News & Stories

Two men and a woman in front of a black backdrop that reads, VITALS.

Entrepreneurial surgeon shares his keys to innovation

“You don’t have to be the brightest bulb in the box” to be successful in entrepreneurship, said Frank Papay, M.D., chair, Dermatology and Plastic Surgery Institute, Cleveland Clinic. “What you have to do is get the other bulbs to light up with you.”

Dr. Papay kicked off the 2022-23 season of the VITALS speaker series Sept. 8 by sharing in his insights and experiences in leadership and innovation in Watanakunakorn Auditorium and via Zoom.

Serendipity was a common theme in Dr. Papay’s talk. He shared numerous anecdotes of connections he has made over the years, and how those grew into relationships and partnerships that helped him develop innovations, including the first full-face transplant in the U.S.

Best advice

Some of the best advice he has received as an entrepreneur? “Don’t invent a north-pointing chariot,” he said, referring to the overly complex device developed during the Three Kingdoms period in China. “All they had to do was put a lode stone in a glass of water and that’s a compass. So look around you first, at the new technologies, at the other things that you can read and learn about that have nothing to do with medicine.”

Dr. Papay discussed several examples of innovations he sees enhancing the practice of medicine in the future, including virtual and augmented reality, optical imaging, wearable devices with intra-operable imaging and learnable robots.

He noted that many attempts at innovation end in failure. “Never fear failure,” he said. “If you clarify and do it right and you’re transparent, authentic and honest, just move ahead. Press on, press on… You have to be a bit defiant, and just press on.”

He finished his talk with a challenge to the audience. “What impact, and through that impact, what legacy will you develop?”

Following his talk, Dr. Papay took questions from the audience and moderator Monica Robins, senior health reporter from WKYC-TV3.

CAPTION: Frank Papay, M.D. (’84), center, with John Langell, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., M.B.A., president of NEOMED, and Monica Robins, senior health reporter from WKYC-TV3.

Watch VITALS with Frank Papay, M.D.

Read more about Dr. Papay in the Spring 2022 issue of Ignite.