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Researcher | Research Overview

As Plastic Surgeon-in-Chief at Boston Children’s Hospital, Dr. Meara provides family-centered care for patients with a wide variety of complex congenital anomalies. Dr. Meara dedicates the majority of his time to direct patient care, and about one-third of this schedule to research and innovation. Dr. Meara is a prominent researcher in cleft lip and palate and craniofacial anomalies, a leader in developing global health and public policy initiatives, and an advocate for continuous improvement in department administration and hospital leadership.

Clinical Research

As a craniofacial surgeon, Dr. Meara is an expert in cases of cleft lip and palate, craniosynostosis, encephalocele, and complex Tessier facial cleft. On these topics, Dr. Meara has written over 80 peer-reviewed manuscripts, and has given over 60 local, regional, national and international lectures and invited presentations. Additionally, he is one of the editors of the first edition of Pediatric Head and Neck Tumors by Springer. In the specific area of cleft lip and palate, he has a long history of innovation in surgery, process improvement, and patient experience; he has written over 20 abstracts, manuscripts, chapters, and clinical guidelines on cleft lip and palate management. Currently, Dr. Meara is collaborating with Dr. Matthew Harris (Orthopedic Surgery Research) and Dr. Mark Proctor (Neurosurgery) to study factors related to the development of craniosynostosis.

Dr. Meara is one of the surgeons at Boston Children’s who has been working to use technology to improve care for complex cases, and to increase patient access to specialists. In 2014, he began utilizing the hospital’s 3-D printer to simulate craniofacial anatomy. These patient-specific 3-D models enable the team to plan and consider multiple approaches for complex cases, and are invaluable as teaching tools.

Global Surgery Research and Policy

As an advocate for universal access to safe surgery and anesthesia, Dr. Meara leads several programs and initiatives. He serves as Co-Director of the Paul Farmer Global Surgery Fellowship program in collaboration with Partners In Health, and Director of the Program in Global Surgery and Social Change at Harvard Medical School, in the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, which is chaired by Dr. Paul Farmer. Dr. Meara directly mentors the fellows as they pursue their goals to reduce health disparities among surgical patients in low-resource settings through excellent clinical care, innovative research, and ongoing education. In his global health work, he has delivered over 22 invited presentations, and authored over 35 peer-reviewed manuscripts, and over 50 abstracts, manuscripts, and educational materials. He is also Editor-in-Chief of the first edition of the Global Surgery and Anesthesia Manual: Providing Care in Resource-Limited Settings, the first hands-on textbook of its kind to include sections in each chapter written by frontline providers in low-resource settings.

As a result of his global surgery experience, he was asked to be a chair for The Lancet Commission on Global Surgery, which is comprised of two other co-chairs and 22 commissioners from around the world. Lancet Commissions have a direct impact on health care policy direction in ministries of health, the World Health Organization, the United Nations, and major funding agencies, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates and Clinton Foundations, USAID, and the World Bank. The Lancet Commission on Global Surgery was launched in April 2015 in London with the publication by The Lancet of a report of its key recommendations. This publication was accompanied by over 100 publications in 7 academic journals, including a special global surgery edition of The Lancet Global Health with 11 manuscripts, 57 Lancet global surgery abstracts, and 6 global surgery teaching cases created by 5 different schools of business and public health. These related outputs continue to grow.

Additionally, Dr. Meara is the Project Leader of the International Consortium for Health Outcomes Measurement (ICHOM) Cleft Lip and Palate Working Group. This is a new international effort to develop standardized outcome measures for cleft care.

Domestic Healthcare Policy Innovation

Dr. Meara is very active in domestic health care policy leadership as Vice-Chair of the American College of Surgeons (ACS) Health Policy Advisory Group. In 2012, Dr. Meara chaired the ACS Medical Liability Summit; outcomes of this meeting were featured in a special edition of the ACS Bulletin. At the 2013 meeting in Washington, D.C., a health care reform compendium distributed to all attendees included ten of Dr. Meara’s publications.

On a national level, Dr. Meara was able to lead health care reform innovation as the pediatric plastic surgery representative for the American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement Program - Pediatric (ACS NSQIP Pediatric). This project led advancement and quality improvement in the United States by creating nationally collected quality and safety metrics. Pediatrics published the initial manuscript.

Health Care Economics Innovation

For the past several years, Dr. Meara has worked to analyze cost in health care, and he has been collaborating with Michael Porter and Bob Kaplan at Harvard Business School to apply time-driven activity-based costing methodology to pediatric health care delivery. His research in health services and health policy has produced 26 manuscripts in clinical journals, and a Harvard Business School Case and video. Also in health care economics, he developed a model that converts disability-adjusted life years gained through surgical intervention to present value dollars using a willingness-to-pay economic modeling technique. He published a series of four manuscripts utilizing this model, and his seminal paper was published in& PLOS ONE. As a result of this work, he was asked to write two chapters in Disease Control Priorities 3, the leading reference for global health priorities.

Researcher | Research Background

Dr. Meara earned his BS from University of Notre Dame, his MD from the University of Michigan Medical School, his DMD from the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine, and his MBA from the Melbourne Business School at University of Melbourne. He completed his internship in general surgery at University of Michigan Hospitals, his residency in otolaryngology at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, and his residency in plastic surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Boston Children’s Hospital. Dr. Meara also completed a cleft and craniofacial surgery fellowship at Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, Australia. 

In addition to his leadership roles described above, Dr. Meara serves as the Vice-Chair of the Health Policy Advisory Group for the American College of Surgeons.

Researcher | Media

Caregiver Profile

Meet Dr. John G. Meara

Apert Syndrome Q&A

Watch Dr. Meara and his colleagues answer questions relative to Apert syndrome.

Bentley - Part One


Part One: Meet Bentley

Bentley - Part Two


Part Two: Rehearsing a tricky operation

Bentley - Part Three


Part Three: Inside the operating room

Bentley - Part Four


Part Four: Bentley returns home

Violet - Part One


Part one - The journey begins

Violet - Part Two


Part two: Meet Violet’s team of doctors

Violet - Part Three


Part three: Inside the Operating Room

Violet - Part Four


Part four: Violet returns home

Researcher | Publications