the truth. As surgeons, one of the most important jobs we have is to reassure the people under our care that the health care system is doing everything in its power to make them well again. At the same time, if a bad outcome is likely, you have a responsibility to tell a patient the facts. These are fundamental medical ethics that apply to all doctors, but they’re really important to emphasize with med students.

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