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Blog: Mass. Eye and Ear

Mass. Eye and Ear Musings: Blog

A blog about life in a specialty teaching hospital

We enjoy hearing from our readers. Please email us to suggest a topic for our blog or to offer a guest post about your experience at Mass. Eye and Ear. Thank you! 

March 2, 2016

Patient Post: Physicians Help Clark ‘Face World’ Again

RussellClarkPortraitSquareI am totally lucky to be alive. I’ve survived three avalanches in France, a broken pelvis at age 20, multiple bone fractures due to horse-riding accidents, an air flight on my honeymoon diverted due to bombs, and being chased by poachers in Africa – where they shoot you if they catch you.

The only thing I’m truly afraid of is dying of old age or boredom.

It was not until my early 70s that I had to battle cancer. With Drs. Jessica Fewkes and Kevin Emerick of Mass. Eye and Ear in my corner, I was convinced that this was a fight that I could win. When the doctors started working on the moles on my face, I ended up with a very large flap of skin removed. The cancer was so highly diffused that you couldn’t find it encapsulated; it was just a lot of tiny little problems in there. They pulled it out and scraped me down, sewed me up, and I call that my Bermuda Triangle because that’s where most of the damage was done.

The doctors took all the cancer they could find, but we realized that when you pull a vine, little roots break off back inside. You don’t know when and where they’re going to show up. So the doctors and I felt that our best approach would be to follow up the surgery with radiation and chemotherapy. “Let’s hit the cancer as hard as we can and as quick as we can,” I said. “I will never be younger. I will never be stronger.”
So I had eight weeks of radiation five days a week, and we followed that up with six weeks of chemotherapy. I then went on and had eight weeks of lymph massage, and was lucky enough to have eight weeks of hyperbaric oxygen chamber treatment. They gave me everything, and did everything they possibly could.

I felt wonderful. I went to the gym five days a week through the entire procedure, so I felt strong, healthy, and well until I looked in the mirror. I asked, “Who’s that man?” I had facial palsy, and it made me look bad. I didn’t have to look at myself, but my wife, my family and my friends did.

So I went to Dr. Tessa Hadlock, who deals with facial paralysis, and her reaction was, “Oh, this isn’t such a bad job at all. This will be an easy one.”

I asked how she was going to accomplish that, and Dr. Hadlock noted that she was going to take a small sliver of muscle from my thigh – “You won’t even miss it,” she said – and she would make three “hammocks” to jack my face up. So I went in to see Dr. Hadlock and I can honestly and truly say that she’s a miracle worker, and incredible physician.

So Drs. Emerick and Fewkes kept me alive, and Dr. Hadlock restored my self-confidence so that I’m willing to go forward and face the world again. I can’t wait to get up in the morning; there're so many things to do.

My message to others who find themselves with problems like mine is to pursue the best doctors that you can find. You’re only partly alive if you have the kind of problems that I had fighting cancer and facial palsy.

Thanks to the doctors at Mass. Eye and Ear, I’m still here, so I’ve done what I can to support their great work so that others may benefit.  

By providing Mass. Eye and Ear’s doctors and researchers with greater resources, they can quicken the pace of their research and produce improved treatments and cures. One day, I think cancer is going to be as obsolete as polio.

Learn how you can support Mass. Eye and Ear doctors as Doctors' Day approaches on March 30.

-- Russell Clark, Patient

December 15, 2015

DianeJonesDrNadol350Long-Tenured Employees Honored at Annual Service Awards Breakfast

Although Massachusetts Eye and Ear is home to two of the largest otolaryngology and ophthalmology departments in the country, as a specialty hospital we’re a relatively small community when compared with most general hospitals.   

I have spent six years as part of this community, and although that feels like a substantial part of my career, the number pales in comparison to some of my colleagues who have been a part of the Mass. Eye and Ear team for decades.

At our annual Service Awards Breakfast last week, some of these veterans and their managers gathered to celebrate their contributions to our institution.

The list of those who have spent five years or more at Mass. Eye and Ear is a long one, and the list of those who have spent four or five decades is a sight to be seen (below):

40 Years
Frances Wong Ho, Director of Accounting

42 Years
Dr. Evangelos Gragoudas, Ophthalmologist, Director of Retina Service

45 Years
Kenneth Pellegrino, Supervisor, Biomedical Equipment Technician
Marie Croisetu, Buyer

50 Years
Ethel Hargrove, Catering Coordinator
Diane Jones, Otopathology Laboratory Manager
Raymond Chapman, Technician

Congratulations to all who were honored last week for their dedication to Mass. Eye and Ear. It’s a pleasure to walk these halls with you every day.

The commitment that runs throughout our organization is one of the reasons that Mass. Eye and Ear is a great place to work and number 1 in the nation.

In photo, Diane Jones, Laboratory Manager, celebrates 50 years working with principal investigator of the Otopathology Lab and former Chief and Chair of Otolaryngology, Joseph Nadol, Jr., M.D.

-- Suzanne Day (Communications Department)

December 9, 2015

‘Making a Difference’ at Neighborhood House Charter School
On a chilly December morning, as the sun crested over the “triple-decker” homes that dot Pope’s Hill in Dorchester, the Mass. Eye and Ear Vision Team gathered at the Neighborhood House Charter School to administer vision screenings for students as part of the hospital’s community outreach effort.

Led by Kimberley Chan, O.D., and residents Elizabeth Rossin, M.D., and Durga Borkar, M.D., Mass. Eye and Ear, Longwood Ophthalmology Practice Manager Erin McAvoy, Erin Duggan, Phil Lord, Leslie Dennis and Joe O’Shea helped to screen about 225 students, who ranged in age from about four to 12 years old. Forty-four students were referred for follow-up care.

While the whole team pitched in at various times to conduct the initial visual acuity test (i.e. reading charts), Drs. Chan, Borkar and Rossin administered stereo, depth-perception, binocularity and eye-alignment tests.

Under the watchful eyes of school nurse Mary McNulty-Anglin and a number of teachers, who maintained some semblance of order among restless children stuck in line, the screening was seamless and the team managed to wrap up by mid-afternoon.

“Working with the Neighborhood House students was very inspiring for me,” said Erin McAvoy, Mass. Eye and Ear, Longwood’s Ophthalmology Practice Manager. “Helping people is what motivates me to go to work every day, so offering vision care to students who might not have access makes me feel as if I might be making a small difference in their lives.”

-- Joe O'Shea (Office of Communications)

December 2, 2015

Fulkerson Enjoys Life-Changing Experience with Team Eye and Ear

MelissaFulkerson300Guest blogger Melissa Fulkerson was a member of the record-setting 2015 Team Eye and Ear, which raised more than $600,000 for patient care and research at Mass. Eye and Ear by running the Boston Marathon on a very rainy, very raw day last April. In this post, she talks about her connection to the race, and why she bravely ran 26.2 miles in inclement weather to help Mass. Eye and Ear.

Like most people who grow up in Greater Boston, I have long had a personal relationship with the Boston Marathon. My connection came from volunteering at the marathon several times. I loved the energy of these larger-than-life athletes, even though in most cases they were regular people like me. I loved hearing their stories, wishing them well and soaking in their nervous excitement. I never considered that someday I would be one of these people.

When the Boston Marathon bombings happened in 2013, the world stopped for those of us who lived and worked in and around the city we called home. It had been several years since I had volunteered for the Boston Athletic Association (BAA), the governing body of the Boston Marathon, but as I watched the news coverage I felt called to volunteer again . . . and to start running again. On the first anniversary of the bombings, I was consumed by the news coverage and I came home and told my husband, “I’m going to run the Boston Marathon next year.”

Where I’m not a fast runner, I knew that if I was going to tackle Boston I’d need to join a charity team and do some fundraising to get a number for the race. I consulted a friend who suggested that I apply to run for Team Eye and Ear, which was a perfect fit.

After ear surgery with Mass. Eye and Ear's Dr. Ron deVenecia made me feel as good as new in 2012, I learned that a dear friend's child was being treated for an inherited blinding disease here as well. So I decided to run to raise funds to fight this disease, and it felt good fundraising for a cause that I’m passionate about.

During my time with Team Eye and Ear, many of us on the team developed close friendships. We spent hours and hours together, training during snowy, cold and dismal winter weather conditions. We often met for coffee and bagels after our weekend “long-runs,” and many of us still keep in touch.

When the training got tough, the Team Eye and Ear coaching staff kept many of us going. Getting up early on a Saturday morning to run 20 miles is a lot easier when you have friends and coaches offering companionship, advice and cheering you on. The time we were able to spend with coaches John Furey (during weekend long-runs) and Fred Treseler (during monthly meetings) helped keep us focused and calmed our nerves as race day approached.

Race day was a day unlike any other. Our team gathered near the starting line in a warm facility, where we loosened up, stayed dry, had plenty to eat and drink and enjoyed each other’s company one last time before setting off on our grand adventure.
I remember:
  • Every mile of the race
  • Every friend and family member who waited in the cold, wind and rain to see me run by. 
  • Running with fellow team members, running alone, and running with strangers who for a moment became friends.
  • The medic who gave me a mylar blanket to wrap myself in as I ran the last three miles in driving wind and rain that I have never felt before. 
  • Crossing the finish line, and having a volunteer put a medal over my head and say to me: “Melissa. You are a Boston Marathon FINISHER.” And I remember thinking in that moment that there is literally nothing in this world that I am afraid to do because I have done this.

The Team Eye and Ear “class of 2015” trained for one of the most difficult races in the world during the snowiest winter in Boston history (since records started being kept in 1872). On marathon day, I joked that it was almost poetic justice that the weather on race day was so bad; in a lot of ways, it was the most perfect way to end such a grueling training season.

I learned so much about myself and others during those six months of training. I learned that:

  • My mind is in control of my body, and setting a goal and accomplishing it is even more satisfying when it’s a goal that so few people in the world have attempted.
  • Generosity in fundraising and moral support comes from the places you would never expect – friends you haven’t talked to in years, local businesses that are proud of you for representing your community, complete strangers who saw a link posted by someone else on your behalf who just want to do their part. I exceeded my original goal of $8,000 and raised close to $11,000.
  • Setting an example of strength for my son and other young people in my life is the best thing I can do in this world.
  • I can’t wait to do it again.

I’m not running Boston in 2016 because I’ve decided that one marathon a year is enough, and I’ve chosen a different race next year. But I’ll be volunteering for the BAA again, and I can’t wait to cheer for the 2016 members of Team Eye and Ear as they complete an event that will surely change their lives as it’s changed mine.

Every sore muscle, every early morning, every run through the snow was worth it because of how it made me feel when it was over. And someday, when I take on Heartbreak Hill again, I’ll most certainly be wearing a Team Eye and Ear jersey.

Learn more about how you can support patient care and research by running for Team Eye and Ear.

-- Melissa Fulkerson, 2015 Team Eye and Ear Runner

October 6, 2015

Deeper Dive: A Look at the Physician Assistant Discipline

PhysicianAssistants4001As Baby Boomers reluctantly enter their golden years, the American health-care system will be taxed like never before, which might be why the physician assistant (PA) discipline is one of the fastest growing in the health-care field. Multiple studies have proven that the presence of PAs on health-care teams increases patient satisfaction, improves the continuity of care, reduces mortality rates and shortens hospital stays. 

Despite the field’s remarkable growth in recent years, the physician assistant role might also be one of the most misunderstood in health care. During National Physician Assistant Week, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Physician Assistant Nancy Livada took the time to shed light on the PA profession, including its history and future.

What does PA stand for?
Nancy Livada: PA stands for physician assistant. There is no “apostrophe-s” at the end of the word “physician.” We are assistant physicians, not assistants to physicians.

What does a PA do?
NL: PAs are medical professionals who practice as part of a health-care team. PAs can work in any medical field and setting. We can perform physical exams, diagnose and treat illnesses, prescribe medications, perform procedures, order and interpret test results, and even assist in operations.  The responsibilities of an individual PA depends on that person’s experience, the health-care setting and the PA’s relationship with the supervising physician.

What kind of training does it take to become a PA?
NL: Most PAs have a master’s degree in medicine, which usually means about two to three years in graduate school. Most PA schools require at least a year of patient-care experience before one can apply. PAs are required to take a national board exam every 10 years, and have to maintain continuing education credits – just like a physician.

Since we graduate with a degree in general medicine, we are able to work in any field and switch fields at any time. It also means that there is a lot of on-the-job training when a PA is new to a field. Normally, PAs don’t do residencies or fellowships, so we learn as we work.

What is PA school like?
NL: PA school is based on the same model as medical school, but it’s all done in about half the time. The first year is usually all classroom-based learning, and the remaining time consists of thesis writing and rotations in many different core fields of medicine, including surgery, internal medicine, pediatrics, primary care, emergency medicine and psychiatry. Because so much work is squeezed into such a small timeframe, PA school is very intense and difficult and admittance is very competitive.

How is a PA different from a nurse practitioner?
NL: The differences between a physician assistant and a nurse practitioner (NP) are very subtle, and both can often do the same exact work. NPs are nurses with advanced degrees in one particular field, and they are trained on a nursing model. PAs graduate with a general degree in medicine, and are trained on a medical model. For the most part, there is very little difference in capabilities and job description.

PhysicianAssistants4002What do PAs do at Mass. Eye and Ear?
We perform a number of roles, based on the needs of our respective practices. Overall, though, we generally care for in-patients, assist in surgery, help train residents and medical students and care for out-patients in the clinic. We also write prescriptions, put in orders, evaluate test results, perform procedures and diagnose and treat problems for our patients.

On the main campus, there are only two PAs. I work in Head and Neck Surgery, and Kerry Shanley practices in the Facial Plastic Surgery Center and the Facial Nerve Center. The satellite locations also have several PAs who act as integral providers for their practices. Mary Ellen Kistler and Danielle Kurkuvelos work in Stoneham, while Annie Gee supports the practice at Mass. Eye and Ear, Quincy.

What does the future hold for PAs at Mass. Eye and Ear?
NL: The PA profession is among the fastest growing fields in the U.S. The demand for PAs is increasing drastically as our roles expand and health-care legislation evolves. PAs around the country have improved access to higher quality health care for millions of people. It would not be surprising if the number of PAs at Mass. Eye and Ear grows significantly in the future.

Learn more about the physician assistant profession, and about the history of physician assistants.

-- Joe O'Shea (Communications Office)

September 25, 2015

StonehamTownDayShannonBligdonOD400Mass. Eye and Ear Takes Part in Stoneham Town Day 

Mass. Eye and Ear participated in the annual Stoneham Town Day for the third time last Saturday, Sept. 19, on the town common.

Thousands of people from Stoneham and surrounding communities joined in the festivities, which included more than 100 exhibitors, lots of food and games for children and information for adults.

A special thanks goes out to Mass. Eye and Ear volunteers Barbara Baggs (ENT-Stoneham), Danielle Kurkuvelos, P.A. (ENT-Stoneham), Shannon Bligdon, O.D. (Ophthalmology-Stoneham) and Jill Barthel and Carol Brennan (Marketing), who all spread the word about our full-service facility on Montvale Avenue and our Retina Consultants site on Woodland Road.  

View photos of our volunteers at the Mass. Eye and Ear booth.

-- Jill Barthel (Marketing)

September 8, 2015

Dr. Rauch, Hearing Team 'Perform' at Boston Conservatory
BOSTON -- “When conducting hearing screenings, a very quiet setting is required to achieve accurate results,” according to Steven Rauch, M.D., Medical Director of the Mass. Eye and Ear Balance and Vestibular Center. So when Dr. Rauch and the Mass. Eye and Ear Hearing Team recently visited the Boston Conservatory’s Ipswich Street facility – located a deep David Ortiz drive from Fenway Park – they were fortunate that it was a rare night off for the Red Sox.

After Dr. Rauch delivered a presentation on hearing health for these aspiring professional musicians, he and his small volunteer army of Mass. Eye and Ear audiologists, residents and fellows conducted hearing screenings for about 60 students. Although they were performed in several of BoCo’s sound-proof rooms, I think it’s safe to say that the absence of Fenway’s fanatics hastened the process for all involved.

“We were very pleased with the event,” said Dr. Rauch. “Enrollment in our screenings exceeded expectations, and the students were genuinely enthusiastic about the opportunity to learn about their own hearing and how to protect it.”

Hearing loss is a growing problem in the U.S., as well as other developed nations. As earbuds and personal music players have proliferated in the past 15 years, so has hearing damage. While approximately 17 percent of Americans currently have some degree of hearing loss, about 19.5 percent of U.S. teens now experience at least slight hearing loss, an almost five-percent bump from eight years ago.

Personally, I wasn’t terribly surprised to learn that even one loud music concert can contribute to hearing loss. As a big music fan and former sportswriter, I’ve enjoyed countless concerts and football games in domed stadiums. Now I know that the all-too-common ringing in my ears after each event – although it always faded as a young man – was my body’s way of warning me that I was experiencing damage to my inner-ear hair cells and their attached nerves, a sensitive system that converts mechanical noise to electrical impulses interpreted by the brain as sound. As I’ve aged, that ringing in the ears, also known as tinnitus, became permanent.  

Last May, this type of hearing damage was addressed at a Berklee College of Music forum where medical professionals, musicians, arts administrators and media professionals exchanged ideas and information related to hearing loss. A guest speaker at the event, Dr. Rauch met BoCo’s Associate Director of Music Larry Isaacson, who asked him to speak to incoming conservatory students last week. Working with the Hub’s arts community is a trend that Rauch predicts will continue.

“With Boston’s rich tradition of arts and arts education, we believe that these young musicians are a great population to work with,” said Dr. Rauch. “Because of their profession, they’re at significant risk for hearing damage, so they really care about their hearing and want it to last a lifetime. We’re confident that we can learn a great deal from working with them, and in return we hope to help them preserve their precious sense of hearing.”

-- Joe O’Shea (Office of Communications)

August 31, 2015

Small Army Video Shoot JamesMachadoFormer Patient Assists Mass. Eye and Ear as Small Army Ad Agency Intern

In this guest post, James Machado, an intern at Small Army (a top advertising agency in Boston) writes about his experience working with Mass. Eye and Ear on a commercial shoot. As a former Mass. Eye and Ear patient, James reflects on his experience at Mass. Eye and Ear as a child.

As I looked at the calendar this week, I was surprised to realize that I had reached the halfway point of my internship at Small Army and Small Army For A Cause.  Just like every summer, the weeks have flown by. In the whirlwind of time speeding by, I realize just how far I’ve come—I’ve learned so many new things, met so many new people, and made so many memories along the way—and it’s only the halfway point! With that, I’m going to share how my time as Small Army and Small Army For A Cause has progressed and the experiences I’ve had along the way.

Small Army does a great job of bringing interns into the mix with our clients. I’ve learned more than I could have imagined working on the different teams assigned to each client.

The best experience I’ve had thus far at Small Army was being a part of the commercial shoot team for Mass. Eye and Ear which took place at the beautiful Artists for Humanity building in Boston. This would normally be a fantastic event for anyone interested in advertising and film, but it was even more fantastic for me as it allowed my world to come full circle. When I was a child at the age of 3, doctors at Mass. Eye and Ear performed surgery to remove a rare benign tumor known as a congenital cholesteatoma from my left eardrum.  Not only did the surgery save my ability to hear, but it saved my life as early detection caught the tumor before it could spread. Now 19 years later, I find myself on a team that helped Mass. Eye and Ear produce a commercial.

--James Machado (Student at Brandeis University)

August 27, 2015

Nurse Director Theresa Johnson Testifies in Support of Boston’s Proposed Smokeless Tobacco Ban

Nurse Director Theresa Johnson Testifies on Behalf of Smokeless Tobacco Ban in Boston Baseball ParksWith South Boston’s Moakley Field serving as an expansive – and appropriate – backdrop in early August, Mayor of Boston Marty Walsh proposed a smokeless tobacco ban at all ballparks within the city’s confines – from Little League diamonds to Fenway Park. This ban, if passed, would follow on the heels of a similar law passed in San Francisco this past spring.

So at a hearing on the proposed ban before the Boston City Council’s Government Operations Committee on August 24, Mass. Eye and Ear Nurse Director Theresa Johnson, M.S.N., R.N., B.C., provided testimony in support of the ban.

“While there is a great deal of focus on cigarette smoking causing lung cancer, the public is now becoming aware of the damage caused by smokeless tobacco or ‘chewing’ tobacco,” said Johnson, who manages the hospital’s inpatient unit. “Consider that in this form, a user is directly applying, rubbing and holding the carcinogens found in tobacco and nicotine on the gums, tongue, mouth, throat and in the saliva.”     

The Mass. Eye and Ear Head and Neck Cancer center has more than 7,000 visits a year from patients suffering from cancers of the mouth, tongue and throat, and the primary causes are tobacco and alcohol abuse.

Johnson described how an oral cancer patient’s symptoms include bleeding and receding gums, excruciating pain and the loss of teeth. If diagnosed early enough, Mass. Eye and Ear’s surgeons are often able to save the patients’ lives, but those lives are changed forever by the procedures. The three most common surgeries include:

  • Removal of large portions of the tongue and reconstruction using tissue from other parts of the body;
  • Removal of the jaw and reconstruction with bones from other parts of the body; and
  • Removal of the larynx and voicebox, which requires the patient to spend the rest of his or her life breathing through a stoma – a hole in the neck – and using an electronic voicebox.

“My team and I have a unique perspective on the devastating effects of these cancers on our patients and their families,” added Johnson. “These surgeries are long and difficult, and there are few words to describe what it is like for patients and their families in the first few days following these procedures. Needless to say, these surgeries – often combined with chemotherapy or radiation – present a lifetime of challenges for a survivor.

“We would be very happy – as caregivers and parents – to see fewer patients and know that today’s young athletes are assured of long and happy lives,” said Johnson. “The only sure way to prevent this scourge is to stop the tobacco use before it ever starts, so the Mayor’s proposed ban of smokeless tobacco on the baseball fields of Boston is an important first step to save the lives of professional athletes and the thousands of young people who model their every move.”

-- Joe O’Shea (Office of Communications) 

August 20, 2015

Guest Post: From Stage IV to Center Stage
In this guest post, Denise DeSimone, a patient of Dan Deschler, M.D., writes about her personal road map to wellness after a cancer diagnosis almost 10 years ago. We hope that you find Denise’s thoughts, which follow below, both inspiring and educational.

“You have cancer. You have a very serious, fast moving cancer and you need to do something about this immediately.”

Those were the first words I heard upon awakening after a “routine” biopsy of a lump that had mysteriously appeared, two months earlier, on the left side of my neck.  The diagnosis was stage IV throat and neck cancer. Treatment began immediately with a prediction that if something didn’t work fast, I would not be here for Christmas. Christmas was only 90 days away. That was almost 10 years ago.

When life comes to a screeching halt, it demands our attention and introspection. During the initial days of my journey, I had hours and hours strung together to ponder the many questions that accompany a potential death sentence: Why me? Why now? What did I do wrong? Where did I go wrong? How long do I really have?

So many questions crawling around in my head like termites looking for the perfect place to gnaw.  

Then…the most important question of all drifted in. A gift from the angels. Why is cancer the only disease referred to as a battle? This question triggered a cascade of thoughts and subsequent questions that took center stage and demanded an answer. Have you ever thought about why this is so? I hadn’t.  

We never hear about someone losing their battle with heart disease, or losing their battle with diabetes, or losing their battle with kidney disease. No. We only hear about it in relation to cancer. We have permeated society with this mindset of “battling” cancer so much so that the very first words of support from doctors, family and friends are, “You are facing the toughest battle of your life. You have to fight! You have to battle.” Then you have to pray that you ultimately win and the cancer loses. The time has come for a paradigm shift.

The answers and soul searching that surfaced as a result of this question is why I say in my book, From Stage IV to Center Stage, that the presence of cancer was the best present I have ever received. I took a deep, spiritual dive. Searching my soul for the truth about who I was.

Here’s what I learned: I learned that war against war is war. Where there is a battle there is a war. I certainly did not want to perpetuate a war with something that was already potentially angry. Cancer has a lot of heat. It needs to be cooled. It needs to be loved. It needs to be embraced and befriended. I began to dialogue with my cancer as I would with a trusted friend. I gave it a name. I gave it a pen. I gave it permission to tell me what was going on. I asked: What are you doing in my body? Why did you decide to come into my life? What do you need in order for me to help usher you out of my body and on your way? These are just a few areas that were explored.

The sessions felt as if I was actually in relationship with someone who was far wiser than I. This is what happens when we are willing to let our higher selves lead the way. What I gleaned from these quiet, personal and intimate moments was invaluable. I believe it was what helped save my life. I was inspired to investigate places within that needed to be healed. There are too many lessons to share in this short blog, so suffice it to say, the top three are the most important and useful to anyone facing any of life’s challenges. Challenges are doorways to transformation, especially when dealing with cancer.

My top three:
1. “Stop beating yourself up for nothing.” When I said I wasn’t beating myself up for nothing, the response was, “It doesn’t feel that way in here.”
2. “The more light you can hold within, the less room there will be for me.” This meant it was time to locate the places where the emotional wounds had caused blockages and find ways to once and for all, clear them.
3. “The more you love yourself, Denise, the less reason for me to stick around.” This is where the rubber meets the road. The work began and continues to this day with the woman in the mirror. Our bathroom mirrors can be our most precious therapists.

I don’t think I would be here today, sharing my journey with you, had I chosen to battle and fight against cancer. I would have depleted what little physical and emotional resources I had. I also know that I would not be here sharing my journey had it not been for the remarkable care I received from Dr. Daniel Deschler and the team of doctors and nurses at Mass. Eye and Ear’s Head & Neck Oncology Department. I owe them my life.

Now my life’s mission is to usher in a paradigm shift. A shift in how we approach cancer. It’s time to give people who have received a cancer diagnosis the permission they need to stop fighting and start loving themselves. If they don’t have the tools, then lets equip them. It’s time to let them know they didn’t do anything wrong. And please, let us stop referring to those who died as people who lost their battle. They are in no way losers. They didn’t lose anything. They simply died.

Two days prior to being diagnosed, I had ridden my bicycle 90 miles in one day during the Pan Mass Challenge, affectionately known to Bostonians as the PMC, raising money for cancer research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. How ironic! How perfect!

Twenty two months after diagnosis, I had the honor or singing the national anthem to a sell-out crowd of 37,000 Boston Red Sox fans at Fenway Park. It’s all in my book.

-- Denise DeSimone. Visit her website and check out her book.

August 4, 2015

Randolph Fire Department's Dan Kreckler, Dr. Lin Work Together to Douse Rare Cancer

PatientDanKrecklerFamilyDrDerrickLinn400The following guest post is excerpted from this year’s Founders’ Day Luncheon speech by patient Dan Kreckler, Chief of Operations for the Randolph Fire Department and cancer survivor who has lived to see his three children become fine young adults thanks to the efforts of Dr. Derrick Lin and other Mass. Eye and Ear care givers.

When Doctor Lin called me a few months ago to ask if I would come speak to you today, I didn’t hesitate for a moment: “Of course I will!” It’s been exactly 10 years since my cancer diagnosis. Thanks to the heroes who work at Mass. Eye and Ear, I can stand here today and tell you that my cancer was truly just a bump in the road of what has been a long, otherwise healthy life.

Back in 2005, when my E.N.T. specialist, Dr. Jaffe, told me that I had cancer, the room was spinning. There must be a mistake. I was in the best shape of my life. I’d just run the grueling Firefighter Combat Challenge; there was no way I had cancer. Dr. Jaffe quickly reassured me that there are more people surviving cancer these days than dying from it, and then he gave me the news that truly changed my life: He had already made an appointment for me to see a team of specialists at Mass. Eye and Ear.

My wife, Kristin, and I decided to wait until after the Mass. Eye and Ear meeting to tell our kids – Lindsey, Hayley and Andrew – the news so that we could share with them the solution as well as the problem. The meeting wasn’t for two weeks, so Kristin and I held a lot of uncertainty about the future bottled up inside.

After what felt like an eternity, we met with the team of specialists. There was Dr. Derrick Lin, the oncologist; Dr. Annie Chan, the radiologist; Dr. John Clark, the chemotherapist; and the many other members of the team. I’d driven by Mass. Eye and Ear countless times without giving it a thought, but now that I was inside, I realized, “Hey, they’re curing cancer in here!”

I was diagnosed with Sino-Naso Undifferentiated Carcinoma, or SNUC. I had a tumor between my eyes, blocking my right nostril and beginning to push its way into my brain cavity. I needed treatment . . .  and fast.

When we told the kids, they were strong, as we expected. I told the rest of my family members, who all offered their assistance. Surprisingly, it was more difficult for me to share the news with my fellow firefighters than it was for me to tell my family. For years, we had been at the same fires, eating the same smoke, taking care of each other, and now I was dropping out of the picture on injury leave.

When the chemo treatments failed to stop the cancer, it was time for Plan B – an operation. In August 2005, Dr. Lin and his team took my head apart and removed the cancer during an eight-hour surgery. Most amazing of all, I was home in less than 48 hours.

If there was a bright side to all of this, it was the time that I got to spend with my family. While I was recuperating that summer, my son, Andrew, and I would go for long bike rides – hours at a time – through our neighborhood and the woods surrounding it. We went wherever he wanted to go, and often got lost on streets I’d never been on before. Those days of exploration made it even more important that I stick around.

While I would never wish cancer upon anyone, it was an experience in my life that I will never forget. I learned so much about my marriage and the strength of my wife, who became my rock and helped me through the worst of it. My children, only 9, 10 and 12 years old, were there for me no matter how bad I was looking or feeling. Friends, coworkers, neighbors, acquaintances, strangers were all so helpful and understanding, and my doctors at Mass. Eye and Ear started to feel like extended family members.

From day one, Dr. Lin’s positive attitude and bright, cheery persona made a world of difference. Whether I was there for a regular office visit or to deal with a recurring infection in my sinuses, he would meet me wherever we were in the hospital to make sure I was getting what I needed or to address our concerns in person.

Some time ago, I asked Doctor Lin about an issue I was having, wondering if other patients with my cancer had experienced the same thing. He said, “I’m not sure. You’ve lived longer than most patients who have had your cancer. At this point, we’re learning from you.

When we visit now, Dr. Lin introduces me to his residents or students like this: “This is Mr. Kreckler, one of our success stories.” Even 10 long years later – especially 10 years later – you can’t imagine how good that makes me feel.

Usually, those residents and students ask me to look up my nose, which I don’t mind. During one visit, I asked one of them, “What does it look like up there, a parking garage?” “No,” she said as her eyes opened brightly, “It looks more like a cathedral.” People who can find a cathedral in a sinus cavity are people I want on my team.

So thanks to my family for all the love and support, during cancer and beyond. Thanks to Dr. Lin and the rest of the Mass. Eye and Ear specialists for their talent, for their compassion and for keeping me alive. Leave it to Dr. Lin and his colleagues for taking my 2005 lemon and continuing to make lemonade out of it 10 years later.

-- Patient Dan Kreckler (Chief of Operations, Randolph Fire Department)

July 31, 2015
Eight Simple Steps to Protect Your Eyes and Ears
CampHarborViewRideHome400Mass. Eye and Ear wants to make sure people everywhere know how to protect and care for their precious eyes and ears. Here are eight tips for keeping your senses sharp so you can see and hear to the best of your ability:
  1. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from harmful ultra-violet (UV) light.
  2. See a doctor if your vision changes, especially if you experience hazy or double vision, floaters, flashes of light, or difficulty seeing in low light conditions. 
  3. Take care of your overall health. 
  4. Have your eyes checked at least every two years. 
  5. Monitor your listening habits. Sounds do not have to be damaging.
  6. Talk to your children about hearing safety.
  7. Use portable music players with care. 
  8. Wear hearing protection properly. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions.

Time spent in the sun, and whether or not sunglasses are worn, may help explain why some people develop exfoliation syndrome (XFS), an eye condition that is a leading cause of secondary open-angle glaucoma and can lead to an increased risk of cataract and cataract surgery complications.

“A lifetime of outdoor activity and sun exposure may contribute to XFS,” says Dr. Louis Pasquale, who authored a 2014 study on the topic of prolonged sun exposure contributing to the development of XFS. “Work over snow or water was associated with increased risk of XFS while sunglass wear was associated with reduced risk of XFS, suggesting that ocular [eye] exposure to light from reflective surfaces may be an important contributing factor to XFS.”  

Dr. Pasquale added that in another study, “We found that the critical time for ocular UV protection is during the teenage years and young adulthood. People don’t necessarily attribute a condition that typically develops in the sixth and seventh decade -- like XFS -- to lifestyle behaviors adopted decades earlier, but it can’t hurt to minimize ocular UV exposure from an early age.”

Learn more about Mass. Eye and Ear's Optical Shop.

-- Compiled by Joe O'Shea (Office of Communications)

July 29, 2015

Camp Harbor View: Adventures in Boston Harbor

DavidVargoSheilaCollins400When I first learned that I was going to lead the Board of Trustees last year, I knew that I wanted to understand more about how Mass. Eye and Ear impacts the communities in which we operate. Our Community Benefits program seemed like a perfect place to start. My wife, Sheila, and I volunteered to help Mass. Eye and Ear clinicians and administrators at one of our vision-screening clinics on Camp Harbor View on Boston Harbor’s Long Island.

On a muggy, overcast July morning, we all boarded a tiny boat, the Miss Peddocks Island, to make the trip to Camp Harbor View, which provides at-risk Boston youth with a healthy summer camp alternative. On the way, we witnessed a majestic Portuguese tall ship entering the harbor, but what we saw on Long Island was even more impressive. 

With a naval-like efficiency, our team made its way to Camp Harbor View, where Chief Ophthalmic Technician Shakhsanam Aliyeva and her colleagues quickly set up shop. They measured distances from tables and chairs to a wall, where vision charts were hung, and our team was ready to roll. 

Sheila and I, along with other Mass. Eye and Ear staff members, cleaned up the meeting hall, shuffled tables and chairs around and assisted with traffic control, helping the campers move from station to station. When all was said and done, our team was able to screen more than 135 campers in less than three hours.

Not only were we impressed with the efficiency of the operation, but Sheila and I were touched by some of the campers we spoke with and the compassionate care that we witnessed. 

Learn more about our trip.

- David Vargo (Chair, Mass. Eye and Ear Board of Trustees)

June 24, 2015

Steady Drizzle Does Little to Dampen Spirits at Mass. Eye and Ear's 7th Annual Golf Classic

In all honesty, one out of seven ain't bad.
In seven years, the Mass. Eye and Ear Golf Classic has encountered stormy weather only once, last week. The steady downpour of the morning commute lightened to a drizzle by the 12:30 tee time at the Weston Golf Club, but as one participant noted, "Even a rainy day on the golf course is better than a sunny day in the office."

Despite the soaking day-long drizzle, classic participants still enjoyed their day on the links, raising more than $220,000 to support patient care and research at Mass. Eye and Ear. The Mass. Eye and Ear Community not only thanks event Chairs John Loewenstein, M.D., Michael Rho, M.D., and Ralph Pelosi for their leadership and vision, but Gold Sponsor Citizens Commercial Banking as well as more than 30 other sponsors.

The tournament was delayed a half hour due to the rain, but once guests arrived they were treated to a commemorative hat designed by multiple-threat Michael Rho, M.D., who designed the baseball caps. Ironically, given the weather, participants were then able to select a pair of Maui Jim sunglasses (to use for another day) before heading inside for a continental breakfast and a pre-round lunch.

Once the 27 foursomes teed off, competitive instincts kicked in and the heat was on. By day's end, the top three teams finished within three strokes of one another. President John Fernandez, son Will and teammates Jake Shuman and Art Mombourquette claimed the top prize with a low scramble format score of 64. Brian Hermanny, Allan Ames, Kevin Gill and Patrick Gill finished hot on the Fernandez Foursome's heels with a score of 65, and third-place finishers Jerry Colella, Brian Quirk, Seth Bagshaw and George Manning were only two shots off the pace with a 66.  

Individual performers excelled as well. Will Fernandez won the men's longest drive competition and Stacy Brauner, M.D., displayed the longest drive among the female golfers. Mike Walsh, Patrick Gill, Greg Ota and Steve Gill had a little finesse to their game as the four golfers who finished closest to the hole, with Walsh finishing most closely -- at one foot, 11 inches. Mark Rounds won the pre-round putting competition, and came away with Celtics tickets for his effort.

After a slight delay due to the need to change out of sopping wet gear, the golfers assembled on the second floor of the club to enjoy a delicious buffet meal while bidding on a number of terrific auction items that included:

  • A sun-and-sea weekend in Newport , R.I.
  • A luxury weekend at the neighboring Liberty Hotel.
  • Courtside Celtics seats, access to the Courtside Club and an autographed team basketball.
  • A weekend at the rustic chic Hidden Pond Resort in Kennebunkport, Maine, combined with dinner at the Gibbet Grill in Groton, Mass.
  • A "Staycation" package that includes a Mercedes-Benz rental as well as a weekend stay at the Charles Hotel in Harvard Square with multiple meal options.
  • A great "Sports Central" package that consists of a Red Sox game, a round of golf at the Merrimack Valley's Four Oaks Country Club, bowling at Kings in Boston and boxing gloves signed by legendary Lowell boxer Micky Ward, who inspired the film, "The Fighter."

-- Joe O'Shea (Public Affairs)

June 12, 2015
Mass. Eye and Ear’s Sluggers Hit a Home Run for Boston’s Youth

Even though Fenway Park’s sun-splashed emerald lawn was dotted with office jockeys playing hooky from work yesterday morning, the real reason that Boston’s business community convened at Brookline Ave. was to benefit Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD), which hosted its 18th annual Field of Dreams event in the Boston Red Sox’ beloved ballpark.

Pelosi home runFor more than 50 years, ABCD has offered programs and services in the Hub that promote self-sufficiency, and Mass. Eye and Ear sponsored one of 16 teams that rallied to support ABCD’s SummerWorks Program. SummerWorks places low-income, at-risk youth in summer jobs at more than 200 sites, and provides mentoring, tutoring and career-development support.

Fenway MassEyeAndEarTeam 400Mass. Eye and Ear’s sluggers barely had time for morning coffee, facing off against Quincy’s Arbella Insurance in the second game at 8:55 a.m. Behind the bats of Mass. Eye and Ear President John Fernandez, Associate Scientist Zheng-Yi Chen, D.Phil., Director of Support Services Ralph Pelosi and Bob Bannish, M.D, Mass. Eye and Ear jumped out to a quick lead that seemed to multiply each inning.

While Mass. Eye and Ear’s offensive “pop” may have raised the eyebrows of some sideline scouts, it was the team’s defensive chemistry that nailed down the win. With Chief Medical Officer Sunny Eappen, M.D., and Team Eye and Ear runners Sally Ankeny Reiley and Kirstin Karis anchoring the infield, the Mass. Eye and Ear defense held off a late Arbella surge to preserve a 32-19 victory for the hospital, which evened its Field of Dreams record at 1-1. 

Fenway Park Press BoxFenway Park is an unparalleled Boston landmark, which is filled 81 nights a year (more if we’re lucky) with fans and players who embody dedication, perseverance and hope. After yesterday, I realized that – despite an obvious skills gap – the Field of Dreams participants aren’t much different from the big leaguers in that they’re united under the shared objective of improving their community, win or lose.

As a native Bostonian, I’ve attended countless Red Sox games, some with my father and some with friends. Each experience was special, but this time it was different – wicked different. Standing behind home plate, it was if my sight shifted into panoramic vision, as I was able to absorb 380 feet of grass, 37,673 seats and a 37-foot tall Green Monster all in one glance. Seeing a near-empty Fenway Park for the first time helped me to understand just how special the old park is, how it embodies the authenticity and character of a historic city like Boston.

Although I didn’t see any balls get crushed into the stands, or inhale the aroma of the world-renowned Fenway Franks, I was able to see America’s greatest ballpark through a new lens, something that I will always remember.

Learn more about ABCD.

-- Jason Bondi (Public Affairs)

June 10, 2015
Taking a Time Out
On National Time Out Day, we though it only fitting to take a moment (OK, a time out, so to speak) to recognize the power of the pause.

Before any surgical procedure begins, Mass. Eye and Ear's doctors and nurses take a moment to make sure that they have the right patient, right surgical procedure and the right site (side).

Our nurses lead this effort to stop all activity in the OR for a moment of confirmation and reflection.

According to the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN), National Time Out Day is a powerful tool that supports surgical nurses’ ability to speak up for safe practices in the operating room. Initiated as an annual awareness campaign by AORN in 2004, it has been consistently supported by The Joint Commission, the World Health Organization, and the Council on Surgical and Perioperative Safety (CSPS) for its ability to increase awareness of safe practices that lead to optimal outcomes for patients undergoing surgery and other invasive procedures.

While we are taking a pause, let's take a moment to thank Tracy Condron, our newest nurse leader on the 6th-floor surgical suites, for taking "time out" to remind us of this day. And thank you, Tracy, for sharing this photo of an actual time out in Dr. Roberto Pineda's operating room, being led by Nurse Circulator Patty Hamilton.

Learn more about National Time Out Day. 

-- Mary Leach (Public Affairs) 

May 28, 2015
VIPs (Very Inspirational Patients)
It's always heartwarming to learn about patients so grateful for the care they receive that they express their gratitude in a public way. The "PR person" in me does a little dance and I grin ear to ear. I call these patients VIPS, or  "Very Inspirational Patients."

Melissa in front of Facial Plastic Center sign

Melissa Dohme is one example of a definite VIP. The quiet Florida resident with the bright eyes and sunny smile shared her enthusiasm today on the hospital's very public Facebook page.

"Blessed to be back! Nothing but the best here at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. Dr. Hadlock and her entire facial nerve team are the most caring, dedicated, welcoming, loving, supportive, skilled, and professional group. Each and every individual is so appreciated. This was right before my eyelid procedure and Botox treatment....everything went well. ...a little sore and swelling started but I'm sooo excited for healing," posted Melissa.

When you learn more about Melissa you realize how truly amazing this young woman is. Nearly killed by her ex-boyfriend, Melissa has gone on to provide hope and strength to other victims of violence. She calls herself a "surv-thriver," and is helping others survive and thrive.  Her story was featured on 48 hours.

 Melissa is able to come to Mass. Eye and Ear for needed treatment with the help of "Facing Forward," a collaboration this hospital has with Mass General to help survivors of domestic violence by ridding them of the physical scars. More on that program later, but in the meantime, keep on smiling, Melissa!  You are a VIP and you inspire me!

-- Mary Leach (Public Affairs)

 May 20, 2015
Happy Hearing Birthday, Elise!

EliseFirstHearingBirthday 400
Elise casts an appreciative eye toward her cake.

Something amazing happened in Audiology last week -- and it wasn't the fact that the staff had cake at 10 a.m., even though the gluten free, dairy free cake from White Lion Baking Company was pretty amazing in its own right.

The amazing thing: Elise marked one year of hearing for the very first time. Her family and caregivers celebrated with cake and a special song, of course! Elise is the world's youngest -- and one of the first -- children to receive an auditory brainstem implant (ABI).

Her doctor is Daniel Lee, M.D., FACS, and Elise made sure that a big piece of cake was waiting for him after he finished surgery later that day. Watch Elise's story.

Elise is a medical miracle. Born without auditory nerves, this bright and engaging child is able to hear sound of a sort with the ABI. Coupled with her mastery of sign language at the tender age of two, nothing will stop her from succeeding in life.

Elise's parents have been keeping a blog about her progress. You can read more about her in the "Hearing Hope" blog.

Happy Hearing Birthday, Elise, and wishing and other children many more!

-- Mary Leach (Public Affairs)

May 14, 2015
Nurses Week Presentation: Working with ASL Interpreters in a Hospital Setting

Shauna Hobson, R.N.

The numbers are stark and speak for themselves: Two to three out of every 1,000 children in the U.S. are born with a detectable level of hearing loss in at least one ear, and about 37.5 million American adults – about 15 percent – report some trouble with their hearing.* 

Combine these numbers with the fact that Massachusetts Eye and Ear is a specialty hospital that focuses on vision and hearing, and the odds are favorable that a good number of our patients will have a need for sign-language support. 

“Hearing loss can occur at all stages of life,” said Shauna Hobson, R.N., an Emergency Department nurse who delivered the Nurses Week presentation, “Working with American Sign Language Interpreters in the Hospital Setting,” on May 5 in the Sloane Teaching Room. “Visiting a hospital is scary enough when you can hear and understand what’s happening, but if you can’t hear, getting poked with needles and prodded with instruments can be a terrifying experience.

“If a deaf person can’t communicate their problem, or understand what’s going on, how can we properly treat them?” asked Hobson, who has more than a decade of experience in American Sign Language and in working with the deaf community. “So it’s always our goal to secure a sign-language interpreter to help these patients to communicate effectively.”

Although ASL is currently the predominant signing language in the U.S., French Sign Language, British Sign Language, Japanese Sign Language and Chinese Sign Language are but a few of the dozens of types of sign languages from around the globe. American Sign Language, ironically, is based on French Sign Language because the British refused to share their signing system with the U.S. in the mid-19th century. “It’s very important to determine what sign language the patient ‘speaks,’” noted Hobson.

There’s also Signed Exact English, Computer Aided Realtime Translation (CART) and Tactile Sign Language, which is used for deaf people who have poor or no vision. For those who are not deaf, but suffer hearing loss, there are also Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs) that can aid communication.

For clinics and outpatient departments, when a provider is aware of a deaf patient’s visit, they’re encouraged to contact Interpreter Services to reserve an appropriate interpreter at least 14 days in advance. For Emergency Department visits, where advanced notice is impossible, Interpreter Services also offers 24/7 access to a video interpreting service. 

When working with an interpreter, Hobson offers the following tips for health-care providers:

  • Arrange the room so that the interpreter can stand next to the clinician, which enables the deaf patient to view the provider and the interpreter at the same time.
  • Be sure to meet in a well-lit area.
  • Do not talk through the interpreter, who facilitates communication. Address the patient directly and make solid eye contact.
  • Do not engage in a side conversation with the interpreter in front of the patient. 
  • Make sure that your message is clear. If the patient appears not to understand, be sure to clarify.
  • Expect all conversations you have in the presence of the patient to be interpreted by the interpreter.

Clinicians are also encouraged to use professional interpreters, and to avoid relying on patient’s family members to interpret as much as possible. 

"Every patient faces challenges, especially when faced with an unexpected emergency," said Maureen Martinez, Nurse Manager of the Emergency Department. "If a patient is unable to communicate with a caregiver during a medical emergency, it can be frightening for the patient and highly stressful for the clinician. 

"But at any time, we’ve found that we can depend on our Interpreter Services team to provide a sign-language professional, whether in person or via a video service," Martinez added, "and together we do a great job of providing patient-centered care for the deaf or hearing impaired."


* National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

-- Joe O'Shea (Public Affairs)

May 11, 2015
McKittrick Emphasizes Need to Walk in Patients’ Shoes

When Mass. Eye and Ear Nurse Donna McKittrick, R.N., M.S., asked her daughter, a Spanish teacher, how to say “good luck” in Spanish, her daughter asked why she needed to know. When McKittrick noted that she wanted to wish Spanish-speaking patients good luck with their procedures, her daughter quickly said, “Why would you ever want to do that, Mom? Did you ever think that could scare a patient?”

Nurses Joe Hall and Donna McKittrick at Nurses Week Dinner.
Joe Hall and Donna McKittrick at Nurses Week Dinner.

It was with this thought in mind that McKittrick spoke about the need for patient empathy on May 7, in the Sloane Teaching Room. McKittrick’s presentation was one of several that focused on various nursing-related topics during National Nurses Week. McKittrick emphasized the importance of treating the whole person and never forgetting that patients are far more than case numbers on a screen.    

“Let’s be honest, hospital culture can sometimes be uncomfortable for patients,” said McKittrick, who works in the Medical Evaluation Center. “We use phrases like ‘doctor’s orders’ all the time, so it can be very regimented and authoritative. And forcing patients to wear johnnies – a flimsy piece of cloth with no backside – can be de-personalizing.”

Watch the Schwartz Center for Compassionate Care video, “The Johnny is the Great Equalizer.”

According to The Patient Empathy Project, an effort by  Colleen Sweeney, R.N., B.S., to help improve the patient experience in the U.S. and in developing countries, patients’ greatest fears include infection, incompetence, death, cost, mix-ups, needles, rude health-care providers, germs, prognosis, communications issues, and loneliness, among other concerns.

It’s extremely important, noted McKittrick, to try to imagine how it feels to walk in a patient’s shoes. While some measure of detachment can help provide effective care, clinicians can still inquire about a patient’s fears without getting too close – a delicate balance, McKittrick admits. But by acknowledging patients’ concerns, and offering some empathetic thoughts, comments and tools, health-care professionals can help patients to cope with their worries.

“It’s also important to try to instill confidence in the patient,” adds McKittrick. “Ban the phrase ‘good luck,’ and instead say, ‘You’ve come to the best place for your treatment’ or ‘You’re in the best possible hands.’”

Other tips for health-care providers include:

  • Welcome people within three seconds of encountering them.
  • Make eye contact. Notice the color of your patient’s eyes.
  • Listen with your heart.
  • Smile. Greet every person you pass. Patients and families like to see that you enjoy being at work.

“We always need to remember that a patient is a person with a story and a life,” noted McKittrick, “and we need to engage them at that level.”

-- Joe O'Shea (Public Affairs)


May 7, 2015
Turning Up the Volume on Hearing Loss Prevention

What do Neil Young, Eric Clapton and Pete Townshend have in common?

All three are internationally known singer-songwriters and guitarists who emerged in the 1960s, have consistently recorded and performed their music since that time and are likely to have legacies that will extend far beyond their time.

But those legacies will come at a price — all three musicians suffer from hearing loss after years of loud performances.

When Nalora Steele, a Professor of Music Education at Berklee College of Music, met Sharon G. Kujawa, Ph.D., Senior Scientist and Director of the Audiology Department at Mass. Eye and Ear, a few years ago, the two discussed the need for collaboration between the medical and arts administration communities in emphasizing hearing loss prevention and awareness among the musician community.

group of speakers from Berklee College of MusicOn Wednesday, May 6, Berklee hosted just such an event. Just the Right Volume: An Essential Conversation about Hearing, provided a forum for medical professionals, musicians, arts administrators and media professionals to exchange ideas and information related to hearing loss. Darla S. Hanley, Ph.D., Dean of the Professional Education Division at Berklee College of Music, co-chaired the event with Steele.

In a city that is home to top institutions in both music and medicine, the event brought together an impressive roster of speakers to kick off the afternoon. Mass. Eye and Ear’s own Steven D. Rauch, M.D., an otologist and Director of the Vestibular Division at Mass. Eye and Ear and M. Charles Liberman, Ph.D., Senior Scientist and Director of Eaton-Peabody Laboratories at Mass. Eye and Ear joined Dr. Kujawa in speaking at the event. The three made up the majority of the medically-based lectures, breaking down anatomy and sharing what they have learned through decades of research in the area of hearing loss caused by cumulative noise exposure and age.

They were joined by Paul Gross, Ph.D., Sc.D., an evolutionary biologist and former University of Virginia Provost, who cautioned that while noise pollution has been on the rise, our ears have yet to evolve to tolerate it, as well as Brian Fligor, Au.D., Sc.D., an audiologist and researcher formerly based at Boston Children’s Hospital (who now works in industry), who described the role that musicians’ earplugs can play in preventing long-term damage.


Other special guests included Katherine Bouton, a former New York Times editor and author of "Shouting Won’t Help," who has had progressive bilateral hearing loss since 1978, and Wendy Cheng, Founder and President of the Association of Adult Musicians with Hearing Loss. Interestingly, Cheng began studying music after she lost her hearing, and has had great success doing so.

The speakers were also joined by Kerry Steib, Director of Social Impact for Spotify. Steib’s presence offered a unique opportunity. As part of the event, attendees recorded public service announcements on the topic of hearing loss prevention and awareness that Spotify will broadcast using their streaming audio platform.

As the practicing otologist of the group, Dr. Rauch provided thoughtful explanation of the anatomy of the ear and shared his experience of seeing noise-induced hearing loss first-hand through patients in clinic. “As you develop hearing loss, you begin to exclude the world,” he said, as he described the gradual process of losing ones hearing after years of noise exposure.

Dr. Sharon Kujawas speaking at a podium at Berklee College of Music.
Dr. Sharon Kujawa discusses 'hidden' hearing loss.

Dr. Kujawa took the audience on a deeper dive into the anatomy of the inner ear and the irreparable damage that can occur through aging and noise exposure. But perhaps the most poignant part of her lecture was in sharing a discovery that she and her colleague, Dr. Liberman, made five years ago.

Drs. Kujawa and Liberman first described “hidden hearing loss” in 2010, in which noise exposure damages not only the inner ear sensory cells, but also the nerve fibers connecting those cells from the ear to the brain. This hearing loss often does not show on an audiogram, but it may lead to difficulty hearing in noisy environments.

In other words, many of us have experienced temporary hearing loss after a loud concert – and most of the time, normal hearing returns within hours. Drs. Kujawa and Liberman have found that there may be “hidden” damage in these situations that can affect us later in life.

This is an important topic for musicians and especially those early in their training, who, with any luck, will go on to long careers of performing in loud (but not too loud!) concerts. Drs. Kujawa and Liberman’s findings have prompted an examination of legislation and guidelines for what is considered a safe level of noise exposure.

Perhaps co-chair Dr. Hanley put it best in her opening remarks, when she described hearing loss as “global, very personal and something we take very seriously.” Though everyone in the room yesterday represented a wide range of purposes and specialties, the thread connecting them was very clear – awareness, prevention and the management of threats to hearing health are an essential conversation to have in the musician community and beyond.

-- Suzanne Day (Otolaryngology Dept.)

May 1, 2015
Otolaryngology Department Welcomes International Colleagues at COSM Open House/Reception

Dr. Maggie Carter(On this first anniversary of "Musings," we're pleased to present this guest post by Suzanne Day of the Otolaryngology Department. Other voices are always welcome. Please contact Mary Leach or Joe O'Shea with ideas for posts.)

The Otolaryngology Department of Mass. Eye and Ear/Harvard Medical School welcomed alumni and friends from around the world to an open house/reception at Mass. Eye and Ear on April 22.

Guests were treated to guided tours of the hospital, during which current residents, fellows and other familiar faces showed off the Joseph B. Nadol, Jr., M.D., Otolaryngology Surgical Training Laboratory, as well as historic items from the Abraham Pollen Archives and Rare Book Library. A cocktail reception at the neighboring Liberty Hotel followed.

The events were planned around the 2015 Combined Otolaryngology Spring Meetings (COSM), taking advantage of the rare opportunity to host an event in conjunction with a major meeting in the field being held in Boston. Otolaryngology Department faculty and trainees were very well represented at the meetings throughout the weekend.

Highlights of the meetings included Stacey Gray, M.D., Mark Varvares, M.D., FACS, and Daniel Deschler, M.D., FACS, being inducted as fellows of the Triological Society. At the American Otological Society (AOS) meeting, M. Charles Liberman, Ph.D., delivered the inaugural Saumil N. Merchant, M.D., Lecture in Otolaryngology, named for the late Dr. Merchant through the generosity of a grateful patient.

-- Suzanne Day (Otolaryngology Dept.)

April 29, 2015
Caring with Compassion
Amanda, the communications manager for the Schwartz Center for Compassionate Care -- a great organization whose mission is to foster compassion in healthcare for the benefit of patients and caregivers alike -- reached out to me recently with a request: The Schwartz Center is seeking nominations for its annual compassionate caregiver award, she explained, and asked if I would help to spread the word? 

The answer was an easy one: a definite yes! I have been to the awards dinners several times in the past and once helped the Schwartz Center tell the story, in video form, of one of our pediatric eye patients whose parents experienced true compassion from our pediatric team. Foster's story was a hit at that dinner, where I sat proudly at the table behind Foster's family. Even though Mass. Eye and Ear caregivers weren't among the awardees that evening, I was pleased to be in the room and left feeling inspired.

Now is your chance to nominate a caregiver who has touched your life with compassion. Please consider nominating your doctor, nurse or social worker for this prestigious, national award.

The deadline for nominations is Friday, May 1.

Thank you -- and may you experience compassion in our hallways and as you travel throughout your day.

-- Mary Leach (Public Affairs)

April 21, 2015
Exceeding Expectations, One Mile -- and Dollar -- At a Time

or 26.2 Reasons to Love Team Eye and Ear

2015TeamEyeAndEar Thanks 400

The 2015 Edition of Team Eye and Ear -- Massachusetts Eye and Ear's marathon fund-raising team -- gave the hospital countless reasons to love it, but given that we have limited space, we'll stick with a Boston Marathon-inspired 26.2 reasons to love Team Eye and Ear, in no particular order . . .


Team Eye and Ear's members have raised more than $518,000 thus far, shattering the team's $450,000 goal. Every cent raised directly supports research and clinical care at Mass. Eye and Ear.


Thanks to our partnership with John Hancock, Team Eye and Ear members have raised more than $3 million -- and counting -- for Mass. Eye and Ear since 2006.


We're also very grateful for the help of principal supporter J.C. Cannistraro, L.L.C. Our team wore the Cannistraro name proudly on its back, and the company loaned us its vice president of engineering, Mike Cannistraro, who finished the Boston Marathon in an impressive 3:44:45.


Despite unseasonably frigid weather and a cold, driving rain, Team Eye and Ear came ready to run, due largely to the stellar guidance of team coach Fred Treseler and weekend runs organized by John Furey.

SallyAnkenyReiley MarathonFlyBy 2005.

Trustee Sally Ankeny-Reiley (at left) absolutely flew by the Team Eye and Ear Cheering Section at Mile 19 as if she was shot out of a cannon. Sally was one of Team Eye and Ear's top runners for the second year in a row, registering a terrific time of 3:36:13, close to her team-best 2014 time of 3:34.


The team's top runner, Craig Brodie, zipped by so fast no one seems to recall when he came by. Craig, who ran his first marathon in the past year, finished in a blazing fast time of 3:06:41. 


The family of Melissa Fulkerson holding up huge "Melissa head" photos as Melissa approached Mile 19.


Melissa Fulkerson's husband changing her running shoes at the Team Eye and Ear tent while Mass. Eye and Ear's Anne Caldera got her pretzels and colleague Lyndsay Thompson handed her a water.


Air Force veteran Roger Rocha's contagious smile in his frequent social media posts. He moved to Ohio just in time for a horrible winter, barely missed a training run, and had the time of his life at the marathon, which he decided to run for pleasure and not for time. As Roger noted in his most recent Facebook post, "In no particular order, I ran 16 miles without music to soak in everything (but it really helped for miles 14-24), high-fived a million people, thanked a thousand volunteers, petted a dog, kissed a baby, played in a band, stopped to buy a donut, and I may or may not have kissed a few Wellesley girls."


Mike Schiavo's posse at Mile 19. They surrounded him, provided him with water as he jokingly considered ending his run, and posed for a quick group shot before they egged him on to finish the final 7.2 miles.


Somehow, despite losing her father to illness in early April, Team Eye and Ear's Kirsten Karis had a smile on her face all weekend. She was the team's single-biggest fundraiser, collecting more than $40,000 to support clinical care and research at the hospital. Thank you very much, Kirsten; you and your family inspired us all. 

TeamSpelta 40012.

Three generations of Speltas (at right) were on hand to root on Amy, who finished her second marathon. Wonderful people who all wore Amy-designed "Boston 30263 Spelta" t-shirts to the team dinner and the race yesterday. 


The inspiring talk of Kathrine Switzer at the Team Eye and Ear dinner on Saturday night. Kathrine shared her experience of being the first woman to run the Boston Marathon in 1967, and how former race director Jock Semple's misguided attempt to forcibly remove her from the race turned into one of the best experiences of her life. She is a remarkable human being. 


The "RUN CMD" logo of Hill Holiday Creative Director Chris D'Amico, which was an homage to "RUN DMC," the first rap group to achieve mainstream appeal in the 1980s.


Longtime Team Eye and Ear runner Will McNamara, who finished his seventh Boston Marathon, not realizing that he was surrounded by guardian angels in the Mulvey Family. Dr. Therese Mulvey and her daughters Hannah, Erin and Sarah -- along with friends Meredith Frechette-Moulter and Missy Greene -- formed a rear guard of sorts for Will, who's legally blind, as he ran.


The understated Dick Svrluga quietly chugging by the Mass. Eye and Ear Cheering Section. The team is built on the shoulders of dedicated, unselfish runners like Dick.


Texans Michael Stuart and Jim Windlinger completing the Boston Marathon, which caps their quest to run a half-marathon or a marathon in 50 states. The pair saved the "granddaddy" of marathons for their last race.

DrPeteCreighton StevieDeGroff 40018.

Mass. Eye and Ear Dr. Pete Creighton and his newfound running partner, Stevie DeGroff, who kept each other company during the race. The two met when Stevie (hands raised, at left) was on a training run, bumped her head and Dr. Creighton (in yellow shorts, at left) stopped to make sure that she was okay. They've been running buddies ever since and finished the marathon within a second of one another.


Mass. Eye and Ear's Vice President of Communications Jen Street, shared her inspiring marathon story at the team dinner. When she ran her first marathon for Team Eye and Ear a few years ago, she ground to a halt just past the midpoint of the race, right near her Newton home. She was going to give up and head home until a still-unknown man came out from the crowd to root her on. He told Jen than Mass. Eye and Ear saved his hearing, and to thank the docs who saved his hearing when she got to the finish line. She found the reserve to finish the race, and then completed this year's race as well.


Boston College seniors Mike Rudden and Juliette Reynolds had planned to run the race together, but Juliette fell ill after an overseas volunteer trip and wasn't able to run. However, Juliette somehow pulled herself out of bed to run with Mike for a distance in Newton.


Somehow looking as if they had just started the race, Michelle and Kelsey Nickerson paused for hugs and kisses from family and friends at Mile 19.


Julie Valenti and her sweet, winning smile as she modestly waved on her way by the Mass. Eye and Ear Cheering Section.


Thanks to Mass. Eye and Ear's Mary Leach and Leslie Dennis, whose timely e-mails kept their colleagues in the field apprised of Team Eye and Ear runners' status.


The Team Eye and Ear volunteers, who braved the elements to ensure that the runners had a great race experience.

UMassDanDeNicola BigHit 40025.

Mass. Eye and Ear probably had the biggest fans along the course. UMass-Amherst football players Dan DiNicola, an offensive lineman (at right), and Chris Carter, a defensive lineman, both volunteered at the Team Eye and Ear Cheering Section. Although a last-minute addition to the volunteer staff, these massive gents -- both well north of 275 pounds -- were a tremendous help and a credit to their team and school.


Mass Eye and Ear employee Anne Caldera's husband, Paul, an engineer by trade who goes above and beyond by setting up and breaking down the Mass. Eye and Ear tent at Mile 19 each year. Most importantly, he provides great conversation and companionship to all Mass. Eye and Ear volunteers.


The Mass. Eye and Ear cowbells at Mile 19. What else can be said? The constant clanging provided a boost to many a weary runner, and provided a humorously vociferous onlooker with plenty of material when there were few runners to cheer. "We need more cowbells," he'd scream in his baritone Boston accent, giving drenched fans a little comic relief during a tough-weather day.

You can still help Team Eye and Ear to support clinical care and research through May 15.

-- Joe O'Shea (Public Affairs)

April 16, 2015
Ethel Hargrove Celebrates 50 Years at Mass. Eye and Ear

Ethel Hargrove gets crowned with tiara.On Wednesday, April 15, Massachusetts Eye and Ear celebrated the 50th work anniversary of Catering Coordinator Ethel Hargrove, the woman who feeds our bodies and souls each and every day.

Dozens and dozens of employees, from all levels of the organization, carved time out of their busy days to drop by and honor Ethel, who started working at Mass. Eye and Ear when President Lyndon B. Johnson was in office and “text” was something you read on a page and not a misspelled digital hiccup.

"When I first started working here, we had five floors and I was making $49 a week," said Ethel, to the delight of the packed Board Room. "We've come such a long way!"

It truly was a different era when Ethel joined Mass. Eye and Ear, but the pairing of employer and employee has been a timeless match. One of 14 children from Henderson, N.C., Ethel first arrived in Boston at the behest of her cousin, Sam Hargrove, in 1965. The Vietnam War was ramping up, and domestic jobs became scarce, so Ethel sought help at the Unemployment Office (back when it was called the Unemployment Office).

Ethel Hargrove and Mass. Eye and Ear “The unemployment counselor met with Ethel, and he called Herb Kirschner, the head of Dietary [at Mass. Eye and Ear],” said Dr. Ralph Metson, who sparked the effort to honor Ethel on her 50th work anniversary. “He said, ‘Herb, I’ve got a nice young lady here with a warm smile, and I think she might be a good fit for you.’ So Ethel visited Herb, and he hired her on the spot. So on the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, Ethel Hargrove first reported to work at Mass. Eye and Ear.

“Ethel has since risen through the ranks to become a Full Professor of Catering,” added Dr. Metson. “She is the perfect example of the ideal employee. She always has a smile, she never complains, she works hard and puts in long days. She’s nourished so many of us with food, and in spirit with her warmth and goodness. She’s always making us happy, and has touched the Mass. Eye and Ear community in so many ways.”

One of the ways that Ethel has touched Mass. Eye and Ear’s soul is with her singing, which can often be heard wafting through the halls and in the elevators. Despite battling a cold on Wednesday, she did belt out a couple tunes, including The Temptations’ classic, “My Girl,” which states – appropriately – that “I've got sunshine on a cloudy day.”

Ethel Hargrove gets hugged.After Executive Assistant Phyllis Clark crowned Ethel with a tiara, Ethel was asked to identify family members in the audience. Ethel paused, looked about the room, and with a sweeping arm gesture said “We’re all related; these are all my family members.” Among her Mass. Eye and Ear “family” was a member of her real family. Her younger sister, Sarah Godfrey, was on hand for the hour-long tribute and was visibly touched by the outpouring of emotion.

“This big crowd is a testament to you as a person and what you mean to us,” said Chief Operating Officer Jeff Pike, after Food Service managers Mike Comora and Joanna Ioannidis shared some warm thoughts. “We’re so lucky to have you. Your smile is pervasive, whether it’s morning, noon or night. You’re an inspiration and bring out the best in all of us.”

-- Joe O'Shea (Public Affairs)

April 9, 2015
Trustee Ankeny-Reiley Back for Second Run at Boston Marathon

When Trustee Sally Ankeny Reiley set out to run her first marathon last year, her modest goal was to finish and enjoy running the 118th Boston Marathon.

Sally Ankeny ReillyIt turned into something more, much more.

Despite worrying that she was making the classic rookie mistake of starting too fast, Sally simply kept running. She felt comfortable, and kept up the same pace for the entire 26.2 miles, crossing the finish line in three hours, 34 minutes, the fastest time recorded on Team Eye and Ear, Massachusetts Eye and Ear’s marathon fundraising team. That remarkable time – which qualified her for this year’s Boston Marathon – also prompted Reiley to participate in a number of 5K and 10K races this past year, including the Tufts 10K in Boston that she finished in an all-American time of 44:04.

“The bombings of 2013 inspired me to join Team Eye and Ear,” says Sally, who will run the Boston Marathon again on April 20. “I wanted to be part of the field that took back the city and made Boston strong again. By running, I wanted to take a stand against terrorists, sending them the message that they can’t dictate what we do with our lives, and they can’t ruin such an epic civic event.

“Running a marathon was not on my bucket list, so a part of me wanted to say it was ‘one and done’ after last year,” adds Sally. “But the positive energy of the crowd and the enthusiasm was remarkably inspiring. I felt a palpable spirit that day, that the race meant something to every one of the million people along the route.”

It also meant a tremendous amount to Sally and the competitive Ankeny clan, which has a decades-long relationship with the Schepens Eye Research Institute and now Massachusetts Eye and Ear. Now that the youngest of her five children is in college, running – which started as a mental-health break – has turned into a passion for Sally.

“While I was raising five kids, running became an escape to get an hour to myself,” says Reiley, who was a four-sport athlete at Dartmouth College, where she met her husband, Toby. “I’ve always been competitive, and I think that that instinct was instilled in me by my father, Pete, who was a competitive athlete.

“Many of the 23 grandkids have played lacrosse, hockey, sailing or skiing at the college level, and one is even a World Cup skier,” says Sally. Her 21-year-old son is currently pushing the athletic envelope by taking part in the National Outdoor Leadership School, a 90-day excursion into the Wyoming back country, while her 19-year-old daughter plays Division 1 lacrosse at her alma mater, Dartmouth.

Family Ties
When Sally’s grandfather, DeWalt Ankeny, Sr., suffered not one, but two, detached retinas in the late 1950s, his vision-restoration options were limited. Although living in Minnesota, he heard about Charles Schepens, M.D., an ophthalmologist who was doing remarkable work in Boston. So DeWalt and his wife, Marie, came east and met with Dr. Schepens, who eventually restored his vision. Decades later, Dr. Schepens reattached one of Marie’s retinas, and Sally’s father, DeWalt “Pete” Ankeny, Jr., was also successfully treated for a detached retina at Schepens Eye Research Institute.

“Our family has benefited from great treatment at Schepens,” says Sally, whose family has established two endowed positions and provided generous support for the hospital’s annual fund, labs and research centers. “We’ve developed a strong rapport with Schepens and Mass. Eye and Ear, so we’ve done our best to support their great work.

“I was thrilled to come on board and serve as a trustee, but I never fully understood the magic that happens at Mass. Eye and Ear until I got involved with Team Eye and Ear,” adds Sally. “Each and every runner has an equally compelling and inspiring story to tell about why they’re running the marathon.”

Class Reunion
Sally Ankeny-Reiley and Dr. Eric PierceAfter committing to run the 2014 Boston Marathon in the fall of 2013, Sally was reunited with Dartmouth classmate Eric Pierce, M.D., Ph.D., who serves as Director of the Ocular Genomics Institute and as Associate Director of the Electroretinography Service and the Berman-Gund Laboratories for the Study of Retinal Degenerations, all at Mass. Eye and Ear.

“When I met with Eric in his lab, I was blown away by the implications of his work, which is on the verge of some breakthroughs,” says Sally. “His excitement over ‘the real potential to preserve or restore vision in people with inherited retinal degenerations’ is infectious.”

So, too, is Pete Ankeny’s competitive nature, which Sally has inherited. After crossing the finish line on Boylston Street last spring, Sally decided to take another run at the Boston Marathon. Despite a brutal late-winter surge of inclement weather, Sally remained devoted to her training regimen, posting photos to the Team Eye and Ear Facebook page to inspire her teammates.

Ocean wave crashing on Lynn SHore Drive.In one photo posted by Sally, an intimidating ocean wave broke over the seawall of Lynn Shore Drive in Lynn, Mass. “And I thought Lynn Shore Drive looked like a good place to get in some miles until I got SOAKED by a wave,” wrote Sally in her Facebook post. “Wet feet aren't welcome.”

Yet Sally welcomed the training challenge, and trudged on, as did most of her New England-based Team Eye and Ear compatriots. The snow finally began to clear in late March, and now the finish line is in sight.

“I’ve learned that if you dig deep, you have it in you to push yourself to achieve seemingly impossible goals,” says Sally. “Dragging yourself out of bed on cold and snowy mornings pays off in the end.

“I honestly didn’t realize I had this in me,” adds Sally. “But I’ve secretly enjoyed seeing how proud my family and my kids have been of me, and receiving notes from my friends that tell me how I’ve inspired them. I recall one note from a friend that summed it up perfectly, ‘You didn’t just run the marathon, you RAN it!’”

-- Joe O’Shea (Public Affairs)

April 3, 2015
Sign Up for April 17 Head and Neck Cancer Screening

Dr. Kevin EmerickMy guess is that when most people – like me – hear of head and neck cancers, they cringe at the thought of deadly diseases, great pain, uncomfortable drawn-out treatments and slow recoveries. While that can be true in late-stage cases, many head and neck cancers are easy to treat and cure if detected early.

To observe Oral, Head & Neck Cancer Awareness Week, which takes place from April 13 through 17, Massachusetts Eye and Ear is partnering with the Head and Neck Cancer Alliance to sponsor a free screening on Friday, April 17, from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m.

ENT Specialist Dr. Kevin Emerick and his team will screen those who reserve a spot at Mass. Eye and Ear, Boston, 243 Charles Street, Boston, which is only a brief walk from the Charles Street MBTA Red Line Station.

These screenings are free and are open to the public, but an RSVP is required. To reserve a space, call 617-573-4084. Spaces are limited so call today.

-- Joe O'Shea (Public Affairs)

March 27, 2015
Seeing Clearly on National Doctors' Day and Every Day
A guest post by patient David Johnson

It was the beginning of August, the stretch summer run in front of me and life was, generally, pretty great. I had a couple of weeks of vacation coming up and a family to enjoy them with. Then I started seeing floating black spots. Concerned, I immediately did the sensible thing: I ran a quick Google search, read the first article I found, determined that the black spots weren’t a big deal, and turned my attention back to the hamburgers sizzling on the grill.

Dave and his happy children
David is thrilled to see the faces of his happy children on March 30: National Doctors' Day

A couple of days passed and the floaters were still floating so I decided to drop a line to my optometrist, who had me come in and promptly identified a horseshoe tear on the retina of my right eye. That night I found myself prepped for emergency laser surgery at the eye specialist’s office. The doctor layered about two pounds of goop in my socket and fitted what felt like a Bushnell telescope to the surface of my eye. A handful of green blasts later and I was done, scheduled to return in a week to see if the lasers sealed the breach.

They hadn’t. My retina had detached.

A few hours later I was in the emergency room of Mass Eye and Ear, the start to what would be an epic journey from the first floor to the twelfth, the retina wing. In many ways my experience that day was like a video game fantasy adventure, with me, the noble hero striving, floor by floor, level by level, to reach the summit of a magical tower where untold treasure awaited.

Actually, it was absolutely nothing like that. I was less a hero and more a guy in his mid-30s whose retina goop had failed him. And instead of a chest filled with gold and rubies and enchanted wind instruments ready to be presented to me by a grateful princess on the top floor, it was my man Dr. Vavvas up to his knuckles in my eye socket.

Not that I was complaining. As a father of two young children, I found the prospect of watching them grow up in mono vision disconcerting. So the surgery was scheduled and I was going to be fit with a Scleral buckle, which sounds like something ancient Babylonians used to punish shoplifters, but was, in actuality, a fairly common approach to retina attachment. And having Dr. Vavvas hoisting the instruments—someone who I promptly discovered was extremely well-respected and had a CV the size of a small German coupe—calmed my anxieties considerably.

Still, as Dr. Vavvas laid it out, the surgery wasn’t exactly a cakewalk: tactical cryo treatment, nylon suturing around the eye and, the kicker, a silicon band fed through the optical muscles and wrapped around the diameter of my eye to keep the retina fastened tight throughout the natural healing process.

Sorcery, dude. Sorcery.

The surgery was a success. My retina was re-attached. Then, about three days post-op, I awoke at 4:00 am with what felt like a Soviet nuke detonating in my brain. It was the result of my body battling the swelling, draining and inflammation of what was explained to me as one of the most invasive surgeries one can have. For a while there it looked as if I had gone a full 10 rounds with Apollo Creed, though, on the flipside, I was able to wear an eye-patch, which gave me that weather-beaten nautical gravitas I have long been pursuing.

Ultimately, it took one more surgery to get me back to normal. When I came to on January 15, even shaking off the vestiges of the anesthesia, I immediately felt relief. It was a sentiment shared by my father and by Dr. Vavvas himself, who took a respite from his crowded OR docket to assure us that it was going to be okay.

And it was. And it is. I can see and there is no pain.

It was the most challenging physical stretch of my life, but a few things came into focus: 1) I am incredibly blessed to have a network of support around me, be it my father who drove me the hour-plus for visit or my mother applying a warm compress to my head at 2 a.m. during a bout of pain or my wife keeping the family together during my diminished state and 2) having access to this type of science fiction medical treatment requires gratitude I have yet to properly articulate.

I will say this much: I have never seen clearer. Monday is National Doctors' Day. Please consider supporting the professional who helped you.

-- David Johnson (Patient)

March 24, 2015
Reaching Into Their Own Pockets, Tech Employees Help Pedi Patients

BPI staff present iPadsWhile I’m not quite sure if an effort that has yet to reach the five-year mark can rightly be considered a tradition, what took place in Massachusetts Eye and Ear’s Pediatric Surgical Services Waiting Room last Thursday is rapidly approaching “tradition” status for the Department of Business Process Improvement (BPI).

In addition to BPI’s Amy O’Brien, who snapped a few photos for the occasion, fellow “BPIers” Fran McDonald, Eric Grazer, Donna Mancini, Sam Scott, Jenna Forgione, Mike Doucakis, Ashley Hoyt, Monica Bynoe, Elizabeth Acosta presented Child Life Specialist Ashley Hoyt, BS, CCLS, with several new iPad covers on the Pediatric Surgical Services Floor last week.

“Our current iPad covers are five years old, so we couldn’t have asked for a better gift,” said Hoyt. “We use iPads to provide a much-needed distraction for our pedi patients before, during and after procedures, so we really appreciate the help from I.S.”

Despite the name, the Department of Business Process Improvement is actually part of Mass. Eye and Ear’s Information Services (I.S.) Division, and works to ensure that tech hardware and software enables employees to work as efficiently and as effectively as possible. If they can take a 10-step process and reduce it to five, that’s what they do, freeing people to do more valuable work.

Four years ago, BPI decided that it would be nice to “give back” to others during the holiday season, so team members began the “new tradition” of reaching into their own pockets to purchase a tech-related gift for another department each year.

This year, they reached out to Pediatric Surgical Services Nurse Manager Carlene Blais, MSN, RN-BC, and Hoyt to see how they could help. Once they understood the pressing need for iPad covers, the BPI team members purchased a number of colorful, kid-friendly iPad covers to replace the aging covers.

“The iPads make a big difference in helping the children through a tough time,” says BPI Department Director Annabelle Shields. “We work very closely with Carlene and Ashley, who explained how the covers take a real beating each day, so we’re glad we were able to help them to solve a real problem and help kids at the same time.”

-- Joe O’Shea (Public Affairs)

March 18, 2015
The Ingredients for Better Vision: A Pinch of Baking Soda?

box of baking sodaSometimes discoveries are a close as your local pantry. For instance, Dr. Clint Makino's recent discovery that simple sodium bicarbonate (A.K.A. baking soda) could affect how and how well we see.

Dr. Makino and his collaborators described their findings this week online in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. They describe how bicarbonate -- the stuff that make sparkling water sparkle and teeth shine -- also alters how we see by modifying the visual signal generated by rod and cone photoreceptors that detect light. You can read all about their findings here.

In the future, scientists in the Makino Laboratory want to investigate the possibility that controlling bicarbonate levels in the eye will slow the progress of, or may even prevent, eye diseases.

In the meantime, don't put baking soda in your eyes -- but do stay tuned for even more cool research out of the labs at Mass. Eye and Ear.

-- Mary Leach (Public Affairs)

March 12, 2015
Craffey Earns DAISY Award for Extraordinary, Compassionate Nursing Care

Caitlyn Craffey and mother, Asenet.Inpatient Unit Nurse Caitlyn Craffey, B.S.N., R.N., was honored with the DAISY Award earlier this week for “leaving an indelible mark on my dad’s heart,” according to a letter from a patient's son. His parent, who was treated at Mass. Eye and Ear, succumbed to illness earlier this year, but not before Caitlyn made a memorable impact on this patient and his family.

“When my father was being rushed to another hospital one night, he wouldn't leave Mass. Eye and Ear until he gave Caitlyn a hug and a kiss, and thanked her for everything she’d done to comfort and care for him,” wrote the son. “It was well past the end of her shift, but she stayed anyway -- because she cared. And I can’t think of a better human quality for any health-care professional to have than that, and Caitlyn exemplified it in her every action.”

Compassionate care is apparently in the Craffey genes. A second-generation nurse, Caitlyn (at right in picture) was joined at the DAISY ceremony by her proud mother, Asenet, a nurse at Mass General (at left in picture). Caitlyn has worked at Mass. Eye and Ear, in some capacity, since 2007.

While a college student, Caitlyn got her start as a file clerk in the Employee Health Services Dept. Upon graduation, she worked as an administrative assistant in the Nursing Dept., and then as a nursing assistant in the Emergency Dept., where she benefited from the tutelage of Kathy D'Amico, R.N., another DAISY Award winner. Caitlyn became a registered nurse in late 2013, and since then has worked for Nurse Manager Theresa Johnson's Inpatient Unit team.

“It's been so rewarding to witness Caitlyn's growth from an administrative assistant to a nursing assistant to a professional nurse,” says Chief Nursing Officer Eileen Lowell. “She's truly deserving of the DAISY Award, which helps nurses see in themselves what their patients, families and colleagues see that make such a powerful difference in the life of a patient.”

An international program with many partners, including Mass. Eye and Ear, the DAISY Award is given quarterly to a Mass. Eye and Ear nurse who demonstrates clinical expertise and extraordinary, compassionate care. The DAISY Foundation and award were established in memory of J. Patrick Barnes, who benefited from compassionate nursing care during the final weeks of his life.

In addition to a certificate, recipients receive a beautiful, hand-carved stone sculpture called "A Healer's Touch," which is crafted by members of the Shona Tribe in Zimbabwe, Africa. The Shona people hold healers in very high regard, and DAISY employs about 14 Shona as full-time carvers. Recipients also receive an edible award, cinnamon buns, which Pat Barnes loved and shared with his nurses.

“I remember that particular day discussed in the nomination like it was yesterday,” says Caitlyn, “and I'm grateful to know that my actions made a difference to the patient and his family. This award is a reminder to nurses that our compassionate care goes a long way, and can make a meaningful difference in people's lives.”

-- Joe O'Shea (Public Affairs)

March 9, 2015
Dr. Joe Rizzo Explains Science Behind #TheDress

Dr. Rizzo explains the science behind #TheDress.Black and blue or gold and white? In late February, this was the burning question on the minds of millions as an innocent Tumblr post about a dress color went viral on social media. On the morning of Friday, February 26, the water cooler buzz was all about #TheDress – not Middle East diplomacy, Russian political assassinations, or U.S. health care policy.

“With all the serious challenges we’re facing these days, I think that people are looking for a little distraction,” said WBZ-TV reporter Ken McLeod, trying to explain how such a trivial matter caught fire on social media. McLeod was on site that Friday to discuss the science behind #TheDress with Joe Rizzo, M.D., Director of Mass. Eye and Ear’s Neuro-Ophthalmology Service.

But before we get to Dr. Rizzo’s thoughts on the matter, a little background is in order: In the waning days of February, a young Scot, Caitlin McNeil, couldn’t figure out the color of a dress worn by a bride's mother at a wedding, so she posted a picture to her Tumblr account and asked her followers what they thought.

The DressWhat followed was the kind of buzz that Madison Ave. spends billions to generate. The question soon moved beyond Tumblr to other social media channels, and pop-culture stars Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber and even a Kardashian chimed in, causing “a dress” to become "#TheDress.”

So on Friday morning, Mass. Eye and Ear’s Public Affairs Office was swamped with calls for a medical professional who could explain this vexing optical illusion. Fortunately, Dr. Rizzo bravely stepped into the void at the last moment, and spoke with WBZ-TV News and National Geographic.

In speaking with National Geographic reporter Karen Weintraub, Dr. Rizzo explained that it's "the wavelengths of light reflected into the back of the eye that produce the sensation of color,” wrote Weintraub. “The light that reaches our eyes is affected by the material we’re looking at, the ambient light bouncing off the material and some subtle personal differences.” Read the full NatGeo article.

While sitting with McLeod for a time, Dr. Rizzo explained that “The image hits an intersection in the subconscious mind between physiology and perception. Yes it is an optical illusion.” Watch Dr. Rizzo's WBZ-TV interview.

As for me, I would have bet a week’s pay that the dress was black and blue that morning (which it really is), but as I looked at the image after work with my family on Friday night, it actually appeared to be white and gold. Needing a mental-health break from my horrible commute home, I mindlessly stared at the dress for a few moments, and it actually began to morph from black and blue to white and gold.

Strangest darn thing I’ve ever seen . . .

-- Joe O'Shea (Public Affairs)

March 5, 2015

Remembering a Great Woman Who Helped Others
Today we pay tribute to Karen Burns. Karen, a laryngectomy patient of Dr. Daniel Deschler, has been well known to the Mass. Eye and Ear community since her surgery here 22 years ago. We were saddened to hear that Karen passed away on March 2.

Karen Burns and Leslie Stahl
(l to r) Karen Burns and Leslie Stahl

Although she is no longer with us, Karen is someone Mass. Eye and Ear will never forget. She played a pivotal role in the Boston Cured Cancer Club for Laryngectomees, maintaining and expanding the Laryngectomy Volunteer Visiting program which has helped so many of our patients and continues to this day.

Karen was a strong advocate for anti-smoking campaigns and made several public service announcements on television and in print to provide information about the risks for head and neck cancer.

Bob Mehrman, a Karen's good friend, described the impact she made on others facing cancer. "She was such a major part of the Boston Cured Cancer Club (BCCC). About 11 years ago the BCCC had a party at Mass. Eye and Ear and we had some 60 people attend that day. It was on that day that we filmed a lot of footage for our video. And that video still lives on. Our membership has gotten smaller, but the need continues. We will carry on. We have missed her the past few years." said Bob.

For her efforts, Karen -- along with the Boston Cured Cancer Club for Laryngectomees -- were honored by Mass. Eye and Ear with a Reynolds Society Achievement Awardin 2005. The photo above is of Karen and Leslie Stahl of 60 Minutes who was our emcee that evening.

Helping others lead healthier lives was not her only passion. She also loved her volunteer work at the Wang Center for Performing Arts where she served for 15 years.

How poignant is the fact that Karen passed on the exact 22nd anniversary of her total laryngectomy surgery here.

A celebration of Karen's life will be held this weekend. Information about the service is here.

Karen, we will miss you. Thank you for all that you did to help others. Your legacy lives on.

-- Elissa Hatton, LICSW (Social Work)

March 3, 2015

Looking for Cures in the Home Medicine Cabinet
Sometimes it is the simple things that can make the biggest difference in patients' lives. Take, for example, the common aspirin.

Dr. Tina Stakovic head shot
Dr. Tina Stankovic

Dr. Tina Stankovic and her collaborators have been exploring -- and proving -- the theory that aspirin can halt the growth of vestibular schwannomas (also known as acoustic neuroma). Now they have taken their research to a new level and investigated the affect of non-steroidal anti-inflamatory medicines (NSAIDS) on the same types of growth.

They recently demonstrated that salicylates, a class of non-steroidal inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), reduced the proliferation and viability of cultured vestibular schwannoma cells that cause a sometimes lethal intracranial tumor that typically causes hearing loss and tinnitus.

This work is in the early stages (don't start popping pills, yet), but it provides hope that someday we will have a way to stop these tumors in their tracks - or even prevent them from developing, giving new meaning to the adage: Take two aspirins and call me in the morning.

You can learn more about this work and other exciting research in the news section of And while you are there, check out a press release about her latest research paper.

-- Mary Leach (Public Affairs)

Feb. 12, 2015
An Intern’s Perspective: ‘ . . . Involve Me and I Learn’

A few weeks ago, I was talking with my friend about school, and she told me that I don’t go to school, I go to work. On the surface, I had to agree with her: I’ve been at Mass. Eye and Ear for 10 months now, doing real-life public relations work.

Alexa MarshI’ve written stories that require going out and talking to our employees for our blog and employee newsletter. I’ve promoted lectures and events via various communications channels, and even sat in on a brainstorming session with the team. I’ve worked on our website, doing everything from quality control to posting content that I developed. I’ve sent out press releases and interacted with local media, and now feel comfortable knowing how the media in the Boston area works. Although the stuff I’ve been doing has been on a much smaller scale than full-time staffers, these are still tasks that professionals do every day.

I’ve also been working in a real office environment. I struggle with the subway at rush hour, and I’ve lost my I.D. badge once or twice. I’ve had printer problems, and I’ve had to call the IT department more times than I can count. I’ve taken one too many candies from the candy bowl, and use the Keurig in the kitchen whenever possible (on a college student’s budget, free coffee is a major perk!).

One of my favorite parts of this internship has been building relationships with my co-workers. I’ve attended a full team meeting in Charlestown, a fundraising celebration and a holiday party. I was fortunate enough to work at our on- and off-site vision screenings, the Sense-ation! Gala, the Team Eye and Ear Kickoff, and our annual golf classic (where I got an up-close look at the Red Sox' last three World Series trophies (see photo)). While working on the phone and by e-mail is fine, I’ve realized that face-to-face interaction is truly the best part of working.

So yes, I have been going to work, almost like a real adult, for the past 10 months. But what I’ve realized, as I’m wrapping up my internship, is that I’ve learned a lot. Not only have I learned about public relations and organizational communications, but I’ve gained great knowledge about how the real world works. And I’ve learned a bit about myself along the way.

I’ve learned how to conduct myself in a variety of professional settings, both in-person and on the computer or over the phone. I’ve learned many of the nuances of working in an office, like the environment on Fridays or attending a colleague’s wedding shower.

I’ve learned to push myself and do things that may seem difficult or out of my comfort zone, and have become more and more confident as I’ve accomplished each one. I’ve become more confident in my ideas and the work that I’m doing, which makes the feedback I receive much more productive and the learning experience that much greater.

I’m so grateful for my wonderful experience at Mass. Eye and Ear. I have learned and grown so much in such a short time. Thank you Mary Leach, Joe O’Shea, Meaghan O’Rourke, and everyone on the communications team; your support and positivity has made these last 10 months the most meaningful of my college career thus far.

By the time you read this, I’ll be continuing my college experience in warm and sunny Sydney, Australia, for the next five months, taking classes and hanging out with koalas. I’ll also be keeping a blog, detailing my adventures and all that I learn. Please check it out and let me know what you think!

-- Alexa Marsh (Public Affairs)

Feb. 4, 2015
Rare Pleasures, Treasures Housed in Mass. Eye and Ear Libraries, Archives

Rare Book Room AOkay, I’ll admit it: I’m obsessed with libraries and books. One of the earliest lessons my wonderful parents taught me was that you could travel anywhere in the world by reading books. That lesson stuck. As an avid reader my entire life, books – now including e-publications and the Web – have enabled me to circumnavigate the world in my mind.

I was fortunate enough to have two libraries in my hometown. The main library, located in the town center, is the quintessential public library. Constructed in 1871, the Romanesque masterpiece is built of pink granite and red sandstone trim. The multiple-story structure towered over me as a boy, and the eye-like windows of the towering turret always stood vigil as I approached the entrance. I often felt as if I was a knight entering a castle.

When I joined the Mass. Eye and Ear staff last spring, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the hospital has an on-site library. While the Libraries of Mass. Eye and Ear have a medical focus, they still hold the promise of traveling to faraway places. In this case, though, they also hold the promise of the next-best thing to time travel – rare, centuries-old books.

WhileVesalius 1 the Lucien Howe Library of Ophthalmology and the LeRoy A. Schall Library of Otolaryngology are primarily meant for use by physicians, investigators, employees and visitors, and boast an impressive array of online resources, it’s the Abraham Pollen Archives and Rare Book Library that truly captures the imagination of book lovers and historians alike.

With the proper credentials, a historian, researcher or professor could – with supervision from a staff member – don a pair of cotton gloves to check out ornate hardcover books like the “Ophthalmodouleia” (1686), an early German book by Georg Bartisch that boasts anatomically detailed (for the day) pop-up eyeballs; “Opticks” (1704) by Sir Isaac Newton; and “Ad vitellionem paralipomena quibus astronomiae pars optica traditur” (1604) by Johannes Kepler.

One of the most impressive books is “Opera omni anatomica & chirurgia” (1725), edited by Boerhaave and Albinus from the original book, “De humani corporis fabrica” (1543), the first comprehensive textbook of anatomy by Andreas Vesalius. A Renaissance physician and anatomist, Vesalius revolutionized the study of biology and the practice of medicine by his careful description of the anatomy of the human body, based upon his own dissections of human cadavers. The illustrations are remarkable, and include detailed images of human skeletons. In one richly detailed illustration, an “animated” human skeleton ponders a skull on a lectern, which has “Vivitur ingenio, caetera mortis erunt” – or “Genius lives on, all else is mortal” – inscribed in the wood.

Vintage Medical EquipmentIn addition to these precious books, which are safely stored in a secure area, the Abraham Pollen Archives also includes the papers and works of legendary ophthalmologists like Paul A. Chandler, M.D. (1897-1987), and W. Morton Grant, M.D. (1915-2001). The pair worked together to write several editions of “Glaucoma,” which served as the definitive textbook on the subject for many years. (The book evolved from a series of lectures that the duo delivered to the New England Ophthalmological Society.) The archives is also home to the papers of Harris Peyton Mosher, M.D., D.Sc., LL.D. (1867-1954), who was the first professor of otology and laryngology in the U.S. (at Harvard Medical School) and Mass. Eye and Ear’s Chief of Otolaryngology from 1922-’39.

The archives also contains a curious collection of old medical instruments (from both specialties); a display case of early eyeglasses – or spectacles as they were called – that date back to the early 1700s; three handwritten ledgers of the first aural and ophthalmic cases (1837-’42); the papers of the hospital’s governing bodies; a set of the hospital’s annual reports from 1850 to the present; and hundreds of archival photos. The New England Ophthalmological Society also houses its archival papers at Mass. Eye and Ear.

“We’ve been fortunate to accumulate all manner of valuable papers, books and artifacts,” says Library Director Chris Nims, who is retiring this spring after more than 49 years at Mass. Eye and Ear. “One of the sometimes overlooked values of our library lies in the priceless knowledge – much of it from our own medical pioneers – that has been gathered and preserved for future generations of otolaryngologists, ophthalmologists, historians and medical writers.”

-- Joe O'Shea (Public Affairs)

Feb. 2, 2015
Sense-Saving Play by Dr. Mike Cohen

LaFell Superbowl HeadsetLike many New Englanders today, I’m suffering from a major case of sleep deprivation due to the New England Patriots’ scintillating 28-24 victory over the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX last night.

While the game ended just a little past my normal bedtime, I couldn’t pull myself away from the post-game interviews and commentary. Now, I thought, quarterback Tom Brady can finally claim his place on the Mount Rushmore of signal callers along with Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana, who also won four Super Bowls each.

As the clock edged closer to midnight, and the pundits and players tried to make sense of this historic heavyweight bout, a little boy in Patriots receiver Brandon LaFell’s arms caught my eye. More specifically, it was the royal blue headset that LaFell’s son was wearing that stood out. I quickly hit the rewind and pause buttons, and there they were. Young Liam LaFell was wearing the noise-reduction ear muffs/headsets that Mass. Eye and Ear provided for the children of Patriots players and staff.

As a former sportswriter, and one who covered an indoor Super Bowl almost 20 years ago, I can attest to the jet-level noise of pro sports stadiums, especially at the Super Bowl. Whether it’s the roar of the crowd, or the deafening music of the halftime show, the decibel levels at these stadiums can cause irreparable damage to an adult’s hearing, never mind to that of a child.

Ninkovich Superbowl HeadsetFortunately, Michael Cohen, M.D., had a plan. One of our pediatric ear, nose and throat physicians, Dr. Cohen arranged to have 60 sets of these noise-reduction headsets delivered to the Patriots in Arizona via a colleague, Dr. Rachel Levenson-Acker, a pediatric physician who offers medical care to the Patriots organization. These earmuffs have a noise-reduction rating of 22 decibels, which was enough to safeguard the hearing of the Patriots’ children amidst the din of Super Sunday.

We also spotted a sporty pink headset on defensive end Rob Ninkovich’s daughter, Olivia, as she was cradled in her father’s arms during the post-game festivities.

So while we’d like to congratulate rookie cornerback Malcolm Butler for his sense-sational Super Bowl-saving interception at game’s end, we’d also like to thank Drs. Cohen and Levenson-Acker for their sense-saving play of providing noise-reduction headsets for Patriot children, who will be able to safely hear cheers for their fathers for years to come.

-- Joe O’Shea (Public Affairs)

Jan. 30, 2015
Go Pats, Protect Those Tender Ears
Dr. Michael Cohen and our pediatric otolaryngology team spend a significant amount of time treating and curing hearing loss.

boy wearing hearing protectionThat's why it is no surprise that they are working hard to preserve the hearing of the youngest members of the audience in the University of Phoenix Stadium on Super Bowl Sunday: the children of the staff and players of the New England Patriots.

Mass. Eye and Ear building with Super Bowl logo on it.Dr. Cohen spearheaded an effort to send 60 sets of hearing protection earmuffs with a noise reduction rating (NRR) of 22 decibels, enough to keep ears safe even in the very loud environment of the Super Bowl,

But he didn't do it alone.

"Dr. Rachel Levenson of Walpole Pediatrics coordinated this opportunity to allow us to serve our community," he said. "We're thankful that she's helping us to preserve hearing."

As the camera pans the audience, see if you can spot a little sign of Mass. Eye and Ear protecting children's ears.

Learn more about protecting your hearing.

And one more thing: Go Pats! Mass. Eye and Ear is with you all the way!

-- Mary Leach (Public Affairs)

Jan. 28, 2015
Weathering the Storm
As a general rule, health-care professionals are willing to do whatever it takes to care for those who need them. That's why it was no surprise this week when nurses, doctors, facilities staff, support staff, food-service workers, parking valets and more joined forces to keep our hospital doors open during a major blizzard that gripped the commonwealth. (You can see some of them in action here.)

snow in front of hospital buildingAnd it's a good thing that they did. Besides providing vital care for our inpatients, this group also saved lives. Four individuals overcome by car exhaust (when their tailpipes were obstructed) received emergency care in our Norman Knight Hyperbaric Medicine Center.

Saving those four lives made sleeping on couches and shoveling endless piles of snow -- that just kept on coming -- worthwhile.

John Fernandez, Mass. Eye and Ear's president and CEO, summed it up quite well in an email to employees:

Dear Mass. Eye and Ear Community,

As much of the region continues to dig out, we would like to take a moment to express our appreciation to the many employees who have worked non-stop through this blizzard. Some of you have not been home since Monday morning – thank you for this extraordinary effort and making sure we could provide the care our patients needed.

Four of those patients were overcome by car exhaust and received life-saving care from the staff in the Norman Knight Hyperbaric Medicine Center. Patients in the adult and pediatric units were cared for seamlessly. Our Emergency Department remained open, despite blizzard conditions and nearly two feet of snow. Patients scheduled for surgeries and clinic appointments were kept informed of necessary schedule changes.

None of this would be possible without a team effort and the dedication of caregivers and the multitudes of support staff who kept the paths clear, facilities running, and the staff well fed.

On behalf of your senior management team, I would like to express my appreciation to all employees, both at our Boston campuses, as well as our suburban centers, who enabled Mass. Eye and Ear to weather the storm.
Thank you, John

We could not agree more, John, and we couldn't be more proud to be on the Mass. Eye and Ear team.

Read more about Mass. Eye and Ear's response to the Blizzard of 2015.

-- Mary Leach (Public Affairs)

Jan. 26, 2015
Blizzard Impact on Mass. Eye and Ear

Snow on the Longfellow Bridge and the Charles RiverAs a potentially historic blizzard bears down on Boston, promising anywhere from 20 to 30 inches of snow overnight, Mass. Eye and Ear’s Emergency Department and Inpatient Units will remain open tomorrow, Tuesday, Jan. 27.

Due to government-mandated travel bans at the city and state levels, as well as the cancellation of public transportation for tomorrow, outpatient clinics will be closed and most of Mass. Eye and Ear’s Jan. 27 surgical cases are being rescheduled (only emergency surgeries will be performed).

Because the duration of the travel bans and discontinuation of public transportation is unknown at the moment, the impact on Wednesday’s outpatient and surgical operations has yet to be determined. However, it’s hoped that outpatient and surgical visits will resume sometime on Wednesday, Jan. 28.

While we work hard to keep Mass. Eye and Ear safe during extreme weather conditions, we remind you to do likewise in your home. Check out our carbon monoxide safety tips page.

To stay up to date on how the snowstorm will affect Mass. Eye and Ear, visit the Mass. Eye and Ear homepage or call 617-523-7900.

-- Joe O'Shea (Public Affairs)

Jan. 22, 2015
The Unthinkable
Mere words cannot express how saddened Mass. Eye and Ear is by the violence that has shaken the Boston medical community and ended the life of Dr. Michael Davidson.

red flower against gray skyWe know from our experience back in 2013, which thankfully did not end so tragically, that no amount of preparation can stop the unthinkable from happening.

Hospital staff will continue practicing and drilling the protocol we have in place that we hope will lessen the impact of workplace violence should the unthinkable occur again within our walls.

In the meantime, we can only send moral support to our colleagues in the Longwood Medical Area and be gentle with ourselves. When violence strikes one in the medical community, it impacts us all. Mass. Eye and Ear had planned a service of memory and support before this tragic event. We hope that Chaplain Sam Seicol will help us find comfort as we deal with this and other losses and difficulties that we face in life. The gathering will be held at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 11 in the Meltzer Auditorium. I know where I will be on that day and time.

Rest in peace, Dr. Davidson. Blessing to your wife, children, colleagues and to all who knew and loved you.

-- Mary Leach (Public Affairs)

Jan. 20, 2015
Go Pats!
Apparently not all hospital-acquired infections are bad. This weekend Mass. Eye and Ear had playoff football fever, showing its spirit in an imagined sign of support on the side of the hospital tower.

Patriots logo on hospital buildingWhat surprised us what the rate in which the "infection" spread as evidenced by the 930 "likes" and 124 shares (so far) of a whimsical photo we posted on the hospital's Facebook page. The people who interacted obviously feel a connection to their hometown team -- and they also feel a connection to Mass. Eye and Ear.

"Awesome," Kathy Trainor wrote.

"Great hospital," scribed Georgia Olson Gannon.

"Love this! Best hospital!!," Laurie MacPhearson Gardiner summed it up with enthusiasm.

Thanks, G, for creating the fun photo. We can't wait to see what happens on Super Sunday!

-- Mary Leach (Public Affairs)

Jan. 15, 2015
Meet Team Eye and Ear

While Allyson Sullivan was running in balmy Boynton Beach, Fla., on Tuesday, Mass. Eye and Ear’s Stephanie Gooltz (pictured) ran across Boston in sub-freezing temperatures to attend a meeting at the main hospital.

Stephanie GooltzOther than a shared passion for running, what could these two women possibly have in common?

Well, both women are members of Team Eye and Ear, Mass. Eye and Ear's marathon fund-raising squad, which is obviously hard at work preparing to run the Boston Marathon on April 20. The team has held its inaugural meeting, and just had its first training session on Tuesday night.

While most Team Eye and Ear runners hail from Greater Boston, a few live in various parts of the U.S., including Texas, Florida, Ohio, North Carolina and Virginia.

Team Eye and Ear boasts several employees, including the aforementioned Stephanie, a certified ophthalmic assistant who works at our Mass. Eye and Ear, Longwood, location, as well as Carolyn Shea of the Glaucoma Service and second-year ear, nose and throat resident Pete Creighton, M.D.

In addition to employees, returning veterans dot the roster. Will McNamara will be running his seventh Boston Marathon, and Trustee Sally Ankeny Reiley is back after recording a team-best finish in her first marathon last year. Newcomers, like the Mulvey Family, have made the roster as well: Therese Mulvey, M.D., and her three daughters, Erin, Hannah and Sarah -- as well as family friend Meredith Frechette-Moulter -- are running in memory of their father, Phil, a former patient who succumbed to cancer in May.

The Team Eye and Ear roster is almost complete, so feel free to take a look at who you might like to support on the 2015 team.

-- Joe O'Shea (Public Affairs)

Jan. 9, 2015
Harmonic Convergence on the Red Line

When the Red Line subway car's doors silently slid open at Park Street Station yesterday afternoon, an almost startling wave of harmonic singing washed over and around me, and right on into the car.

Instantly looking over my shoulder, I witnessed a huddled assemblage of college kids singing their hearts out, a cappella style, on the platform. The tallest among them held up a neon sign that read, "We sing for Jesus!"

Red LineI didn't recognize the non-religious song, but as my grin broadened into a smile, I noticed some of the kids smiling in response. Although MBTA riders are normally a somber lot, I noticed a few grins crease the tired faces of a few commuters as well. The song ended before the doors closed, so I offered a burst of applause and a thumbs-up, and the kids responded with appreciative shouts of thanks.

That moment led to a (rare) pleasant train conversation with two kind ladies. One friendly soul, who noticed my Boston College ear muffs (yes, I'm a proud alumnus), informed me that my day had just been made immeasurably better by Boston College's "a cappella" group, The Bostonians.

Mass. Eye and Ear, of course, exists to preserve and restore vision and hearing, but our Voice and Speech Laboratory also provides exceptional care from professionals with advanced training and extensive experience in the areas of voice and speech.

Listening to random acts of singing is a great way to end the day. I'm not sure if it was The Bostonians or not, but I'd like to thank these gifted vocalists for warming my heart on such a frigid day.

-- Joe O'Shea (Public Affairs)

Jan. 7, 2015
Staying Warm and Safe
When the temperature outside dips and snow falls, accidents can happen. Furnace vents get blocked by snow or simply malfunction. Power goes out and gas-powered generators are set up in just the wrong place. Cars are left running and exhaust gets inside the car or inside the house. Individuals -- and entire families -- have been overcome by carbon monoxide as a result of these accidents.

Norman Knight HBO signThankfully Mass. Eye and Ear and the Norman Knight Hyperbaric Medicine Center can help. This unique, hospital-based service was established by dear friend Norman Knight to primarily treat firefighters and people rescued from burning buildings for smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning. The Center is open 24/7 for emergency situations.

Dr. Daniel Deschler, medical director of the Norman Knight Hyperbaric Medicine Center, offers some tips to help you protect you and your family from carbon monoxide poisoning. Please read them and share them with those you love.

Temperatures are dipping across the country for the next few days. We have already seen a few patients in our center who were overcome by carbon monoxide. Please, don't let an accident happen to you.

-- Mary Leach (Public Affairs)

Dec. 31, 2014
Seeing Clearly to the Century Mark
The invitation to Nick's 100th birthday party had been on our refrigerator for months now. His smiling face greeted us each time we reached for milk, causing us to cringe just a tiny bit.

Nick invitation"Is it bad luck to plan a 100-year-old's party so far in advance?," I asked R anxiously, at least once a week. "I hope his family didn't 'jinx' him!"

R told me to stop being silly, but I could tell he was a bit nervous, too. The last thing he wanted was to have to comfort his good friends (Nick's daughter and son-in-law) on the loss of their father at his well-in-advance planned 100th birthday party! Needless to say, we both were relieved when Dec. 30 came, and we walked into the function room at Linden Ponds and saw Nick's smiling face in the flesh.

As clear-minded as ever, Nick, a retired architect who dedicated his career to designing buildings at Mass General, told me about his recent cataract surgery which was performed by a doctor on Mass. Eye and Ear's community-based staff.

Nick and Dr. Christie Morgan"My vision is great," Nick said. "Not bad for someone who is 100!"

A young woman with long dark hair pulled me aside when she learned that I work at Mass. Eye and Ear. A dear friend of Nick's family, Dr. Christie Morgan (in picture, with Nick), is an otolaryngologist who trained under Drs. Daniel Deschler and Daniel Lee.

"Mass. Eye and Ear has a great training program," she said. "The head and neck guys are the best. I felt like a rock star when I got a letter of recommendation from Dr. Lee and other trainees asked if they could see it."

Then I remembered that Jim, Nick's son-in-law, was also touched by Mass. Eye and Ear. Jim had an eye tumor which was "zapped" by Dr. Evangelos Gragoudas. Jim continues to be checked out by Dr. Gragoudas each year and so far, so good.

It was my day off, but I felt proud when I heard these stories of how Mass. Eye and Ear had positively impacted all of these individuals' lives. Knowing that doctors at Mass. Eye and Ear enabled Nick to see clearly on his 100th -- and helped Christie make a great entry into her ENT career -- and is keeping Jim healthy -- was the figurative icing on the birthday cake of a very beautiful day.

-- Mary Leach (Public Affairs)

Dec. 29, 2014
During Holiday Season, Schepens Gives Thanks for Talented Staff

PeliDarttThe Schepens Eye Research Institute (SERI) recently held a special celebration so that leaders Pat D’Amore, Ph.D., Alan Long, Ph.D., Debra Rogers, Martha Pyle Farrell, Fran Ng and Darlene Dartt, Ph.D., could recognize employees for their efforts.

While a few members of the team were unable to leave their benches, most employees managed to make their way through Schepens’ winding back hallways to the Starr Conference Center, where Director of Human Resources Fran Ng called Employee Appreciation Day to order.

Schepens’ sense of camaraderie was palpable from the outset, as Fran had difficulty talking over the warm applause and good-natured cheers that she received. When the crowd settled down, she offered a brief outline of the afternoon program before ceding the lectern to Pat D’Amore, Schepens’ long-time Director of Research. “I didn’t realize what a rock star you were, Fran,” Pat noted, drawing even more warm applause.

The first order of business was to recognize the efforts of Manuel Monteiro, who has worked supporting SERI’s labs for more than a decade. Thanks to his great work ethic, Manuel was able to handle the workload of two people when he first joined SERI, and there’s been no let-up since.

“Although somewhat quiet and shy, Manuel exudes a friendly, giving, and kind demeanor,” said Pat. “He often would bring enough lunch for his co-workers and feed them before he served himself. He’s very dependable and is among the last of us to leave every night. He avoids the spotlight as often as possible, and is a true example of what we’ve come to expect of our employees.”

After honoring Manuel, Pat handed out the Employee Service Awards to almost 15 anniversary celebrants. Senior Scientist Francois Delori, Ph.D., celebrated his 45th anniversary, while Senior Scientist Ilene Gipson, Ph.D., and Peter Mallen of Graphics both observed their 35th year. Gale Unger of Research Ophthalmology and Elizabeth Mason of Research Operations also celebrated their 25th year.

After the awards were handed out, Senior Scientist Darlene Dartt, Ph.D. (pictured with Eli Peli, O.D., M.Sc.), stepped up to preside over the distribution of the 2014 Spirit Awards, which recognize the special contributions that enhance the culture of Schepens through positive energy and enthusiasm. Of the 22 nominees, only three employees received this year’s Spirit Awards:

  • Peter Leslie, Research Operations: Peter consistently goes above and beyond his regular duties, and is always willing to help out in any situation. He’s a loyal, hard-working employee who always offers a smile, a kind word, and a “no problem” when asked for help.
  • Adam Ovoian, Common Equipment: Adam has saved the day many times, and in many cases has saved money by repairing equipment himself. He always does his work with a smile, and is a great asset to Schepens and Mass. Eye and Ear.
  • Cheryl Semedo, Information Technology: The smiling, persistent and tenacious Cheryl can be counted on to follow up with your request until it’s fulfilled, and when you’re completely frazzled due to your computer being fried, Cheryl always offers a calming “okay, okay, okay.”

After Cheryl was honored, and the crowd was restlessly preparing for the after-ceremony appreciation party down the hall, Pat D’Amore pulled a “fast one” and took time to honor Fran Ng for her unsung efforts.

“Fran does so much behind the scenes that few of us ever hear about,” said Pat. “For instance, last year Fran stood in line at 2 a.m. in order to purchase a gift for our Employee Appreciation Day.

“Although you might not think so, Fran,” Pat playfully added, “we really appreciate all that you do for us.”

-- Joe O'Shea (Public Affairs)

Dec. 23, 2014
The Best Way to Spread Holiday Cheer is Singing Out Loud for All to Hear!

When asked to cover the Music Therapy interns’ annual holiday caroling outing, I immediately said, “Yes.” The holidays are my favorite time of year (I start preparing in October), and what better way to celebrate than to listen to music and to see our patients, families and staff light up with joy?

Music Therapy Holiday CarolingI met current interns (in photo, from left to right) Maria Mandalos and Natasija Zibrat, along with Music Therapy intern alumna Ani Kiledjian, on the main hospital’s Surgical Floor. Armed with a portable keyboard and maracas, the interns sang upbeat songs like “All I Want for Christmas is You” and “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” for families and staff in the waiting room. People turned their chairs around, some were singing along, and everyone had a smile on their face.

The singers then went into the surgical post-op room, and among paper snowflakes and Christmas decorations, sang a much quieter “Silent Night” for our patients recovering from surgery.

The last stop on our adventure was the pediatric unit on the 10th floor. This is where the Music Therapy interns spend most of their work time, singing and handing out instruments for even the youngest patients to be involved. I could see right away that the young women were used to working with pediatric patients, offering them and their families “shakers” to play as they sang “Jingle Bells.” Of course, they also had to play the floor’s favorite, “Let it Go,” from the Disney movie “Frozen.”

I was really able to see the benefit of the Music Therapy Program when one of the young patients started to cry about her foot. She removed her sock, and connected to her toe was wire that had a red light on the end (a device to measure the oxygen in her blood). The interns thought quickly, and told the young girl that her toe was like Rudolph’s nose, and she would light the way for Santa’s sleigh. They then pulled out their music and played “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and suddenly the light on the little girl’s toe wasn’t such a big deal anymore.

Former Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart once said that "There’s nothing like music to relieve the soul and uplift it." Seeing the joy that our Music Therapy interns were able to bring to our staff, patients and families was definitely the highlight of my holiday season.

From all the staff at Mass. Eye and Ear, we wish you and your family a happy holiday season and a joyful new year.

-- Alexa Marsh (Public Affairs)

Dec. 18, 2014
Ed Hight: A Lifelong Experience with Hearing Devices

As communications manager for the Otolaryngology Department at Mass. Eye and Ear/Harvard Medical School, one of the best parts of my job is getting to know the work of our physicians, researchers and staff.

Ed Hight and Elliot Kozin, M.D.Last week I had the pleasure of meeting Ed Hight, a doctoral candidate working in our Auditory Brainstem Implant (ABI) Laboratory, led by principal investigators Daniel J. Lee, M.D., and M. Christian Brown, Ph.D.

Dr. Lee is a neurotologic surgeon who recently made history by successfully placing an ABI in a 12-month old infant — the youngest child to date in the United States — as part of an FDA-approved clinical trial. In the laboratory he directs with Dr. Brown, scientists are working to improve the performance of ABIs, which were developed for patients who are deaf but not candidates for cochlear implants.

Ed (at left in top photo, with Elliott Kozin, M.D.) has worked in the lab for more than two years as part of his doctoral work in the Harvard Program in Speech and Hearing Bioscience and Technology (as one of the largest hearing research institutions in the country, Mass. Eye and Ear is home to numerous labs and faculty members with appointments in the SHBT program at Harvard).

"There are really only a few programs dedicated to both biomedical science and engineering," he said. "The Harvard program provides the opportunity and support for interdisciplinary study, and offers access to a wealth of faculty dedicated to hearing research."

Interestingly, Ed has had a lifelong experience with hearing devices. Born deaf, he received a cochlear implant at the age of 3, just one year after the FDA approved the use of cochlear implants in children ages 2 and older, making him one of the first pediatric cochlear implant patients in the country.

Ed Hight and Elliot Kozin, M.D., smiling.It just so happened that Ed grew up to develop an interest in biomedical engineering and later hearing devices, which led him to study cochlear implants and auditory brainstem implants.

"The cochlear implant is the most successful neural prosthetic in the world," he said. "The outcomes for the ABI are more variable, but both devices use the same sort of strategy to provide auditory information to the brain."

Nearly finished with his studies in the classroom, Ed currently spends most days in the laboratory testing the device, analyzing data and talking with other members of the lab with Drs. Lee and Brown about how to move their research forward. He often stays late and comes in on weekends if experiments are going well, just to keep things moving forward.

"It’s a very dynamic process, and if the experiments are going well, we stay late to see what happens next," he said. "But the work really grabs ahold of me, and I am glad to have the opportunity to dedicate much of my life to it."

About halfway through his doctoral training, Ed will continue his work in the ABI lab with Drs. Lee and Brown for another two years or so. With the current momentum in this area, one can speculate that we’ll see even more progress during his time at Mass. Eye and Ear.

"Progress in basic science research may take place over a longer period than what you see in a clinic, but if you’re patient, amazing progress can be achieved," he said. "The fact that so few labs are studying the ABI is challenging but at the same time, really exciting and rewarding."

-- Suzanne Day (Department of Otolaryngology Communications)

Dec. 17, 2014
In Good Company
The reputation draws us to Mass. Eye and Ear, but it's the people who keep us here.

People such as

  • Dr. Claes Dohlman. Known internationally as the "Father of Cornea," Dr. Dohlman has been a staff Ophthalmologist for 56 years, but if he sees you coming, he'll give you a huge smile while he holds open the elevator door so you can slip inside and he can ask about your health and family.
  • Ethel Hargrove, the Catering Coordinator who cares. Ethel is a dynamic dancer with a voice like an angel who is has been here 49 years. Everyone -- everyone -- loves Ethel.
  • Chris Nims, the Medical Librarian who has watched books turn to digital. Chris is the font of all archival knowledge and regularly beats me at Words With Friends. She's been here 48 years.
  • Dr. Joe Nadol. Former Chief of Chief of Otolaryngology now actively involved in teaching and research, Joe has the unique ability to make me blush at will. He's been here 42 years.

20 year boxMary Ellen Doyle, Kathleen Connly, Barbara Beckman-Beard...the list goes on, but those are just a few names that jumped out at me as I scanned the 2014 Employee Service Award list.

Unfortunately I was feeling a bit under the weather on Monday morning, so I just poked my head into the Lank Family Dining Room during a special breakfast to honor those who have been at Mass. Eye and Ear five years, 10 years, 20 years, 25 years, 30 years -- and more. I picked up my little box with my 20 year pin, said hello to my boss, and then excused myself to avoid contaminating the lovely buffet, which I am sure Ethel so graciously set up herself. As I slipped out, a relative "newbie" compared my esteemed colleagues, I went on with my day, knowing that I am truly in the company of greats.

-- Mary Leach (Public Affairs)

Dec. 9, 2014
Sincere Selflessness Under Stress

Over the course of my life, I’ve come to believe that the true measure of a man – or a woman – is the ability to be selfless in stressful circumstances. Human nature, being what it is, tends to tilt toward the selfish end of the scale, so if someone is able to think of others first while enduring difficult circumstances, I’m impressed.

Joe Erickson (left) helps Steven Julien-Stewart pick a pair of eyeglass frames.
Joe Erickson (left) helps Steven
Julien-Stewart pick a pair of
eyeglass frames.

With this in mind, I was struck by the presence of one Steven Julien-Stewart, a 21-year-old man who recently took part in one of our vision clinics at Mass. Eye and Ear, Longwood. Steven is taking part in the Year Up program, which gives young adults from underserved communities the tools required to plan their career and to thrive in a business environment.

As a routine part of the eye exam, Yan Jiang, O.D., Ph.D., deposited medicated eye droplets in Steven’s eyes. The droplets, which force open the pupils, boost a patient’s light sensitivity. Some people are affected worse than others, and Steven quietly squeezed his eyes shut in obvious discomfort.

When Dr. Jiang stepped out of the exam room for a moment, I asked Steven how he was feeling. “Not bad, I just can’t look up at the lights,” he said, gesturing toward the dim fluorescents in the ceiling. Not one to complain, though, he quickly changed the subject, asking – with an inherent sincerity – “How has your day been so far?”

I jokingly said that given what he was going through, I certainly had no complaints, and we shared a laugh before Dr. Jiang re-entered the room to finish her thorough exam. As it turned out, Steven did need a good pair of new glasses, so I walked him to the check-out area and then joined him for the trip down to the first-floor optical shop, where Optician Joe Erickson would help Steven pick a pair of stylish frames, courtesy of the Vision Coalition.

While waiting for Joe to finish with another patient, Steven and I spoke about his educational and career paths, our backgrounds as native Bostonians, and our respective families. I noted how unusual it was that he asked me how I was doing while he was dealing with such uncomfortable light sensitivity, and he said that his family’s heritage – “West Indian,” he proudly said – and values encourage kindness, courtesy and being genuine.

Steven was studying at Lasell College and Bunker Hill Community College before financial challenges and life circumstances forced him to leave school. After some time spent working, he’s discovered that he has a passion for information technology and would eventually like to become a software engineer. Now, armed with a purpose and a plan, Steven has a second chance with Year Up and Cambridge College – and one lucky employer will eventually benefit.

-- Joe O’Shea (Public Affairs)

Dec. 4, 2014
At Mass. Eye and Ear, Every Day Could Be #ThrowbackThursday

At a 190-year-old hospital like Massachusetts Eye and Ear, every day could be considered #ThrowbackThursday.

Former President Robert Gould Shaw
Former President
Robert Gould Shaw

While the hospital is always looking to the future, it has one foot firmly planted in the past. Each new research discovery and medical advance is grounded in a bedrock-solid foundation built by prior generations of clinicians, scientists and philanthropists. It may be cliché to say so, but our doctors, researchers and leaders do, indeed, stand on the shoulders of giants in the fields of ophthalmology, otolaryngology and civic leadership.

Yesterday afternoon, as I raced from one floor to another in the main hospital, I noticed the 19th-century oil paintings of three giants in the history of Mass. Eye and Ear and Boston. Nestled between the board room and the CEO’s suite are the imposing portraits of Drs. John Jeffries and Edward Reynolds, the eye surgeons who established the “Boston Eye Infirmary” in 1824.

As an employee, I knew the names of both men, but as a history buff, the third name provided a pleasant surprise. Casting a sideways glance at passers-by is a distinguished, but somewhat somber-looking gentleman in formal attire with white, mutton-chop sideburns. When I glanced at the brass nameplate at the bottom of the painting, I noticed that the man’s name was Robert Gould Shaw, who served as Mass. Eye and Ear’s president from 1835 until his death in 1853.

I recognized the name immediately, and assumed that Mass. Eye and Ear’s Robert Gould Shaw was somehow related to the Col. Robert Gould Shaw, who led the Union Army’s 54th Voluntary Infantry, the first documented African-American regiment formed in the north (immortalized in the 1989 film, “Glory”).

The younger Shaw led the Fighting 54th in a famous – but fatal – charge on Fort Wagner in Charleston, S.C., on July 18, 1863. Yelling “Forward, 54th, forward,” the colonel was shot and killed as he courageously tried to lead his men over a parapet at the fort. The young colonel was, in fact, named after his grandfather, the Mass. Eye and Ear president who amassed his family’s fortune as a merchant.

Only a 10-minute walk away, in the shadow of the Mass. State House, stands one of the nation’s most remarkable public works, the Robert Gould Shaw and Massachusetts 54th Regiment Memorial, a massive, beautiful sculpture by Augustus Saint-Gaudens.

So on #ThrowbackThursday, I’d like to thank not only pioneering eye surgeons John Jeffries and Edward Reynolds for founding Mass. Eye and Ear, but former President Robert Gould Shaw for giving us his grandson, a Civil War and Civil Rights hero.

-- Joe O’Shea (Public Affairs)

Dec. 2, 2014
Not Just Another Tuesday

Now that we've all digested our Thanksgiving meal and shopped until we dropped (goodbye Black Friday.... so long, Cyber Monday), we want to make a quick pitch for #GivingTuesday.

Today is #GivingTuesday, the charitable equivalent of the more consumer-based excuses to spend money. #GivingTuesday is the day that we are all asked to take a look at the organizations we support and consider giving a little more, whether it is a little more time or money.

nurse with patientIf you are going to partake in #GivingTuesday, we ask you to consider Mass. Eye and Ear. With your support, Mass. Eye and Ear will be able to make a difference for people all over the world. Your gift on #GivingTuesday, and every day, will help give so many men, women, and children access to the most advanced diagnoses and treatments.

It will also promote leading-edge research and technology in every field of disorders that affect eyes, ears, throat, and adjacent regions of the head and neck. Learn more about #GivingTuesday.

Whether or not you decide to give (or to volunteer, we can always use another good volunteer), we'd like to say thank you. Thank you for all that you do every day to help others.

-- Mary Leach (Public Affairs)

Nov. 25, 2014
Giving Thanks

With Thanksgiving this Thursday, we’ve decided to take a moment to reflect on some of the great things that have happened during the past year and express our gratitude to those who make working at Mass. Eye and Ear such a gift.

family at thanksgiving dinnerWe’re thankful for our researchers, who have worked so hard to find life-saving cures. Notably, they provided proof of concept for a cochlear implant with no external hardware, found that omega-3 and iodine can help save your eyesight, regrew human corneas (on a mouse, no less!), and unveiled the "hidden" injuries suffered by victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, showing the great need for their long-term hearing care.

We’re thankful for the hard work of our doctors. This year, they implanted an auditory brainstem implant in the youngest person ever, and helped a Connecticut boy begin to get his his smile back, among many notable achievements. They are expanding and streamlining this excellent patient care through a partnership with Mass General to treat victims of domestic violence and with the One Fund Center, helping Boston Marathon Bombing survivors.

We’re thankful for our wonderful patients, such as Alex, who had two auditory brainstem implants in the past year as part of a clinical trial. We also appreciate young Noah, who was diagnosed with leukocoria (white pupil) at just six weeks old, who inspired his parents to help others. Noah’s parents have created an app that uses photos as an early warning device to possibly identify leukocoria, which they hope will save more eyes -- and lives.

We’re thankful for supporters of Mass. Eye and Ear. Mass. Eye and Ear's marathon team -- Team Eye and Ear -- has raised more than $2.1 million to date, thanks to the generosity of John Hancock, which provides us with the charity numbers. Our Sense-ation! Gala raised more than $1.1 million this year alone for pediatric research and clinical care. Thank you to those who have helped!

Finally, we’re thankful for the Mass. Eye and Ear community at large, patients and employees. You are the reason we love coming to work every day -- to perform research, to teach the medical leaders of tomorrow, and to find life-changing cures through bench-to-bedside research.

As you think about what you are grateful for this holiday season, please consider all the good you can do at Mass. Eye and Ear on Giving Tuesday, which takes place on Dec. 2. Your generous donations and support allow our team to give so many patients access to the most advanced diagnoses and treatments, as well as promote leading-edge research and technology that help our patients to fully experience life.

We hope you have a healthy and happy Thanksgiving!

-- Alexa Marsh (Public Affairs Intern)

Nov. 21, 2014
Blogging about a Blog
Is it uncool to blog about a blog?

first corneal transplant in uganda - surgery photo
A Mass. Eye and Ear Office of Global Surgery and Health first.

We are so moved by this post describing the first corneal transplant done in Uganda that we have to point it out.

Read Wendy Williams' post about the surgery that changed one young man's life and set the course for helping so many others in the future.

Learn about Mass. Eye and Ear's ENT efforts in Uganda during the same trip in this story. Hint: there are some "firsts" there, too.

-- Mary Leach (Public Affairs)

Nov. 18, 2014
Cool Science: From Microbes to the Marathon Bombing
crowd of people running a marathonWriting about scientific discoveries often requires some quick work in shifting gears, especially in a two-specialty, bench-to-bedside institution.

Lately we've been shifting more quickly than usual. We thought we would share some research advances that you may have missed.bacteria in dish

  • Dr. Michael Gilmore and his team describe new findings that help understand while conjunctivitis, also known as "pink eye," reacts why it does to antibiotics - or why it doesn't react. This research may lead to better designed vaccines for infection. You can read all about this important finding here.
  • Drs. Alicia Quesnel, Aaron Remenschneider and Daniel Lee studied victims of the Boston Marathon bombing to see how their ears and hearing were impacted by the blasts. They learned that hearing loss was often a "hidden" injury that greatly impacted the quality of life and that the bombings may have reverberations for years to come. Information about this important hearing research can be found here.

We try to keep our patients updated on as much of the important research working happening daily at Mass. Eye and Ear. You can always learn more by visiting the press release section of our website. Our investigators' research is often featured in the media. We list links to news placements here as well as on our social media channels, primarily Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

We're excited about all of the research coming out of our labs -- and we hope you are, too.

-- Mary Leach (Public Affairs)

Nov. 14, 2014
Drinking from the Fire hose: Learning through Experience at Mass. Eye and Ear

As an affiliate of Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts Eye and Ear is one of the nation’s top teaching hospitals. We have a very competitive residency program where ophthalmologists and otolaryngologists build a solid career foundation, and equally challenging fellowship programs where our doctors can learn a sub-specialty.

Public Affairs Intern Alexa Marsh.
Public Affairs Intern Alexa Marsh.

As an undergraduate intern, I’m also learning more about my area of interest, but the similarities end there. I spoke with Sid Puram, M.D., a second-year otolaryngology resident, about his experience, to see how our apprenticeships stack up.

What is the application process like?
Residency: Medical students start to compile their list of residency choices in June, and submit their applications online by September. They interview with between 15-20 programs that they have applied to, and rank which hospitals would be a good fit for them. The hospitals rank the applicants as well. A computer algorithm then matches the applicants with the hospital, and all medical students receive their letter on the same Match day before graduation. This offer letter is binding; once you’re accepted to a program, that’s where you go. According to Dr. Puram, the match will always “favor the applicants” so that the young doctors will never get stuck in a program they don’t like.

Dr. Puram chose Mass. Eye and Ear for several reasons. Being a Harvard Medical School student, Dr. Puram was able to come to Mass. Eye and Ear for a month, so he had a good sense of our residency program. The residents he interacted with were all dedicated, hard-working and smart, and the operative and research opportunities were excellent as well.

Undergraduate Internship: After applying online to internships in a variety of communications settings, a professor told me about the Public Affairs internship at Mass. Eye and Ear. I emailed my resume to Mary Leach, the department’s director, and had an interview. After a secondary interview with Human Resources’ Cheryl Barrett, I received an offer within two weeks.

I chose Mass. Eye and Ear because of the supportive environment. This is my first internship, and I knew that the team here would help me to succeed -- not just in Public Affairs, but in whatever professional endeavor I need help with. At internships in larger organizations, that sense of community and willingness to help can be hard to find.

What is a typical day like in your position?
Residency: As a second year resident, Dr. Puram conducts rounds of his patients by 5:30 a.m. By 7 a.m., his first patient is in pre-op, and, on a busy day, he operates from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. However, second-year residents have to be able to “manage other cases from far away, while simultaneously operating.” They can also be pulled from the operating room if necessary. “It makes you a better doctor,” he says, “knowing you can handle that level of stress.” After nine hours of operating, Dr. Puram follows up with each patient, and then meets with the entire patient-care team. Typically, he’ll leave the hospital between 7 and 8 p.m., logging a 15-hour day.

Dr. SId Puram, second-year resident.
Dr. Sid Puram, second-year resident.

Undergraduate Internship: My internship is only about 13 hours a week. At the start of my day, I check e-mail, and then make note of where Mass. Eye and Ear is mentioned in the news media, whether in the print, online or broadcast mediums. I then start working on my tasks for the day, which can include blogging; writing for E-Forum, our digital employee newsletter; creating the “Weekly Events” calendars for our staff bulletin boards; making flyers; posting news releases to the web; or making phone calls to promote an event. That’s what the joy is in working in such a diverse field; every time I come in, there’s something different to do.

What are your future plans?
Residency: Although he is keeping a very open mind, Dr. Puram would prefer to stay in an academic hospital setting, and is considering a fellowship in otology or head and neck oncology. With a bachelor’s degree from MIT to accompany his Harvard Medical School diploma, Dr. Puram envisions a future as a clinician-scientist. He’d prefer to spend one to two days a week in a lab, two days in the operating theater, and one day working with patients.

Undergraduate internship: I still have three semesters left to earn my bachelor’s degree. For now, I’d like to work in a non-profit setting after graduation. For my next three semesters, however, I’ll look for public relations internships in various environments in order to make an informed decision about my career area of focus.

According to Dr. Puram, residency is a wonderful experience, which immerses you in the day-to-day work and “forces you to drink from a fire hose.”

As for me, I’m learning as much as I can, and hoping that my internship experiences will help me as I prepare to step into the real world.

-- Alexa Marsh (Public Affairs)

Nov. 12, 2014
The Sweet Sound of Laughter

The sun came up last Saturday morning, revealing a bright, warm day that was not typical for November. This was the first weekend in a while that it actually felt good to be outside. It was the perfect day to get up early, climb into the car, and drive to the hospital in Boston -- NOT!

Reluctantly, I cast aside all of the other things I could be doing instead -- hiking in New Hampshire, enjoying a last paddle along the Concord River, visiting the geriatric horse I love, or even raking the lawn to take advantage of the few weeks of curbside leaf pick up -- and went to work for the the sixth day in a row.

Feeling grumping, with my brain kicking and screaming, I entered the cafeteria and pulled out my camera. Suddenly I had a new -- and improved-- outlook on the day.

Dr. Mike Cohan wearing a red clownlike nose.
Dr. Michael Cohan gets into the carnival spirit by donning a red nose.

The Lank Family Dining Room was no longer just a hospital cafeteria -- it was a pediatric wonderland, a colorful carnival of games and balloons. Face painters in bright garb sketched unique designs on sweet baby faces. Riva the Therapy Dog, best friend Will in tow, was on hand to lend a furry paw and sweet-smelling fur ball to hug.

Balloon sculptors twisted tubes into custom characters for each child, even crafting a one-legged dachshund for one grandmother, since her weiner-shaped dog only had one leg. Children threw balls into nets, squealed in delight when they won prizes, jumped and laughed.

The best part was that as each child laughed, the others could hear them, thanks to care by our doctors at Mass. Eye and Ear. Hearing aids, BAHAs and cochlear implants abounded at the Second Annual Pediatric Hearing Family Carnival -- and no one even noticed.

The Pediatric Hearing Family Carnival is the brainchild of Dr. Michael Cohen, pediatric ENT who clearly loves children as much as they -- and their parents -- love him. He and his wife, Megan, built the games that the children so enjoyed. More than 15 volunteers from Northeastern University's Audiology Program, along with members of Mass. Eye and Ear's Audiology Team, staffed the event.

The funding for snacks and vendors came from the Curing Kids Fund, which made possible by generous friends and guests at Mass. Eye and Ear's yearly Sense-ation! Gala. If the looks on their faces are any indication, the kids and families, all united by their common bond of being part of Mass. Eye and Ear's "hearing" family, all had a great time -- and so did I.

What started as a "poor me, I have to work day," turned into a great day -- and 361 photos later I managed to pull myself away. The sweet sound of children's laugher -- that could be heard by everyone in the room, even those born without hearing, echoed in my ears for the rest of the weekend.

We hope you enjoy some more scenes from the carnival on the Mass. Eye and Ear Facebook page.

-- Mary Leach (Public Affairs)

Nov. 10, 2014

Blindness is Just Another Way of Seeing

Earlier this fall, Lotfi Merabet, O.D., Ph.D., MPH, delivered a talk, “Blindness is Just Another Way of Seeing,” at TEDx Cambridge. As the Director of the Laboratory for Visual Neuroplasticity, Dr. Merabet focuses his research on understanding how the brain adapts to the loss of sight.

Dr. Lotfi Merabet
Dr. Lotfi Merabet

To kick off his TEDx talk, Dr. Merabet showed a brief video clip of a – forgive the possible redundancy – frenetic Manhattan intersection as throngs of pedestrians hustled across the major thoroughfares. In a follow-up photo, a blind man stood on a similar street corner with his walking stick. “So as you’re waiting for your turn to cross the street, what sorts of thoughts are going through your mind right now?” asked Dr. Merabet, pointing to the sightless man. “Is it curiosity? Is it indifference? You might be feeling a sense of pity. You might also be feeling a sense of relief that you, yourself, aren’t blind.”

If the blind man senses your presence and suddenly asks for directions, how would you give directions to a person who can’t see? “I’ll give you a hint,” Dr. Merabet said, answering his own question. “Pointing, or saying something like, ‘over there,’ is not very helpful for a blind person.”

In a survey conducted by the American Foundation for the Blind, participants listed blindness as the medical condition that would have the greatest impact on their quality of life. Blindness topped serious health conditions such as cancer, heart attack, stroke and HIV/AIDS. The survey indicates, as Dr. Merabet pointed out, that most Americans would rather “take their chances” with a life-threatening condition than be blind.

“To understand what blindness is,” Dr. Merabet continued, “you must first understand what it’s not.” When attending cocktail parties and events, Dr. Merabet often asks colleagues, friends and acquaintances what they think it’s like to be blind. (“I don’t get invited back very often,” he said, smiling.)

“Darkness,” “blackness,” “dense fog” and “being locked inside a coffin” are the most common responses to Dr. Merabet’s troubling question. “As a sighted person, I can tell you that blindness has nothing to do with living in the dark,” Dr. Merabet said, countering the most commonly held perceptions of blindness.

Esref Armagain painting.To prove his point, Dr. Merabet told the audience about Esref Armagan, a profoundly blind painter. That’s right, a blind painter. Dr. Merabet then displayed kaleidoscopic paintings of a seascape, a vase of flowers and a waterfall, all easily recognized and all painted by the blind Armagan. “How can you paint a picture of an ocean if you’ve never seen an ocean?” asked Merabet. “The answer is that behind Esref’s eyes that can’t see is a brain that does see.”

Dr. Merabet knows that a blind person’s brain can “see” thanks to Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging, a diagnostic tool that enables clinicians to identify the parts of the brain that are associated with doing a particular task. In Armagan’s case, he was asked to sketch while he was lying in the FMRI machine. Dr. Merabet and his colleagues discovered that the part of Armagan’s brain that was active while he was drawing – the occipital cortex – is exactly the same part of the brain associated with vision in sighted people.

When asked why he paints, Armagan said, “I paint because I want to show the world the images that are alive in my mind. When I paint and I show my drawings to sighted people and they tell me what they see, I feel connected to the sighted world.”

After a pause, Dr. Merabet noted, “Clearly, this is not someone who’s living in the dark.”

Despite this remarkable ability to “see” the world around them based on other sensory clues, there are some situations that blind people find particularly vexing, most notably finding their way in unfamiliar surroundings.

“With this in mind, we want to come up with new tools, new approaches to help blind people circumvent this challenge,” said Dr. Merabet.

To learn what tools Dr. Merabet and associate Jamie Sanchez are developing to help blind children learn to navigate new surroundings, watch Dr. Merabet’s 15-minute TEDx Cambridge talk.

-- Joe O'Shea (Public Affairs)

Nov. 7, 2014
Observing National Radiologic Technology Week

In many cases, before our doctors can treat a patient, they require the imaging services of our Radiology Department. After all, how can you know what's wrong with a patient's health if you can't see inside his or her body?

CT Technologists Gina Babcock (left) and Erica Baez.
CT Technologists Gina Babcock (left) and Erica Baez.

During National Radiologic Technology Week this week (Nov. 2 to 8), Massachusetts Eye and Ear celebrates the importance of medical imaging to patient care, and to the radiologic technologists who help paint a clear diagnostic picture for our clinicians.

While the first National Radiologic Technology Week was held in July 1979, it was soon moved to November to recognize the date that Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen discovered the X-ray: Nov. 8, 1895.

“Our advanced radiologic technologists and ultrasonographers are a vital link in patient care,” says Greg Donnelly, Executive Director of Clinical Services. “They explore and innovate on a daily basis, and provide the means by which pathologies may be determined, treatment planned and administered, and patient health restored. So this week we thank, recognize and appreciate the efforts of those who look inside the body to aid in patient healing, and for their commitment to quality patient care and safety.”

-- Joe O'Shea (Public Affairs)

Nov. 3, 2014
Desire, Drive Set Millers Apart

As a proud graduate of an all-boys Catholic high school, I’m no stranger to competitive environments. But there was one classmate, Steve, who stood apart from the rest. Our class valedictorian, Steve also was a starting linebacker on our football team and the catcher for our baseball team. Steve went on to study at Harvard and Stanford, and now practices medicine in Boston.

Second-year fellow Dr. John Miller (right)
and father, John.

Steve was a bright, talented guy, but we had a lot of bright, talented guys at our high school (I still wonder how I got in). As the years passed, I realized that what set Steve apart was his drive, his passion to excel, traits I see among Mass. Eye and Ear’s doctors and nurses every day. One of the most intense people I’ve ever met, Steve was also a remarkably engaging young man and leader.

What caused this reminiscence? It was an image of Mass. Eye and Ear Retina Fellow John Miller and his father, attorney general candidate John Miller, soon after the younger John completed a grueling three-mile rowing race in the Head of the Charles Regatta earlier this month. A colleague had sent the photo to me for inclusion in our employee newsletter. Curious, I reached out to his mother, Joan Miller, M.D., Mass. Eye and Ear’s Chief and Chair of Ophthalmology, for more background information.

It turns out that the Millers of Winchester are not only high achievers in medical and legal practice, but in many areas of their lives, much like my classmate, Steve. Joan rowed as an undergraduate at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and served as team captain as a senior. A few years earlier, John the elder rowed for MIT, placing second in the nation as a senior. He also served as commodore of the MIT Boat Club, founded the MIT Alumni Rowing Association and belongs to the Cambridge Boat Club.

“We are a rowing-crazy family,” admits Joan, “and we passed our love of rowing and athletics onto our children.”

Young John, who is not a junior, has rowed for Cambridge Boat Club in several Head of the Charles Regattas since he graduated from MIT. As an undergraduate biology major, John rowed for the Engineers for all four years and played basketball for a couple seasons before matriculating at the University of Michigan Medical School.

John’s baby sister, Mary, rowed for Radcliffe College for four years. Kid brother Doug served as co-captain of the 2010 Harvard University men’s basketball team with current Laker point guard Jeremy Lin, and played pro basketball in Germany for a year. If the rumors are accurate, Doug is a pretty good rower as well.

Now in his second year of a two-year surgical retina fellowship under Dean Eliott, M.D., Associate Director of the Retina Service, young John is the Chief Fellow for the 2014-’15 academic year. Sponsored by Evangelos Gragoudas, M.D., John was recently named the 2014 recipient of the Retina Society's Raymond R. Margherio Award, which was established to support research into macular disease and development of new techniques of macular surgery.

So, upon further reflection, I’ve realized that what sets most doctors apart from so many of their classmates, friends and neighbors is their desire to get the most out of life, to “be all you can be,” as the classic Army recruitment pitch once proclaimed.

"My siblings and I were very fortunate to grow up in a very close-knit family, where my parents raised us with great love and respect for one another," says. Dr. John Miller. "We learned how to work hard as a team, while having fun, in order to achieve our goals.

"Rowing is the ultimate team sport, with no star players," added the second-year fellow. "Nine people work together to overcome pain and fatigue, achieving a certain ‘grace’ as they move the boat through the water and push across the finish line. My experience in team sports was great preparation to work in medicine, where we function as members of a care team."

-- Joe O’Shea (Public Affairs)

Oct. 31, 2014
No Tricks, All Treats

Let's face it: pediatric nurses are kids at heart. This week they donned costumes to brighten the day of our smallest patients. And they brought their own children with them to add to the fun.

pediatric nurses dressed for Halloween
Our pediatric nurses show their Halloween spirit.

On this Halloween, we want to remind everyone of a few tips that can make the celebration safer for kids of all ages.

  • Avoid masks or accessories that obstruct or block vision, particularly the periphery. Face paint or make-up is a safer option.
  • Always make sure to use hypo-allergenic make-up. Keep in mind that make-up does tend to run so it is recommended to bring a cloth when trick-or-treating to wipe any make-up that may get near the eye.
  • Follow any and all guidelines when using contact lenses. Contact lenses should be prescribed by a doctor. Improper use of contact lenses can lead to permanent eye damage or blindness.

Read more in our Halloween Safety Advice fact sheet.

Here's to having a safe (and healthy) Halloween!

-- Mary Leach (Public Affairs)

Oct. 28, 2014
Service, Smiles in Dorchester

According to the World Health Organization, 90 percent of the world’s visually impaired people live in low-income environments, and the main cause of these visual impairments is uncorrected refractive errors such as nearsightedness or farsightedness. As part of our Community Benefits Program, Mass. Eye and Ear provides free vision screenings to low-income children in the Boston area, hoping to catch vision problems before they get worse.

Dr. Nathalie Wolkow examines a student's eyes.
Dr. Nathalie Wolkow examines
a student's eyes.

When I applied as an intern back in March, this program is what really drew me to the hospital. Having prior experience working with low-income children around Boston, I’ve seen first-hand their need for resources. I’ve now attended three vision screenings: two over the summer at Camp Harbor View on Boston’s Long Island and one at the Neighborhood House Charter School (K-8) in Dorchester.

The number of technicians, doctors and administrators who have been willing to take time out of their busy schedules to volunteer has truly inspired me. Despite the demands of research, teaching, seeing patients and conducting business, these dedicated members of the Mass. Eye and Ear community never forget that they are also part of a larger community that needs help.

Last week, with the help of 11 Mass. Eye and Ear colleagues, we were able to screen about 150 students at the Neighborhood House Charter School on Pope’s Hill in Dorchester. Mary, the school’s nurse, stays in close contact with us throughout the year, and we repair or replace kids' damaged glasses with money from our Curing Kids Fund. The Mass. Eye and Ear-Neighborhood House partnership dates back 15 years, to the school’s founding.

We love our visits to Neighborhood House, where we provide the service and the kids provide the smiles. We can’t wait to return next year!

-- Alexa Marsh (Public Affairs)

Oct. 22, 2014
Everything is Bigger in Texas

I am a Texas girl, born in San Antonio and raised in Big D. That's why what happened last weekend in the sleepy little west Texas town of Cuero doesn't surprise me. After all, everything -- hair, automobiles, chicken-fried steak dinners, even fundraisers -- is bigger in Texas.

Candyce says, "Thanks, y'all!"

The Simply for Sight event sounded small, but it had a lofty goal: to raise $100,000 to advance research to use gene therapy to fix the genes that are dimming the eyesight of one Texas teen. Candyce was 17 when she was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a devastating diagnosis for this aspiring tennis player. Mother Sherri was determined to find a cure before the light went out of her daughter's big, blue beautiful eyes.

Candyce explains on her fundraising website: "Seeking the best care for me, my mother took me to every doctor she could find. Her search eventually led me to Mass. Eye and Ear in Boston, a Harvard teaching hospital and a leader in eye research. It was there where we met Dr. Eric Pierce, who leads a world-renowned Ocular Genomics Institute at Mass. Eye and Ear where they are working hard to find cures for blinding conditions like mine. We left that visit in Boston with hope for the future – something we had not found anywhere else."

This weekend Simply for Sight not only met the goal, but exceeded it in true Texas fashion, raising a whopping $280,000. The family received huge checks from members of their small community, some of whom they had not even met before the fundraiser.

All entered the hall, some as strangers, but left as friends, united in a common goal to help those with inherited eye diseases, like Candyce.

-- Mary Leach (Public Affairs)

Oct. 17, 2014
Wowing the Kids

Some weeks are just too "WOW" for words -- and this week definitely was one of them! One Monday our pediatric patients had a visit from Jennifer Holliday, Broadway's original "Dreamgirl." Ms. Holliday clearly thrilled our patients as evidenced by the look of the face of little Ian.

Ms. Holliday and Ian
Little Ian is thrilled by a visit from Jennifer Holliday.

On Tuesday we were back on the pediatric floor, this time with singer Ellis Hall, also known as "the Ambassador of Soul," who serenaded children while a camera crew followed him, shooting footage for a music video (Spoiler Alert: he's writing a song for a hospital that is near-and-dear to his heart...we can't say more, but as they say on TV, "stay tuned.")

And on Tuesday night, it was all about the kids, as NKOTB Joey McIntyre hosted Mass. Eye and Ear's 5th annual Sense-ation! Gala to benefit the Curing Kids Fund, followed by an incredible performance by Ms. Holliday. Mass. Eye and Ear pedi patients helped tell the stories that inspired the 600+ audience. We were all wowed -- $1.1 million worth -- by the end of the evening. Let us say it again: WOW. Read a great account of the evening in the Boston Herald and see a special slideshow. You can see some of our favorite photos here.

And lest we forget, we had a warm up to this wonderful week on Oct. 8 when WCVB’s Chronicle reporter and producer Shayna Seymore joined Mass. Eye and Ear doctors, patients and friends in putting the pedal to the metal at a special fundraiser held last week at SoulCycle in Chestnut Hill. The group raised almost $3,000 for the Curing Kids Fund. See some photos from that great event and guess which picture was taken after the class ended.

It was a fun and fruitful week, getting our researchers the funds they need to move ever closer to cures -- let's do it again next year!

-- Mary Leach (Public Affairs)

Oct. 9, 2014
Providing Comfort in a Time of Need

All of our nurses provide compassionate care, but sometimes one stands out from the rest. Meet Emergency Room Nurse Kathy D'Amico, R.N., Mass. Eye and Ear's most recent DAISY Award winner.

sssThat late Friday evening was just another shift for Kathy, the care she provided made a difference to one family.

Read Kathy's story here, in the family's own words.

-- Mary Leach (Public Affairs)

Oct. 7, 2014
Nurses Make Great Impact at SOHN Annual Meeting

When our nurses aren’t busy caring for patients, they often spend their “spare time” educating others, including their peers.

Ashley Hickey (left) and
Brittany Williams.

In late September, our Chief Nursing Officer Eileen Lowell, R.N., M.M., led a contingent of eight nurses to Orlando, Fla., to participate in the Society of Otorhinolaryngology and Head-Neck Nurses (SOHN) Annual Meeting, which is always held in conjunction with the annual meeting of the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS). "We were exceptionally well represented at the conference this year," says Eileen.

Our nursing team made a pair of presentations and presented several engaging, informative posters.

  • Pediatric nurses Annie Goulette, R.N., Jane Gallagher, R.N., B.S., and Kevin Mary Callans, BSN, R.N., delivered the Kalynn Quinn Hensley Head and Neck Laryngology Lectureship, "Building a Bridge . . . Finding a Voice." Annie, Jane and Kevin Mary spoke about how they’ve improved care by using focus groups to better understand the needs of patients (and their families) who suffer from the growing threat of Juvenile Recurrent Respiratory Papilomotoisis (JRRP), a lethal disease that affects children's airways and is a leading cause of head and neck cancer. "The presentation was very well received," says Kevin.
  • Kevin Callans also delivered the Lois Moore-Rogers Pediatric Otolaryngology Lectureship, "The Role of the Nurse Navigator with Children with Critical Airway Conditions." By starting parent-training earlier, while parents are in the hospital with their babies, nurse navigators can play a vital role in reducing hospital stay times for babies and their families.
  • Several nurses presented educational posters, including Operating Room Nurse Jennifer Lilly, R.N., BSN, M.Sc., (Total Intravenous Anesthesia vs. Inhalation Anesthesia (co-authored by Alan McGoldrick, R.N., BSN)); Operating Room Nurse Sylvia Dodge-Palomba (pediatric sedation); Ear, Nose and Throat Pediatric Clinic nurses Brittany Williams, R.N., and Ashley Hickey, LPN, (Multidisciplinary Care of Sensorineural Hearing Loss in Children); and Adult Inpatient Unit Nurse Pearl Icuspit, BSN, R.N.,(Heat and Moisture Exchange Devices for Patient Undergoing Total Laryngectomy).

"Our participation in the meeting proved that our nursing team plays an important role in advancing the care of patients and their families on the national stage," says Kevin. "We had the second-largest group of nurses present, second only to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia."

View photos from the SOHN Conference.

-- Joe O'Shea (Public Affairs)

Oct. 3, 2014
Comfort Food for the Soul

Yesterday started out as a ‘blah’ day. Maybe it was the weather (raw and raining, with horrible, horrible traffic). Or perhaps it was the news (Ebola diagnosed in Texas, where my family lives). Whatever “it” was, my spirits were low and I was down-right cranky, regretting ever getting out of bed. Then the email came – the message from Gail, a patient-turned-friend who I got to know when she shared her story at one of our fundraising galas.


“I’m on the 12th floor now – and I brought you some eggplant parm,” she wrote. “Come by and get it!” I could see the smile in her words.

I remembered how she had asked me last time she was here getting the every-five-week injections that save her eyesight (a drug that was made possible by Mass. Eye and Ear researchers), about my taste for eggplant, as her garden was producing and she was in the mood to bake. At the time I said, ‘I love it,’ (I do) and promptly forgot about her kind promise in the business of that day.

The eggplant parm would be food for my body, but on a day like yesterday, seeing Gail and her lovely husband, Brian, was nourishment for my soul.

Despite spending an hour and a half in traffic, on their way to a hospital where Gail would have needles stuck in her eye, they asked how I was doing.
We sat in the Retina Clinic for a few minutes, shared a few stories, and caught up on each other’s lives. We walked down to the lobby together so that they could get back into their car for the long drive back to Western Massachusetts.
Gail baked eggplant parm for her caregivers -- and for the PR person who still occasionally calls to ask her to speak to a reporter about the difference anti-VEGF drugs have made in her life. I thanked Gail and we hugged.

There were two containers in my bag: one for my family and one single serving just for me. I went back to my desk and the day didn’t seem so ‘blah’ any more.

Last night I ate the eggplant parm -- and it was delicious…comfort food for the body, and for the soul.

-- Mary Leach (Public Affairs)

Oct. 1, 2014
Music Therapy ‘Changes Tune’ for Patients, Families

The refrain of “Let it go! Let it go! Can’t hold it back, anymore!” has been bouncing off the walls of our Pediatric Unit this fall. Our young patients have been singing the hit Disney song, “Let it Go,” from the movie “Frozen,” with live musical accompaniment provided by Music Therapy Program interns Maria Mandalos and Nastasija Zibrat, who are pursuing their master’s degrees in Expressive Arts Music Therapy at Lesley University.

Music Therapy Team
From left to right: Maria Mandalos, Janet
Huettig, Jo-Ann Graziano and Nastasija Zibrat.

“We do get a lot of Disney requests from the pediatric patients,” admits a grinning Mandalos, an accomplished guitarist and pianist who earned a bachelor’s degree in music studies from the University of Athens. “‘Let it Go’ is one that we play quite often.”

In the late 17th century, William Congreve wrote that "Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast, to soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak." More than three centuries later, music still holds great power. In the capable hands of Mandalos and Zibrat, melody helps Massachusetts Eye and Ear patients and their families to better cope with illness, surgery and pain, both physical and emotional.

“I’ve always been interested in alternative medicine,” says Nurse Manager of Perioperative Services Jo-Ann Graziano, R.N., M.M., who co-manages the program with Janet Huettig, L.I.C.S.W., director of the Social Work Department. “We’re always interested in any way that we can get our patients to relax in pre- and post-operative settings. Maria and Nastasija offer children and adult patients a much-needed distraction from physical pain and emotional worry.”

But before you think that this is a simple sing-along program, it’s a bit more complicated than that. While Mandalos and Zibrat are happy to play Disney ditties for the kids, youngsters are typically a little more adventurous than the grown-ups, and the passive listening usually doesn’t last for long. “Where the children are in a highly structured hospital environment, free-form singing enables them to get more engaged, be creative and give them a greater sense of control in a hospital setting,” says Zibrat, a University of Toronto graduate who has played the piano since the age of 5.

“As the kids get more comfortable with Maria or me, we give them a chance to make up their own songs or to play an instrument with us, and most of them do,” adds Zibrat. “With teenagers, we’ll dive a little deeper into lyric analysis, and talk about a teen’s life experience through song.”

Mandalos plays
Mandalos plays "Amazing Grace" for a
patient and his family.

According to Huettig, the pediatric nursing staff has taken note of the positive effects of music and other expressive therapies, including art, drama, relaxation exercises (like deep breathing), storytelling and dance: “The nurses have said that when Maria or Nastasija is with the pediatric patients, the children tend to worry and cry less when receiving IVs or other uncomfortable treatments.”

Working with kids and teens requires a more subtle touch, as Child-Life Specialist Ashley Hoyt knows very well. “It’s remarkable how Nastasija and Maria can ‘change their tune’ in terms of how they deal with patients of different ages and needs,” says Hoyt. “With pediatric patients, they’re able to read their cues and know what course to pursue.”

Although a more passive audience, adults and parents benefit as well. Whether it’s some mellow jazz, Spanish guitar or a classical tune, soothing background music helps many parents to relax, and lightens the mood for patients and clinicians alike. “An older adult patient spontaneously started ‘directing’ one of our interns, waving his arms around like a conductor,” says Huettig. “Before you know it, the nurses in the unit came over, and started clapping and humming.

“Music can be a very effective tool that makes highly stressful situations more manageable for patients,” says Huettig. “Using the physical, psychological and emotional power of music, our interns are making a difference in our patients’ experiences here.”

-- Joe O’Shea (Public Affairs)

Sept. 25, 2014
Mass. Eye and Ear Expands Presence North of Boston

It's not always easy for our patients to drive into Boston for the care they need. That's why we are thrilled to be able to offer expanded ear, nose, throat and hearing services to more people north of the city.

Learn more about our new location in Medford, Mass., and about our new physician in our Stoneham location.

I can't wait to tell my friends north of the city!

-- Mary Leach (Public Affairs)

Sept. 24, 2014
Researchers Discuss Ongoing Duel with Hearing Loss at Public Forum

Like a scene out of an old Western, trash blew like tumbleweeds down deserted Charles and Cambridge streets on the morning of Saturday, Sept. 20. The setting, though unsettling, was appropriate, as it set the stage for Massachusetts Eye and Ear researchers to address their ongoing duel with hearing loss.

2014 Hearing Loss ForumIt also became obvious that – based on the 80-plus people gathered in the Meltzer Auditorium for “Have You Heard,” Mass. Eye and Ear’s 14th Annual Public Forum on Hearing and Hearing Loss – hearing loss doesn’t discriminate. The affluent rubbed elbows with those of lesser means, and youngsters mixed with seniors during coffee breaks. An octogenarian who stormed the beaches of Normandy was even in attendance.

So people from all walks of life and generations listened raptly as Sharon Kujawa, Ph.D., M. Charles Liberman, Ph.D., and guest speaker Katherine Bouton offered their various perspectives on the gift of hearing and on the always-difficult experience of hearing loss.

“It’s hard to ask others for help,” admitted Bouton, a former New York Times editor who has chronicled her journey of hearing loss in “Shouting Won’t Help.” “But don’t be apologetic in asking for what you need.

“Put your disability to work, not only to help others, but to help yourself,” added Bouton, who began to lose her hearing in the late 1970s. “Advocacy is empowering.”

So, too, is knowledge.

Researcher Sharon Kujawa, a senior scientist in Mass. Eye and Ear’s Eaton-Peabody Laboratories, kicked off the proceedings by talking about the mechanical workings of the ear, offering a guided tour of the outer, middle and inner ear.

Kujawa also spoke of how genetic and environmental influences can lead to hearing loss. In addition to natural factors like aging and genetic predisposition, prolonged exposure to loud noise from power tools, jet engines, firearms, concerts and sporting events can also diminish hearing. “At the Kansas City Chiefs’ Arrowhead Stadium, the decibel level was reported at 137.5, which is near jet-engine levels,” said Kujawa, referring to fan-noise levels at a football stadium that is one of the loudest in the nation. “Soberingly, there is competition among fans of various teams to beat this hearing-damaging exposure.”

Kujawa explained that loud noise, whatever the source, can destroy the inner ear’s hair cells and nerve fibers over time. These cells play a pivotal role in hearing, according to M. Charles Liberman, director of the Eaton-Peabody Laboratories. These microscopic hair cells take the mechanical energy of sound from the bones of the middle ear and translate it to electrical impulses that are sent via nerve fibers to the brain, where “hearing” takes place.

While inner-ear hair cells don’t regenerate in mammals, they do in birds. Scientists have discovered that birds and humans are very similar during early embryonic development, which led them to believe that there might be a way to trigger hair cell re-growth in mammals. Last year, our researchers discovered a way to regrow inner-ear hair cells in mice, leading to realistic hope for human regrowth.

“Twenty-five years ago, this breakthrough was like science fiction, but we’re now well beyond the realm of sci-fi and looking toward human clinical trials,” said Liberman. “While it won’t happen tomorrow, we do hope to develop and deliver a drug to the human inner ear that can regrow these hair cells and restore hearing.”

The forum, which was co-sponsored by the Hearing Loss Association of America’s Boston chapter, is part of Mass. Eye and Ear’s commitment to community education. Learn more about Mass. Eye and Ear’s Community Benefits Program.

-- Joe O’Shea (Public Affairs)

Sept. 18, 2014
‘Stage Presence’ Leads to Improved Inpatient Experience

Shakespeare’s Jacques claimed that “All the world’s a stage” in “As You Like It,” and Nurse Manager Theresa Johnson, MSN, RN-BC, couldn’t agree more.

Marilyn Wilson-Joseph (left), Theresa Johnson.
Marilyn Wilson-Joseph (left), Theresa Johnson.

No matter how stressful the situation, Theresa emphasizes the importance of maintaining a calm, friendly demeanor in front of patients. It’s okay to vent behind closed doors, she says, but as Theresa likes to remind her nursing colleagues, “It’s like working at Disney: Once you’re on the floor, you’re on stage, and we always want the patients to see us at our best.”

This is just one of the many small changes, attitudinal and otherwise, that Theresa has encouraged in the Adult Medical Surgical Unit’s nursing staff since she joined Mass. Eye and Ear almost two years ago. Aided by Nurse Clinical Leader Pearl Icuspit, BSN, RN, a 20-year veteran, Theresa has focused on enhancing the inpatient experience for Mass. Eye and Ear’s longer-term guests.

“When I first arrived, we already had talented nurses who had excellent clinical skills, so the patient-care was terrific,” says Theresa. Despite the quality care, and respectable patient-satisfaction scores, Theresa saw some room for improvement in the scores. “We were already delivering great care when I arrived, but we needed to work on our communications skills, on keeping patients and their families well informed.”

In order to do so, Theresa asked her nurses to put themselves in the slippers of a patient – literally. Working closely with Pearl, Theresa began to conduct role-playing patient rounds in which one nurse would play the patient, another would play a family member and the third would act as the nurse. The nurse would check on the play-patient’s physical status, comfort and emotional state, and see if she or he could answer any questions for the faux-family member.

Pearl Icuspit (left) and nursing staff.
Pearl Icuspit (left) and nursing staff.

“The nurses and nursing assistants often took the lead in role-playing, and were a real catalyst for change,” says Theresa. “The role-playing was fun, and helped to improve our communication skills.”

With the new hourly rounding approach, nurses introduce themselves by name and state their role. They also list the names of all the patient’s service-care providers and their titles on a white board in the room, and write down the patient’s goals for that day.

After introductions, nurses will check on a patient’s pain, position comfort, bathroom needs and whether or not their possessions are within arm’s reach. Importantly, they also describe a medication’s purpose and possible side effects. They also focus on “softer” needs: “We really encourage our nurses to be aware of our patients’ comfort, so we’ll turn lights down at night, check to see if a patient needs a blanket, and close doors to lessen noise,” says Pearl.

Each month, Theresa posted the latest patient-satisfaction scores in the break room, which served as a great motivational tool. Without delving into detail, the chart of June 2013 was full of red and yellow blocks, which signified poor to mediocre scores. By June 2014, that same chart was overwhelmingly filled with green blocks, which indicated high scores. “Seeing those red and yellow blocks turn to green each month really encouraged our team,” said Theresa.

While there’s always room for improvement, the nurses of the Adult Medical Surgical Unit have made tremendous strides in 12 months.

“Theresa has done a great job of clearly communicating expectations, answering questions and acknowledging and encouraging our efforts,” says Pearl. “Morale is much better among the nurses, and the positive environment on the floor has contributed to an improved patient experience.”

-- Joe O'Shea (Public Affairs)

Sept. 17, 2014
Erasing the Scars of Domestic Violence
Domestic violence is an age-old problem that has received national attention recently, mostly due to the videotaped activities of sports figures. Mass. Eye and Ear's physicians have been working to help these victims, even when the topic is not in the spotlight.

Dr. Tessa Hadlock
Dr. Tessa Hadlock (photo by Richard Schultz)

This week, one of our efforts -- a new, more formal collaboration with our neighbor Mass General -- was featured on the cover of the Boston Globe. Patient Melissa Dohme shared her story about her recovery and the efforts of Dr. Tessa Hadlock and her colleagues to help her progress by removing the visible scars that reminded her of her abuse.

We're proud of Dr. Hadlock and of all of the physicians who do so much to help others. We'd also like to note that Missy Allen, the manager of the Facial and Cosmetic Surgery Center and Facial Nerve Center, has been a steadfast supporter of efforts that help victims of domestic violence heal completely. Missy has helped to forge relationships with organizations such as Mass General. Fortunately, she works with a group of physicians who also care -- and care deeply.

Thank you Missy and doctors....and thank you, Melissa, for your bravery in sharing your story.

-- Mary Leach (Public Affairs)

Sept. 12, 2014
Winning Ophthalmology's 'Nobel Prize' for Research
This week, we received the exciting news that Mass. Eye and Ear researchers were a big part of the group that won what is most likely the vision world's most prestigious prize: the Champalimaud Vision Award.

This scientific-achievement award honored them for their "groundbreaking development of anti-angiogenic therapy for blinding disease," which has literally saved the vision of countless individuals with macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy across the globe. This is a fancy way of saying that their research enabled drug companies to create medicine that can be used in the eye to stop unwanted blood vessels to grow, leak and destroy vision.

But what is the actual impact of their discoveries? Read what our patient Gail has to say in this article in the Boston Business Journal. Gail describes the difference this research has made in her life in this video.

Dr. Joan Miller and researchers who won the 2014 Champalimaud Vision Award
Drs. Joan Miller (middle), Evangelos Gragoudas (far right) and Patricia D'Amore (second from right) of Mass. Eye and Ear and Schepens Eye Research Institute were among the researchers honored with the 2014 Champalimaud Vision Award.

We’re so proud of Drs. Joan Whitten Miller, M.D., Evangelos S. Gragoudas, M.D., and Patricia A. D’Amore, Ph.D., MBA, of Massachusetts Eye and Ear for this recognition. They share the award with Lloyd Paul Aiello, M.D., Ph.D., of Mass. Eye and Ear and Joslin Diabetes Center; George L. King, M.D., of Joslin Diabetes Center; and Anthony P. Adamis, M.D., of Genentech, who was a physician and researcher here for years but is now at Genetech. Napoleone Ferrara, M.D., of University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and Moores Cancer Center, also received the award.

Read all about the honor in this very detailed press release.

The award was bestowed on the group on Sept. 10 at a special ceremony in Lisbon, Portugal. In addition to the recognition, the honorees will split the equivalent of $1.3 million, which they can use to further their research efforts.

We look forward to welcoming our researchers back next week and seeing what they come up with next. Whatever they discover, we know it will change lives!

-- Mary Leach, Public Affairs

Aug. 28, 2014

New High-Definition CT System Up and Running

Technician Rene with the new CT-scanner.
Technician Rene with the new CT scanner.

In a remarkable display of teamwork and efficiency, Mass. Eye and Ear’s Radiology Department recently installed a brand-new CT-scan system – the GE Discovery CT 750 HD, the world’s first high-definition CT system – in just one week.

According to Greg Donnelly, Mass. Eye and Ear’s Executive Director of Clinical Services, the new CT system will provide clinicians with “leading-edge high-definition imaging, which promises a more confident diagnosis, and will reduce the patient’s radiation dosage by as much as 50 percent.

“Our previous CT system was at the end of its effective life cycle,” said Donnelly, “so we needed to upgrade to improve both image quality and patient safety.”

If you have questions or would like to learn more, contact Greg Donnelly at or at 617-573-3566.

-- Joe O'Shea (Public Affairs)

Aug. 20, 2014
Teen Patient ‘Back in the League’ after PROSE Treatment

When Christine wrote to Rich Godfrey, a patient advocate at Mass. Eye and Ear, about her sick son, Kristoff, she “signed” her May 5 email, “Christine, a hopeful parent.”

Kristoff is back on the basepaths.
Kristoff is back on
the basepaths.

Christine’s hope, as it turns out, was well founded.

A physically active special-needs student from Lexington, Ky., 16-year-old Kristoff was just hitting his stride in an inclusive ninth-grade class last November when he was stricken with Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS), a painful, life-threatening allergic reaction that primarily affects the skin and mucous membranes.

Kristoff and his father, Randy, enjoy golf.Because of SJS, Kristoff lost the top layer of his skin and experienced great pain, especially while eating or drinking. Also, the interior of Kristoff’s eyelids were affected, and the rough skin scraped his eyes each time he blinked. In order to ease his pain, Kristoff simply shut his eyes – all the time. He had to leave school, and could no longer participate in softball, golf or flag football. “It was a horrible experience,” he recalls.

After Kristoff endured a series of doctors’ visits and hospitalizations in Lexington and Cincinnati, Ohio, that successfully treated the worst of his symptoms, his eye pain persisted. He was unable to keep his bloodshot eyes open for more than a moment. Feeling that they had exhausted their regional ophthalmological options, Christine and her husband, Randy (pictured in orange, at left, with Kristoff) conducted some web research and discovered Mass. Eye and Ear.

“As a mother, this is devastating,” Christine wrote to Rich. “I would just like to locate an institution that can place him on the road to recovering his sight, if possible.”

So Rich reached out to Dr. Jim Chodosh, who called in Mass. Eye and Ear colleague, Dr. Deborah Jacobs, to see Kristoff on June 23. Both physicians realized that Kristoff was a perfect candidate for PROSE treatment. Prosthetic replacement of the ocular surface ecosystem – or PROSE – is a process where specialized prosthetic devices are customized for the patient’s condition and eye shape, providing the lubrication needed for normal eye function while providing eye-surface protection.

Manufactured by the non-profit Boston Foundation for Sight, where Dr. Jacobs serves as medical director, the PROSE devices restored normal function to Kristoff’s eyelid and eye surface, enabling him to see again. “It was a miracle to me to see for the first time in months,” says Kristoff. Since the visit, he’s playing softball, winning golf tournaments, and plans on picking up flag football again.

When Kristoff walked in to Mass. Eye and Ear that day, his eyes were shut and he was huddled against his mother, according to Rich, who met them at the front door. “Kristoff is a visual learner, so it was heartbreaking to see his entire life shut down when he couldn’t open his eyes,” says Christine. “When we left Boston, Kristoff was walking on his own, carrying his own suitcase. It was such a relief. Kristoff is ‘back in the league,’ as he likes to say, so traveling to Boston was well worth the trip.”
-- Joe O'Shea (Public Affairs)

Aug. 13, 2014
Raising Awareness by the Bucketful
By now most all of us have heard of the Ice Bucket Challenge, the awareness campaign for ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, that has the social media sphere on fire.

Ordinary people -- and some less ordinary, including Matt Lauer, Martha Stewart, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, various sports figures, and Ethel Kennedy (of course) -- have taken the challenge to hoist buckets of ice water and pour them over their heads after challenging someone else to do the same in 24 hours or make a donation to fund research for ALS instead.

Eye staff take the Ice Bucket Challenge

An enthusiastic ophthalmology team takes the Ice Bucket
Challenge. Photo by Garyfallia Pagonis.

Mass. Eye and Ear employees are so caring that we shouldn't have been surprised when the challenges started flying this week.

First up was the Otolaryngology clinical team, who challenged Ophthalmology, who then challenged Mass General (who had already done it, their social media team gleefully told us via Tweet) and Mass. Eye and Ear, Longwood. Who knows who will be next?

Whatever the outcome, the results don't lie. The ALS Association has collected $5.7 million from July 29 to Aug. 13. This can be compared to $1.2 million that they raised during the same time period last year. These donations have come from existing donors and 106,955 new donors. The Ice Bucket Challenge has turned into an ingenious way to raise funds as well as awareness.

"I honestly had never heard of ALS until the Ice Bucket Challenge brought it to my attention,” said Ophthalmic Assistant Sara Boyle, who took the challenge. “I wish nothing but good health and well-being to anyone who has ALS, and I hope that one day someone will come up with a cure for it.”

Sara is not alone. An estimated 50 percent of the population didn't know what ALS is until this challenge.

Check out the Mass. Eye and Ear's Facebook page for the videos and view some still photos here. Although the participants got soaked, you will see that a little ice and water didn't dampen their morale.

Now...what challenge can we come up with that will help us raise funds to find cures for the disease we treat? Let's put our thinking caps on and have some fun. And if you have the next great idea, please let us know.

-- Mary Leach (Public Affairs)

Aug. 11, 2014
Rolling with the Punches at Camp Harbor View

One of the most constant characteristics of our clinicians is their ability to adapt, to roll with the punches when things don’t quite go as planned. While this normally happens in the controlled environment of our hospital, it was good to see that this adaptability and resiliency served our staff well when we took our show on the road last Friday.Vision Team

While our Vision Team – which includes clinicians, technicians and administrators from Mass. Eye and Ear and Children’s Hospital – was preparing to conduct a routine vision screening for the city’s youth at Boston Harbor’s Camp Harbor View, a rare driver-less fender bender occurred in the parking lot shortly before the screening commenced. No one was hurt, of course, but if the understandably upset parties had decided to call it a day, no one would have blamed them.

Dr. Thanos sees a new patient.
Dr. Thanos sees a new patient.

But like a linebacker shrugs off a shoulder stinger, both people shook off the unfortunate accident and got back to work. With the able help of Gabriella, the camp’s events manager, our team efficiently and effectively examined 115 campers at Boston’s Long Island-based facility, which offers stunning views of Boston and the South Shore with the turn of your head. Fortunately, more than 80 percent of the children received a clean bill of health from Dr. Ankoor Shah. He recommended that several other campers seek further attention, information that will be shared with parents by camp staff.

Speaking of attention, it was pajama day at the camp, and that meant that special guests were invited. Although not formally trained in the art of stuffed-animal ophthalmology, Drs. Aristomenis “Aris” Thanos and Shah good-naturedly administered exams to a teddy bear and Big Bird, whose eyes “looked a little crossed” to Dr. Shah. So, as it turns out, our team offered assistance to 117 campers, just another example of rolling with the punches at Mass. Eye and Ear.

-- Joe O’Shea (Public Affairs)

Aug. 7, 2014
When Art and Science Collide
Some days in the Public Affairs Office at Mass. Eye and Ear are definitely more interesting than others. Case in point: A video shoot done by BBC's Click in Dr. Tessa Hadlock's clinic this week. We escorted the crew as per hospital policy, and were able to experience firsthand the fusion of art and science.

Dr. Hadlock working on the Sugababe project.
Dr. Tessa Hadlock (right) harvests cartilage from Lieuwe van Gogh, the great-great grandson of the brother of Vincent van Gogh.

BBC is producing a documentary about international artist Diemut Strebe, who is probably best known for her project to clone Vincent van Gogh's ear. Her piece, titled "Sugababe," was released in June and shows a living, tissue-engineered replica ear that stemmed from the cells of Strebe and of Lieuwe van Gogh, the great-great grandson of Vincent's brother, Theo. Using the cartilage from both of their ears, "Sugababe" was born.

Sugababe ear by Diemut Strebe
"Sugababe" (photo by Diemut Strebe)

This project was hush-hush at the time, but we can now say that this ear would not have been possible without Dr. Hadlock and Mass. Eye and Ear. Dr. Hadlock harvested cartilage for the ear, and a team of scientists grew the ear.

Learn more about the first ear.

Now Strebe is working on a second van Gogh ear. Dr. Hadlock helped with the project again, as BBC Click documented the experience. Growing Van Gogh's ear . . . creepy or cool? We can't quite decide. But we do know one thing: It's so cool that Mass. Eye and Ear docs can help -- no matter what the need.

Artist Diemut Strebe and Liewe van Gogh after their procedures. Both reported that they had no visible scars from the cartilage removal three years ago and were confident they would look fine now.
Artist Diemut Strebe (left) and Lieuwe van Gogh after their procedures. Both said they had no visible scarring from the cartilage harvesting last time, and were confident they would look fine this time, too.

-- Mary Leach (Public Affairs)

Aug. 5, 2014
Keeping Patients in the Game
The simple things make a huge difference in quality of life: good friends, fresh, clean air, the ability to play the game you love, even if you can't see the ball all that well.

Dr. Dohlman and grandson

When an accident on an oil rig all but destroyed Mike McKone's eyesight, the then-young man embarked on an ophthalmologic journey that led from hope to despair and back again. Several failed corneal transplants darkened his world until one of his doctors recommended he try the Boston K-Pro, a device invented at Mass. Eye and Ear by Dr. Claes Dohlman.

Thanks to this artificial cornea that Dr. Dohlman has perfected over the years, Mike has regained some of his vision and a better quality of life than he might have had otherwise. A championship-level blind golfer, Mike is teeing off in the "2014 Inspire Through the Power of Sport Handa U.S. Blind Open Championship” in Exeter, R.I., this Sunday. Read his story here.

Though retired from surgery, Dr. Dohlman is still in Mass. Eye and Ear's cornea clinic most days, training tomorrow's innovators, including his grandson, Thomas, pictured at left. We're grateful Dr. Dohlman's here, and so is Mike.

Good luck in the tournament, Mike! We're pulling for you! And Dr. D: See you in the cafeteria soon!

-- Mary Leach (Public Affairs)

July 31, 2014
Not Your Average 'Meet and Greet'
As the sun set over the Charles River, providing a perfect backdrop for the President’s Reception to Celebrate New Trainees at Mass. Eye and Ear, a metaphorical sun just might have been rising on the careers of Mass. Eye and Ear’s future leaders.

Drs. Leila Mankarious and Aaron Remenschneider, a resident.
Dr. Leila Mankarious and
Dr. Aaron Remenschneider, a fellow.

In many ways, the reception was a typical “meet and greet” event, one of many hosted on the hospital’s seventh floor, which overlooks the storied Longfellow Bridge. For a couple hours, the hospital’s new residents and fellows spent time rubbing elbows with more established trainees, veteran clinicians and researchers, hospital executives and department chairs.

In other ways, though, it wasn’t your average networking night. If one could gaze into a crystal ball, who knows which – if any – of these trainees might become the next Joan Miller, M.D., Chief and Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology; Steven Rauch, M.D., Director of the Vestibular Division; Mike McKenna, M.D., Director of the Division of Otology and Neurotology; or established practitioners like Kathy Colby, M.D., Ph.D.; or Lucy Young, M.D., Ph.D., FACS – all physician-leaders who were once Mass. Eye and Ear residents or fellows.

So not only was the president’s reception a chance for M.D.s, Ph.D.s and MBAs to “talk shop” and get to know one another on a steamy summer night, it just might have been the launching pad for Mass. Eye and Ear’s future leaders.

View some of Mass. Eye and Ear’s current – and perhaps future – leaders.

-- Joe O'Shea (Public Affairs)

July 29, 2014
Generous -- and Constant -- Friends
It's not easy being a researcher these days. Not only do researchers have to conceive an idea, scientifically prove it valid (or not), test it every which way under stringent regulations, present it in meetings that take them away from their families, write papers about each step of the process, which may or may not be published...but they also have to raise funds by writing applications for grants to support each of these efforts.

Thank goodness for foundations like Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB).

RPB has been a steadfast and steady supporter during what has become an increasingly difficult research-funding environment. ToRPB Logo date, the organization has awarded grants totaling more than $8,870,315 to Harvard Medical School (HMS) and its researchers, many of them from Mass. Eye and Ear. That's an astounding vote of confidence from the leading non-profit whose vision is to see its way to a cure for blindness.

Read about the grants RPB recently awarded the Harvard Medical School Department of Ophthalmology, and to Drs. Lucia Sobrin, Michael Gilmore and Eric Pierce. And if you see someone from RPB, please give them a hug for us all -- we appreciate their support, and more importantly, our patients do, too.

-- Mary Leach (Public Affairs)

July 28, 2014
Patients Supporting Patients
Elise may be smaller than her new friend, Kara, but the support she and her mom are providing is huge. Elise and her mom stopped to see Kara, who was clearly excited to have a young visitor. The two girls have much in common.

Elise and Kara
(l to r) Kara and Elise during
a visit after Kara's surgery.

Despite the difference in size, the tots are almost the same age. Both live in other parts of the country and travel to Mass. Eye and Ear for their care. Both were born profoundly deaf and both have auditory brainstem implants (ABIs), which are providing them with new hope for hearing.

As Elise's mom so eloquently said as she shared this photo from Mass. Eye and Ear's Facebook page, "I am sure these girls will be the best of friends. They are two weeks apart in age and now both have ABIs. They met yesterday and she gave Elise the biggest hug. She was one day out of surgery and doing amazing! Activation day can't get here soon enough now!"

We can't wait to see how those girls grow up "Mass. Eye and Ear" together. We are sure we will hear so many good things about them - and from them.

-- Mary Leach (Public Affairs)

July 24, 2014
By Giving, You Shall Receive

When I was asked to provide support at free vision clinics that our hospital offers young adults, I was happy to help. I had never taken part in such a community outreach activity, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I did keep an open mind.

Dr. Mark Bernardo
Dr. Mark Bernardo

Conducted in conjunction with the Vision Coalition and Year Up Boston, both of our vision clinics took place in July at Mass. Eye and Ear, Longwood, located only a stone’s throw from Boston’s health care hub.

So, after getting off the MBTA Green Line at the Fenwood stop, and dodging cars on Huntington Ave., we made our way to this technological wonder, full of natural light and overlooking Boston’s Mission Hill neighborhood.

Over the course of two days, Drs. Yan Jiang and Mark Bernardo conducted in-depth examinations of 23 students from Year Up, a non-profit that gives low-income young adults the tools required to thrive in a business environment.

After screenings and exams, prescriptions were issued, and the students made their way to the first-floor optical shop, where opticians Joe Erickson, Martha Hui and Tom Merrill outfitted the “kids” with stylish glasses, courtesy of the Vision Coalition. If the truth is to be told, this was the most enjoyable part of the day for the students, who offered advice – some unsolicited – on what “look” worked on their classmates.

While collecting paperwork from the students, I had the opportunity to chat with a couple of bright young men in the waiting area. These weren’t your average college kids.

Susan Graham and Junior.
Susan Graham and Junior.

The strapping Junior, an aspiring musician, photographer and Renaissance man, gave me an impromptu origami lesson to share with my youngest child. “I just want to learn all I possibly can in this life,” said the affable Junior, who offered to trade music lessons for photography lessons, and quickly bonded with technician Susan Graham over their love of music.

The well-spoken Daniel was equally friendly, but in a more mild-mannered way. “I’ve been really impressed with the high-level executives who speak to us at Year Up,” said Daniel. “They’ve inspired me to believe that with hard work and dedication, I can be a success.” This thoughtful young man, who boasts an impressive maturity – presence, you might call it – that belies his young age, clearly articulated what he’s looking for in a career (and in life), and we connected on LinkedIn before the day was out.

The lesson I learned? By giving you shall receive. By taking part in a clinic to help low-income students, I walked away with a sense of hope. The world just might be in good hands after all.

Learn about Mass. Eye and Ear's Community Benefits Program.

-- Joe O’Shea (Public Affairs)

July 23, 2014
Setting Our Sights on Cures
They came from across the country, from towns with funny names like Moody (Ala.) and Chino (Calif.). They walked together, mothers and fathers with children in tow, holding sticky little hands and pushing double-wide strollers. One group comprised four generations, each wearing a t-shirt sporting the name of their youngest and the foundation founded in his honor. Different individuals, from different places, but all united with one hope: to find a cure that will stop children from losing their vision.

Dr. Pierce and Gavin
Gavin greets Dr. Eric Pierce.

Mass. Eye and Ear recently had the honor of co-sponsoring the Foundation for Retinal Research's bi-annual family conference held in Boston. For two days, our clinicians and researchers helped to provide support and information about Leber congenital amarousis (LCA), a childhood onset retinal disease.

Day one was spent at the clinics at Mass. Eye and Ear. Our clinicians saw children from 34 families, providing eye exams, imaging, discussion about genetics and genetic testing

group shot of caregivers
Some of the team that provided care for conference participants.

and consultation with a retinal physician. Drs. Eric Pierce, Jason Comander and our two retinal fellows, Dr. Xiang Werdich and Brian Hafler, joined members of a

lab tour
The researchers enjoyed meeting the children they are trying to help.

number of services to make the day go smoothly. A special behind-the-scenes tour of the Ocular Genomics lab at Schepens was held for all who wanted join.

Day two was a scientific conference at Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, where our researchers formally presented their work and the families had an opportunity to have some fun.

group shot of LCA families
A large group visited the lab at Schepens.

If the feedback on the hospital's Facebook page is any indication, the event was quite useful to participants. We know seeing and meeting these amazing families helped us remember why the work we are doing is so important -- and why we have to work harder and faster. Work double-time, everyone -- the kids need you!

-- Mary Leach (Public Affairs)

July 21, 2014
Mass. Eye and Ear’s LinkedIn Company Page is Open for Business
While Massachusetts Eye and Ear has had a LinkedIn company page for some time, we’ve slowly begun to make greater use of this resource. We’re now ready to encourage LinkedIn members to “follow” our page and share our news and announcements with their respective career networks.LinkedIn Mass. Eye and Ear Page

By engaging with the LinkedIn community in a more active fashion, we aim to not only interact with other businesses and health care organizations, but also to connect with potential supporters and high-quality job candidates who can help us to achieve our mission. Ideally, we’d like to connect with patients or potential patients as well.

On LinkedIn, we’ll strive to inform followers and visitors about:

  • Mass. Eye and Ear’s mission to:
    • Provide exceptional clinical care.
    • Conduct cutting-edge translational and bench research.
    • Teach tomorrow’s clinical and research leaders, as well as today’s medical community.
  • Our “big audacious goal” of enabling all children to see and hear at some point in their lives.
  • Our cutting-edge research and clinical procedures, as well as our high-quality “routine” procedures.
  • The opportunity to work for an established organization – rich in history – that allows employees to engage in work that enables them to fulfill their professional potential.
  • Our culture and values.

Whether or not you’re a LinkedIn user, you can view our Mass. Eye and Ear page at If you’re a LinkedIn user, you can follow Mass. Eye and Ear to keep an eye on our postings and share with your network.

If you’re not a LinkedIn user, now is a good chance to sign up (for free) and “kick the tires” of this growing social network, which boasts more than 300 million members. Not only is it a great tool to help manage your career network, but it’s also a terrific way to stay abreast of best practices in your field, and to engage with groups of professionals with similar interests.

If you have any questions, or would like to offer suggestions about what you’d like to see on our LinkedIn page, please contact Joe O’Shea of Public Affairs at

-- Joe O'Shea (Public Affairs)

July 16, 2014
Telling Stories, Sharing Hope
A few months ago I sat down with Andrew and his mom to hear their story. They were visiting the hospital for a laser hair removal appointment with Dr. Oon Tian Tan. Andrew was born with Microtia and had come to Mass. Eye and Ear to see Dr. Tessa Hadlock for ear reconstruction. Dr. Tan was performing the laser treatments on the grafted skin of Andrew’s new ear.

Andrew and his mom allowed me to film our conversation in the hopes that others with Microtia would benefit from hearing his story and feel a little more comfortable coming in to get the care they need.

I was honored to meet Andrew and his mother and have had the privilege of meeting many Mass. Eye and Ear patients who allow me to share their story on our website and social media channels. Hearing their stories and learning what their experience was like before they were at Mass. Eye and Ear -- and how our caregivers have changed their lives --- is such a gift. Patients like Allison and Craig had such drastic improvements in their quality of life, thanks to the surgeries they had here. My hope is that others will see these and other videos from Mass. Eye and Ear and gain hope that they can be helped as well.

And this is a gift that keeps on giving. On the sixth year anniversary of her son's surgery, Seamus’ mom emailed me to say that she still watches his video to remind herself how lucky they are. It’s great to know that the result of our conversation continues to help not only others, but also those who told their stories to us!

Leah's Story: Parathyroid Surgery from Mass. Eye and Ear on Vimeo.

Leah shares her story of cancer and removal via parathyroid surgery at Mass. Eye and Ear. She is grateful to Dr. Gregory Randolph and the whole care team she saw in Boston.

Brad's Story: PRK Laser Vision Correction from Mass. Eye and Ear on Vimeo.

After years of struggling with poor eyesight, Brad finally decided that glasses were becoming too much for him and his active lifestyle. Now Brad is able to play with his two children and even joined the Mass. Eye and Ear Boston Marathon Team in 2014!

You can browse our patient story video library for a little inspiration. And if you are interested in sharing one of your own stories, please email us.

A very big THANK YOU to all that have shared your story so far. It’s truly a privilege to speak to you all.

--Meaghan M. O’Rourke (Communications)

July 15, 2014
And the Survey Says . . .
We are proud of the quality of care provided by our staff every day, but once a year U.S. News & World Report weighs in with a more public announcement in the magazine's "Best Hospitals" survey. Massachusetts Eye and Ear generally fares pretty well, traditionally placing in the top 10 in the nation for one or more of our specialties. Still, we hold our collective breath on the day that the rankings come out.

Mass. Eye and Ear main campus summer
Mass. Eye and Ear's Boston campus.

This year, we fared even better, placing fourth in both ophthalmology (eye care) and otolaryngology (ear, nose and throat, or ENT). We held steady in eye care, and moved up a few notches in ENT.

While we are proud of the public recognition, we get more gratification from the sentiments expressed by our patients on our Facebook page.

Here are a few of their comments, reproduced here as originally written by the patients (including multiple exclamation points):

"Super thankful for Mass Eye and Ear/Dr. Mukai!"

"Beyond thankful that we landed in the hands of Dr. Cohen!!"

"Congratulations, MEEI! It was an honor to run the Boston Marathon for you this year."

"YAY!!! The best !!! Congrats!! and hats off to Dr. Mukai too!!!!!"

But one patient may have said it best: "Congratulations to MEE . . . Especially Dr. Gragoudas. You saved my eye and you saved my life."

We ran into Dr. Gragoudas on the 12th floor this morning, while giving a tour to a guest from Harvard Medical School. The doctor smiled kindly and took a few moments out of his busy day to greet our visitor. Little did our visitor know that she was shaking the hand of a man who saves eyes and lives.

Keep up the great, life-changing work, Drs. Gragoudas, Mukai and Cohen! Your patients appreciate your efforts -- not just on U.S. News "Best Hospitals" survey day, but every day. And we know you are pleased to have helped . . .

-- Mary Leach (Public Affairs)

July 14, 2014
Everyday Heroes
Last Friday was "movie day" at Camp Harbor View on Boston's Long Island, and "super heroes" were in good supply: Captain America . . . GI Joe . . . and members of the "Vision Team" from Mass. Eye and Ear and Children's Hospital Ophthalmology Foundation.

Camp Harbor View staffer and student.
Camp Harbor View staff members were
everyday heroes, as they helped
to make the vision screening
on July 11 run smoothly.

Seeing these kids, the caregivers, and their camp counselors in action reminded me of the "everyday heroes" who help make good health possible: the mothers who make the appointments, the sons who bring their fathers for surgery, the friend who holds another's hand when she gets disheartening news -- each person plays an important role.

We aren't in this movie we call life alone -- thank goodness for the cast of characters that provides the support that we need.

Here's to everyday super heroes -- who is yours?

-- Mary Leach (Public Affairs)

July 8, 2014
Inspiration Everywhere
The dawning of each new day is a new opportunity for our clinicians and researchers to help people see, hear, taste, smell and just plain experience life.

sunrise over a Virgina beach
Sunrise over a Virginia beach, courtesy of Stephen, the son of a Mass. Eye and Ear patient and friend

We couldn't resist posting this great photo because it illustrates the concept so well: a picture is worth a 1,000 words. Seeing the sun rise on this Virginia beach is our inspiration to help preserve the senses...what is your inspiration? Email us what inspires you for possible use in a future Musings post.

-- Mary Leach (Public Affairs)

July 3, 2014
Cool Science: Regrowing Corneas from Human Stem Cells

Some days make us want to climb to our hospital's rooftop, overlooking the Charles River, and shout to the world: "Cool science is happening right here at Mass. Eye and Ear!"

Today is definitely one of these days.

Our researchers, based at Schepens Eye Research Institute, have identified a way to enhance regrowth of human corneal tissue to restore vision, using a molecule known as ABCB5 that acts as a marker for hard-to-find limbal stem cells. This remarkable finding provides promise to burn victims, victims of chemical injury and others with damaging eye diseases.

Dr. Bruce Ksander
Dr. Bruce Ksander

Bruce Ksander, Ph.D., Paraskevi Kolovou, M.D., and a team of scientists from several Boston hospitals were able to employ antibodies detecting ABCB5 to zero in on the stem cells in tissue from donated cadavers, using the stem cells regrow anatomically, fully functional human corneas in mice. (An aside: Thank you to all of you who plan leave parts of yourself to help advance science.)

The findings are published in Nature. Read about this groundbreaking work and see a photo of the new cornea.

And if you hear someone shouting, "Cool science at Mass. Eye and Ear!" from way up high in Boston, don't be alarmed. It's just an impressed writer who is so grateful to have so many interesting stories to tell.

-- Mary Leach (Public Affairs)

July 3, 2014
Despite Hurricane Arthur, Boston’s Fireworks Shift, It’s Business As Usual at Mass. Eye and Ear

Regardless of When, Where You Enjoy Your Fireworks, Do So Safely

Sometimes, thanks to Mother Nature, Fourth of July fireworks might take place on the third of July . . . or the fifth . . . or maybe even the sixth.

Fireworks over BostonDue to the menacing presence of Arthur, a category 1 hurricane that’s approaching Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, this morning, Boston has moved its traditional Independence Day party to July 3, a day early, making life a wee bit hectic at Massachusetts Eye and Ear, which overlooks the Esplanade and is located in the heart of The Hub’s July 4 festivities.

Luckily, the nature of hospital life requires our dedicated staff to expect the unexpected, so our doctors, nurses and administrators plan on seeing all patients as planned, and making the experience as painless as possible for patients making the trek to Boston.

So whether you plan on enjoying fireworks on the third, fourth, fifth or sixth this weekend, our clinicians strongly urge you to leave the fireworks shows to the professionals.

While it may seem obvious, it’s worth stating in plain language: Fireworks can cause serious injuries. During the 30 days around July 4, U.S. emergency rooms are full of people suffering from fireworks-related burns, lacerations, eye injuries, vision loss and dismemberment. And death isn’t out of the question.

Learn more about fireworks-related injuries this time of year, and how we can help in case of an emergency.

-- Joe O'Shea (Public Affairs)

June 30, 2014
Bicycle Commuters

First, a disclaimer: I am bicycle commuter. For most of the last 18 years I have rolled into work from across the Longfellow Bridge to my office near Mass. Eye and Ear's main hospital.

Most every morning, I stuff my salad and yoghurt into a well-worn messenger bag, don a bright yellow 'city worker' jacket and reflective vest, and ride. You can see me pedaling through Charles Circle, helmet on head (thus the perpetual 'hat head'). I'm the one who is not blowing through the red light. Life's too short and I have lived just long enough to know the extra few seconds are just not worth it.

Dr. Matt Mori is one of Mass. Eye and Ear's many bicycling commuters.

I am in good company. Many of the doctors and researchers at Mass. Eye and Ear are also free-wheeling to work each day. I ran into Dr. Matt Mori the other day on the back stairs while he was on his way to the ENT clinic. Dr. Mori cycles two miles each way to the hospital as a way to get his blood pumping and start the day right. He rides all year round and -- like a postman -- doesn't let a little rain, snow or potential frostbite stop him. He, too, rides a mountain bike -- and he also follows the rules of the road to stay safe.

So, as you are out and about, please keep an eye out for people on bikes. You never know . . . your doctor, nurse, researcher or Musings blogger might be the one riding.

Wishing you all a very safe day, whatever your mode of travel.

-- Mary Leach (Public Affairs)

June 27, 2014
Lessons Learned from Marathon Tragedy

As a major research center, our physicians sometimes reach out to patients to ask if they will consider participating in research studies that may help others far into the future. Michael (far left) and Heather, shown here with Drs. Bradley Welling and Daniel Lee (far right), are two patients who answered the call.


Heather and Michael are Boston Marathon bombing survivors who suffered hearing damage due to the blasts. They -- and many others -- are participating in a study that our researchers are leading to learn how the blasts impacted hearing. Their hope is that what they learn will help improve outcomes for others affected by acoustic trauma in the future.

These patients summed it up nicely when they shared their stories with Mass. Eye and Ear's Trustees at a recent gathering; they wanted to do something to help.

Watch a video about the study by Harvard Catalyst, Harvard's Clinical and Translational Science Center.

Michael took his commitment to furthering research one step further when he ran the Boston Marathon to raise funds for hearing research. This was Michael's first marathon, but we are guessing it won't be his last.

Thank you, Heather and Michael, for your selfless contribution. We look forward to sharing the study's results soon.

-- Mary Leach (Public Affairs)

June 24, 2014
While Enjoying Fenway's Feast for the Senses, Mass. Eye and Ear Staff Aid Boston Youth

Whether it’s the vivid sight of the emerald green grass; the imposing presence of the 37-foot tall Green Monster; the unforgiving feel of the cramped wooden seats; the smell of peanuts and beer; the thunderous “thwap” of a rising fastball hitting the catcher’s mitt; or the ear-splitting crack of Big Papi’s bat connecting with a 95-mile-per-hour heater, Fenway Park offers a feast for the senses on game days.

Mass. Eye and Ear's all stars.
Mass. Eye and Ear's all stars.

On a recent sun-splashed morning, the crack of wooden bats was replaced with the aluminum ping of softball bats, as more than 25 Greater Boston companies took to the Fenway diamond in Field of Dreams 2014, an annual softball challenge that supports Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD), an organization that aims to provide the city’s at-risk youth with the tools required to live a productive life.

Squaring off in the second game of the day, Team Mass. Eye and Ear took on cross-town rival (and real-life partner) Children’s Hospital in what evolved into an offensive showdown. Despite the Children’s squad boasting a clear age advantage, Longwood’s Finest had to rely on a late-inning surge to edge Mass. Eye and Ear’s “graybeards,” 18-17.

Team Mass. Eye and Ear benefitted from the hot bats of President John Fernandez, Dr. Brad Welling, and Dr. Ramon Franco, who all collected outfield hits that landed in the shadow of the Green Monster, while the solid glovework of infielders Franco, Dr. Sunil Eappen and Dr. Bob Bannish snuffed out several Children’s rallies.

While having your name announced as you step to the plate at Fenway fulfilled a fantasy for countless participants, the real winner was ABCD’s SummerWorks, a jobs and education program that places young Bostonians in summer jobs at more than 340 locations throughout the Hub. In addition to earning an income, students benefit from career mentoring, tutoring and life skills workshops.

Last year, SummerWorks provided jobs for about 800 teens, but more than 6,200 applied. To learn more, visit

-- Joe O’Shea (Public Affairs)

June 19, 2014
Giving the Gift of Life

While many people are planning trips to the beach, thinking of ways to cool down, and relaxing with friends and family, some aren’t as lucky. During the summer months, the need for donated blood rises, yet the number of donations goes down. Luckily, Mass. General Blood Donor Center is right around the corner, and the center makes it convenient to donate.

There are two ways you can donate: either make an appointment at the Fruit Street location, or stop at a blood drive located near you. The entire process only takes about 30 to 40 minutes. Once you register, a nurse or phlebotomy technician will go through your medical history with you to make sure you are eligible to donate. The actual blood donation takes eight to 10 minutes. After donating, you get to relax in the refreshment room (free cookies!), and then you can go on with the rest of your day.

MGH blood center promotion June 2014
Get a free sweet is that?

Less than an hour of your time can save up to three lives at one of the hospitals that benefit from the center: Mass. General, Mass. Eye and Ear, Shriners Burn Institute for Children, the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, or Mass. General for Children.

Although it is summer, the need for blood never goes on vacation. Please consider donating this season. You may come home with a new T-shirt, too!

For more information, you can visit the Mass. General Blood Donation Center website.

To make an appointment, email

Find a local blood drive.

-- Alexa Marsh (Public Affairs)

June 17, 2014
Getting Closer to Cures

Significant progress has been made in developing new treatments for age-related macular degeneration (AMD) -- and most of these advances have taken place in the labs at Mass. Eye and Ear.

Dr. Kip Connor, Principal Investigator in the Howe Laboratory, and his team are working a new research angle that is quite intriguing: Can dietary factors prevent or stop the damage in the "wet" form of AMD, the form that is characterized by abnormal blood vessel growth in the eye.

Kip Connor (far left) and his team.Connor (pictured at left, with his team) recently explained his motivation to a reporter. "The current standard of care for individuals with neovascular AMD is based on the targeting and inhibiting of vascular endothelial growth factor [VEGF – these drugs include Avastin, Lucentis, Eylea, etc.], a protein that promotes both angiogenesis and vascular permeability. These drugs are a godsend to individuals with this disease, as prior to their introduction there was little a clinician could do to save the vision of these patients.

"Interestingly, much of the seminal work elucidating the role of VEGF in AMD was done here at Massachusetts Eye and Ear and Harvard Medical School by Drs. Joan Miller, Anthony Adamis, Patricia D'Amore and Evangelos Gragoudas, so this is a huge part of our history," Connor added.

"Although VEGF–targeted therapy attenuates angiogenesis and vascular permeability, it does not lead to complete vascular regression or disease resolution," Connor said. "Individuals who respond to this drug treatment need an intraocular injection about every six weeks to keep these vessels at bay. Moreover, in patients treated with VEGF antagonists, substantial vision improvement occurs in only one-third of treated patients, while one-sixth unfortunately progress to legal blindness. Thus, there is still an urgent need for safe nutritional or pharmacological interventions for the treatment of wet AMD."

Dr. Connor and his team's paper -- due to be published in PNAS Online Early this week -- describes their research to explore whether diets with certain Omega-3 fatty acids proved helpful in a mouse model with wet AMD. Learn more about their findings.

This research has not been tested in people, but it is a small step -- and in research, every step counts. Kudos to Kip and his team . . . and please don't stop; our patients, and patients everywhere, need you.

-- Mary Leach (Public Affairs)

June 13, 2014
Nurses Praised for Courage, Professionalism and Grace

While we like to think that Massachusetts Eye and Ear nurses are always at the top of their game, some days stand out more than others. Citing last year’s unique challenges – most notably caring for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing – Mass. Eye and Ear President and CEO John Fernandez recently praised our nurses for their tremendous courage, professionalism and grace.

“Not only do you offer compassionate care, but your expertise in our specialties means that you can't find your skills anywhere else in the world,” said the president, who delivered remarks at the annual Nurses Appreciation Dinner, held earlier this spring. “We are blessed to have you.”

Mr. Norman Knight shares a laugh with one of his favorite nurses.After the president’s heartfelt thanks were offered, Chief Nursing Officer Eileen Lowell, R.N., M.M., recognized last year’s outstanding nurses. We thought you’d like to learn more about this year’s nursing award winners.

  • Joey Hall, R.N., BSN, earned the James Schneider Memorial Scholarship.
  • Nurse Manager Kathy Lennon, R.N., was honored with the Norman Knight Excellence in Leadership Award.
  • Nurses Pauline Bedard, R.N., Joan Cannata, R.N., and Julie Dorgan, R.N., BSN, all received the Norman Knight Excellence in Nursing Clinical Practice Award.

The Norman Knight awards were made possible by a great man, Norman Knight (pictured sharing a laugh with one of his favorite nurses). A retired broadcasting executive and member of the Massachusetts Broadcasting Hall of Fame, Mr. Knight is one of Boston’s most generous philanthropists. A longtime friend of Mass. Eye and Ear, Mr. Knight is a true advocate of quality nursing, and holds deep affection for all those who offer compassionate care to others.

Mr. Knight recently made possible the distribution of awards to a pair of young physicians, whom we’ll write about in a future post.

-- Joe O’Shea (Public Affairs)

June 11, 2014
Planting the Seeds for Research Success

Dr. Daniel Polley had a great idea. He wanted to develop a game that involved sound, teach people how to use it, and to see if their brain (and ability to hear) changed as a result. What he didn't have was the funding to take this seed of an idea and put it into the research ground to see what grows.

Daniel Polley
Dr. Daniel Polley

Enter the Curing Kids Fund, a program that is made possible by generous friends of Mass. Eye and Ear's Sense-ation! Gala.

Dr. Polley was awarded a modest grant, which provided the seed money for this idea. This week his team reaped the benefits of their work, so to speak, when their paper was published in the prestigious PNAS Early Edition.

Learn more about the fascinating findings that have the potential to help people hear better in noisy environments in the years to come.

-- Mary Leach (Public Affairs)

June 9, 2014
Growing Up Mass. Eye and Ear

Elle and Dr. LeeWe start caring for some of our patients soon after birth and continue throughout their lives. Elle is a great example. She came to Mass. Eye and Ear after failing her newborn hearing screening. Specialized testing showed that Elle was profoundly deaf, but thankfully a good candidate for cochlear implants.

Elle in AudiologyWhile still very young, Elle had bilateral cochlear implant surgery by Dr. Daniel Lee (with Elle in photo, at right), and she has thrived in every way. We tell Elle's story in this video that was a hit at our Sense-ation! Gala.

But getting the implants was not the end of Elle's relationship with Mass. Eye and Ear's caregivers. She continues to work regularly with the great team in Audiology, which includes Drs. Ackland Jones, Meghann Kyle (both pictured at left with Elle) and many others.

Elle was recently at Mass. Eye and Ear for an appointment in Audiology. Dressed like a princess (her favorite outfit), she ran into Dr. Lee, dressed in his scrubs. "She had the biggest smile afterward," Mom reports, "and said 'I can't believe Dr. Lee did surgery on me as a baby -- he must be good because I didn't feel any pain!" We're smiling too, Elle. :-)

Patients like Elle seem to become part of the Mass. Eye and Ear "family." We have the honor of watching them grow, evolve and -- as our saying goes -- sense life.

Interesting side note: Dr. Barbara Herrmann helped develop the very first newborn hearing screening test. She's still here, helping kids today and refining her research. How cool is that?

-- Mary Leach (Public Affairs)

June 5, 2014
10 Things You Should Know About Positional Vertigo

G.T. Whitman, M.D.
Dr. Gregory T. Whitman

Is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) a rare and exotic disease? No, on most clinic days, I see at least one person with BPPV, and often, I see several. For some, BPPV is a minor annoyance. For others, it’s a nightmare of dizziness, loss of balance, nausea, and inability to work or participate in family activities.

BPPV is a disorder causing brief, sometimes terrifying sensations of movement -- of the environment or the patient -- when in fact, there is no movement.

BPPV occurs, when one or more motion sensing, calcium-based crystals called otoconia break down and dislodge from the inner ear utricle. Otoconia begin as normal elements giving weight to the utricle, helping it sense acceleration and/or gravity.

When otoconia break down, the resultant debris floats freely, in the fluid of the inner ear -- think “snow in a snow globe.” Then, debris may float into one of the inner ear’s rotation sensors, known as semicircular canals. These canals are fluid filled tubes sensing fluid flow with the slightest head movements. Using the analogy of snow in a snow globe, if you have snow floating in a semicircular canal, head movements may produce violent sensations of spinning. This can happen when lying down, getting out of bed, turning in bed, or looking up.

So, with that preamble, here are 10 things you should know about positional vertigo:

1. If you woke up with vertigo, it is likely you have BPPV.

2. If you have vertigo that comes on when you lie down, it is likely you have BPPV.

3. If you have had more than 2 episodes of severe vertigo, there’s a strong possibility you have BPPV, though your doctor should also think about other inner ear diseases, as well as migraine and stroke.

4. If you have BPPV in both ears, it will almost certainly throw off your balance.

5. If you have a past history of migraine and develop BPPV, you may notice an increase in headaches or light sensitivity. These symptoms will likely decrease after the BPPV has been successfully treated.

6. After BPPV has been treated, it’s a good idea for the doctor to ensure that dizziness, imbalance and related symptoms resolve-- if not, there is more work to be done.

7. If your vertigo makes you nauseated, and you do not have any vestibular tests planned, you may want to ask your doctor if it would be all right to take a medication for vertigo, 30 minutes before your appointment. This can make BPPV treatment much more comfortable.

8. Curing a bout of BPPV can require persistence. Doctors always talk about the “easy” cases, miraculously cured on the first visit. However, I have seen patients who needed treatment on 10 different days in one month to finally clear the symptoms.

9. Another version of Rule 8: if you’ve “had BPPV for a year” or more, it’s likely you haven’t been treated enough.

10. In some cases, BPPV follows a previous inner ear infection that has damaged the inner ear and/or vestibular nerve. If this is the case, and if you still have symptoms after successful treatment of BPPV, the best treatment may be vestibular physical therapy, intended to train the ear and brain to work well together.

-- Gregory T. Whitman, M.D. (Otoneurology)

Disclaimer: If you are dizzy, you should see a physician. I consider new vertigo an emergency, until proven otherwise. Though BPPV is often initially diagnosed as possible stroke, it is also true that stroke and other serious conditions may be initially diagnosed as BPPV. Judgment and medical expertise are needed to get the diagnosis right. Dr. Whitman specializes in otoneurology and dizziness disorders.

June 4, 2014
Inside the Tillotson Laboratory for Cell Biology . . .

The road to improving quality of life for our patients has many stops along the way, from basic science investigations that help us understand how the body works to the exceptional patient care delivered through successful treatment. In the Neil and Louise Tillotson Laboratory for Cell Biology of the Inner Ear, directed by Albert Edge, Ph.D., researchers hope to soon pave the way from basic science to treatment for human deafness.

Judith Kempfle at microscope.
Judith Kempfle: Working hard at a microscope.

Researchers in this lab -- one of the largest in a collection of hearing research labs at Mass. Eye and Ear called the Eaton-Peabody Laboratories -- primarily focus on hair cell loss and regeneration. Hair cells are tiny sensory cells found in a part of the ear known as the cochlea. The most common form of hearing loss, sensorineural, is caused by the loss of these cells.

Currently, there is no known treatment to restore hearing in deaf humans, because mammalian hair cells do not regenerate once they are lost. They do, however, regenerate in birds and fish, and in neonatal mice. Dr. Edge and his colleagues are working to find ways to regenerate hair cells in adult mammals. More than one year ago, they took a big step forward.

In January 2014, Dr. Edge and colleagues from Mass. Eye and Ear and Harvard Medical School showed for the first time that hair cells can be regenerated in an adult mammalian ear by using a drug to stimulate resident cells to become new hair cells, resulting in partial recovery of hearing in mouse ears damaged by noise trauma.

Will McLean at bench.
Will McLean looks at tissue samples.

The finding holds great potential for future therapeutic application that may someday reverse deafness in humans.

I recently followed Judith Kempfle, M.D., a postdoctoral research fellow, and Will McLean, a graduate student, around the lab to see them in action.

Judith has been working in the laboratory on and off since 2008. She is currently completing her otolaryngology residency in Germany, while also completing a postdoctoral research fellowship at Mass. Eye and Ear. Will is a graduate student in the Harvard-MIT Program in Speech and Hearing Bioscience and Technology.

Much of their day-to-day activities involve growing hair cells by treating tissue samples with different agents.

Their work is all part of an overarching goal of this institution to find successful treatments for human deafness.

-- Suzanne Day (Publications Manager, Department of Otolaryngology)

June 2, 2014
Restoring Vision . . . And Lives

What do you say to the team of doctors who saved your vision, not once but twice?

Dr. Jim Chodosh, Dr. Claes Dohlman and a grateful patient

"Hello doc(s), so great to see you," is just one possible response.

A grateful patient, Lou, recently answered that question in front of a spellbound audience at the Boston Harbor Hotel. Lou shared his story with a group of the hospital's most generous friends at our annual Founders' Day Luncheon. His vision was restored by the use of a special device created at Mass. Eye and Ear called the Boston K-Pro.

"The restoration of one’s vision is like being reborn," said Lou, pictured in the middle. "To see clearly after five long years is beyond description."

Later, Lou described how Drs. Jim Chodosh (pictured at left) and Claes Dohlman (far right) restored more than his vision -- they restored his life, and the lives of those who loved him.

Lou's story is so inspiring that we want to share it with you in its entirety. Thank you, Lou, for an inspiring talk. We hope to see you soon.

-- Mary Leach (Public Affairs)

May 29, 2014
A Breath of Fresh Air . . .

Juan with mom

Every breath that Juan takes is proof that Operation Airway works.

Dr. Christopher Hartnick and his team's just published a paper shows that they run the first sustainable, multidisciplinary surgical airway medical mission around.

Case in point: Juan's story --

Without physicians and nurses like these, children like Juan will may never, unaided, experience a cool breath of fresh air, something most of us take for granted. Caregivers like these help us all breathe a bit easier.

-- Mary Leach (Public Affairs)

May 27, 2014
Kids Helping Kids . . .

We never cease to be amazed by the generosity of our patients -- no matter how old they are. Case in point: Narissa McGill. Narissa is one of Dr. Tessa Hadlock's "smile surgery" patients.

Born and soon orphaned in China, Narissa's face was paralyzed on one side following a surgery. Her parents saw her photo online and fell in love. They adopted her and brought her home to Massachusetts, where they thought she was perfect. As Narissa grew, she realized that she looked different and wanted to be like other children. A joyful child, she wanted to smile, really smile. Taking a nerve from her leg, Dr. Hadlock made that dream come true. It's a long process, but Narissa's smile is still growing and improving. You can see her story, along with Lydia's story, in this video.

Narissa collecting for Curing Kids Fund.

Narissa helps other kids by collecting for the Curing Kids Fund.

Last year, Narissa was one of our 'cub' reporters at our Sense-ation Gala. You can see her in action in this video. She and the other kids helped us to raise more than $1.1 million for pediatric programs at Mass. Eye and Ear.

This weekend, Narissa decided she wanted to do more. She saw that neighbors were having a busy yard sale, so she put chips and cookies in a basket, soda, juice and water in a cooler, and made a sign. She asked for donations for the Curing Kids Fund as shoppers walked by. Mom reports that a check will be in the mail for $63.56.

Thanks, Narissa, for all that you do for kids at Mass. Eye and Ear. And thank you to all who help make the lives of children a bit brighter. Keep on smiling!

-- Mary Leach (Public Affairs)

May 23, 2014
A Memorial Day Thanks to Our Veterans . . .

Only a 10-minute walk from the hospital, the Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund recently planted a "garden" of 37,000 flags that cascade down the hill from the Boston Common’s Soldiers and Sailors Monument, honoring the approximately 37,000 Massachusetts men and women who have fallen in the service of their country since the American Revolution.

Memorial Day flag garden on Boston Common

As Memorial Day approaches, we thank our staff and patients who have served, and remember those who have fallen while fighting for -- and defending -- our nation's liberty.

While there has been no active combat on U.S. soil since the Civil War, terrorist bombings in the United States have caused terrible trauma in recent decades. In the immediate aftermath of last year's Boston Marathon bombings, Mass. Eye and Ear staff played a key role in the treatment of marathon runners and supporters who suffered war-like ear damage and hearing loss (also known as acoustic trauma).

Never before had Mass. Eye and Ear treated so many acoustic trauma patients in such a short time.

Because blast-trauma patients are rare in this nation, Mass. Eye and Ear Drs. Alicia Quesnel and Daniel Lee, both of the Otology and Neurotology Division, and Dr. Aaron Remenschneider, a chief resident in Otolaryngology, are leading a three-year study that will follow more than 130 marathon ear-injury patients as they receive ongoing long-term care at Mass. Eye and Ear and other Boston hospitals.

“We realized in the course of taking care of these patients that there are some unanswered questions regarding how to best treat ear injuries related to a bombing,” Dr. Quesnel told Harvard Medical School last summer. “Some is known from the military literature, but it hasn’t really been studied in this way previously.”

We hope that the knowledge gained from this study will translate to better treatment for those who suffer acoustic trauma, especially veterans who experience combat-related injuries.

Learn more about the study on the Harvard Medical School website.

-- Joe O'Shea (Public Affairs)

May 20, 2014
Honors Abound . . .

Drs. Joan Miller and Pat D'Amore

Mass. Eye and Ear clinicians and researchers improve the quality of so many people's lives that its not surprising that they are honored for their efforts. What is unusual is when two of our staff receive top honors from the same organization on the same evening.

Congratulations to Drs. Joan W. Miller (at left in picture) and Patrica D'Amore for being awarded two of the Association for Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO)'s top honors at last week's annual meeting. Their contributions to ophthalmology clinical care and research are incredible so far -- we can't wait to see what their futures bring!

Read more about their awards here.

-- Mary Leach (Public Affairs)

May 19, 2014
With a Little Help from Our Friends . . .

Just about every good thing that happens at Mass. Eye and Ear is the result of a team effort. These dolls are just one example.

trach teaching dolls with cliniciansThanks to the help of many friends, our pediatric unit now has a new supply of ethnically diverse dolls outfitted with tracheostomy and feeding tubes. The dolls will be used teach parents (and families, including older siblings) how to perform the complex treatment that is needed by children with airway issues.

Mass. Eye and Ear has been using dolls as a teaching tool for years, but the supply was dwindling, even as the number of children with airway issues, mainly due to premature or multiple births, has increased. And the dolls we had on hand really weren’t representative of our patient population.

In steps nurse/social worker Kevin Callans, who identified the need and found a funding source: the Curing Kids Fund. The Curing Kids Fund is the beneficiary of generous gifts made at Mass. Eye and Ear’s annual Sense-ation! Gala. But purchasing dolls was not enough; they had to be “tweaked” to be outfitted with trachs and G tubes to become effective tools.

Enter Jack Gurnon. Jack has lived and/or worked around the corner from Mass. Eye and Ear for most of his life. As owner of Beacon Hill’s only hardware store, many of our employees know Jack from their quick trips in after work for supplies. It was natural that Kevin turn to Jack for help with her project. Using his handy tools, Jack drilled appropriately sized holes to allow the infant-sized medical equipment to be inserted.

Now children with airway issues can learn to breathe a bit easier -- thanks to a little help from our friends.

Pictured above, left to right: Mass. Eye and Ear Social Worker Kevin Callans, Owner of Charles Street Supply Jack Gurnon, Mass. Eye and Ear Child Life Specialist Ashley Hoyt, and Pediatric Unit Nurse Manager Carlene Blais.

-- Mary Leach (Public Affairs)

May 16, 2014
"So the Deaf May Hear . . ."

Extraordinary things happen on the second floor in Audiology every day.

Team Elise

Seniors get the hearing aids they need to hear their grandchildren laugh again. Fathers learn that their ear surgery worked -- and they now can hear. Mothers cry as children born profoundly deaf have their cochlear implants turned on and hear their parents' voices for the first time. Miracles happen in Audiology every day, but we aren't often there to witness them. Yesterday, we had the honor of sharing Elise's Hearing Day -- and we still can't stop smiling (and crying!).

Elise hearingBorn completely deaf to Jill and Jason, a lovely couple from Austin, Texas, Elise made hearing history when at age 1 she became the youngest child in the United States to receive an auditory brainstem implant (ABI). Dr. Daniel Lee and a team of surgeons at Mass. General implanted the ABI, which can help those who aren't candidates for cochlear implants experience sound. Elise's device was turned on yesterday - and she could hear! You can watch her hear for the very first time in this video.

Jill and Jason arrived wearing "Team Elise" t-shirts on this very special day. The audiologists, doctors and other staff wore white coats or scrubs, but it was clear that everyone in the room was part of Team Elise.

Elise her parents and Dr. Dan Lee. ABI activationWe are so grateful to have been part of this special day in this place where the Latin words in our hospital seal are not just words . . . "So the blind may see, and the deaf may hear."

It doesn't get any better than that!

You can read more about Elise's journey in her parents' blog.

-- Mary Leach (Public Affairs)

May 14, 2014
Things That Make Us Smile . . .

Drs. Dan Lee and Ben Bleier

The operating room is a sunny place, even at 8 on a cold, damp and kind-of-gray morning. We had the opportunity to stop by the ambulatory surgery floor recently and were struck by the hustle and bustle -- and by how happy everyone seemed to be, from doctors, to nurses, to orderlies -- even patients.

When we thought about it for a minute, it seemed obvious: why not smile? The OR is the place where many people start on their journey to feeling better, and the people who staff this well-oiled machine must feel good about the difference they are making in so many lives.

No wonder Drs. Daniel Lee (at left in photo) and Ben Bleier are smiling . . . they have a lot to smile about.

-- Mary Leach (Public Affairs)

May 13, 2014
26.2 miles is Wicked Fah . . .

When 102 individuals join forces, what a huge difference they can make! Team Eye and Ear reached a new milestone this week as it passed the $801,000 fundraising mark.

2014 Team Eye and Ear

Training for and running 26.2 miles is a daunting enough task alone, but when you combine the need to ask friends and family to support your run financially -- now that's a huge commitment. Team Eye and Ear was clearly up to the task.

The runners come from all backgrounds and experience levels. Some are our doctors, nurses and technicians. Others are patients whose lives were changed by the care provided here. Many are the parents and children of patients who have been helped. All have the same thing in common: the drive to do good -- and to get some exercise!

26.2 is wicked far logo for Team Eye and EarWe're proud of Team Eye and Ear and grateful for each member and his or her sacrifices. 26.2 miles is wicked fah...but you made it!

Hats off to Team Eye and Ear -- you are Boston Strong and Mass. Eye and Ear STRONG!

-- Mary Leach (Public Affairs)

May 12, 2014
Well, Hello, Harvey!

Bulldog Harvey visits Ophthalmology labThe scientists around here are smart people. Most of them have M.D.s or Ph.D.s from big-name universities and spend years learning how to take an idea, prove it in the lab, then translate it into a clinical application that helps people live better lives. They know how to take what is basically nothing and make it magic. We are sometimes (often) humbled by them.

Scientists around here are also just people, too. We were reminded of this when we were in Peter Bex's lab at Schepens for a recent photo shoot.

It was late on a Friday afternoon and Dr. Bex was enthusiastically sharing his opinion of a new technology with a local TV station when the the lab got a really (doggy) treat. Harvey, a French bulldog, stopped by to visit investigator Emily Weicek.

Although they were busy, the researchers (and camera crew and PR staff) all took a break to say hello and give Harvey a pat. The smiles on all of their faces were almost as wide as on Emily's.

Rumor has it that Harvey will be stopping by the lab to say hello again soon. We may do just the same!

-- Mary Leach (Public Affairs)

May 8, 2014
Let Them Eat Cake

Nurses Week has to be one of our favorite weeks of the year because it's our chance to take good care of those who care so well for so many others.

chair massage for nurse week.

Congrats Nurses cake for Nurses WeekWhether the Nurses Week schedule calls for a special dessert, a zumba lesson, or a seated chair massage, this is our time to say thank you.

Let them eat cake on Nurses Week -- they deserve it!

-- Mary Leach (Public Affairs)

May 7, 2014
Collaboration and Caring

Noah is one cute kid -- and he's also the inspiration for a new software concept that may save eyes and lives.

Noah as a cowboy headshotWe first met him after reading about him on his mom's blog and reaching out to the family to see if we could stop by and say hello the next time he was at Mass. Eye and Ear. Noah was 2 and full of energy in the waiting room of Dr. Shizou Mukai's office on the 12th floor in the Retina Clinic. Noah and his parents lived across the river in Cambridge at the time and they were at an every-six-month check up to see if the tumors in Noah's eye had changed and he needed more drastic treatment. The clinic that day -- like most days -- was filled with children like Noah, most with retinoblastoma, which is a rare form of eye cancer. Thankfully Noah got good news that visit.

Fast forward a few years later. Noah and his family had moved to Texas, where his father was a professor at Baylor University. We'd kept track of Noah through his parents' faithful blog updates. We happily watched him grow, thrive and even learn how to play the piano.

Noah as a cowboy in TexasLast fall we received word from Dr. Mukai about an interesting paper that he and the parents of one of his patients had co-authored. They discovered a new way of using digital photography to identify the signs of retinoblastoma earlier, an approach that could lead to earlier treatment to save children's vision. This was great news -- but we were even more excited when we learned the parents belonged to Noah!

National Public Radio learned about this unique collaboration between parent and physician and decided to make it a spotlight story. They featured Noah's story in two parts that can be heard here.

We're grateful to work in an environment where no ideas are bad ideas and where connections can lead to lasting relationships and discoveries that will result in better lives for children in the future. Considering all the good that may come from this discovery makes us want crack a smile as big as the state of Texas!

-- Mary Leach, Public Affairs
(with special thanks to Elizabeth Shaw for the lovely photos)

May 6, 2014
Dedication, Even on a Sunny Spring Saturday

Last Saturday was one of the first sunny weekend days in Boston this season. While residents of Beacon Hill took their morning jog along the Charles River or sipped their lattes at Starbucks, there was an entirely different scene in the Meltzer Auditorium at Mass. Eye and Ear.

Sinus docs from public forum

Our Sinus Center team, (left to right) Drs. Nicolas BuSaba, Benjamin Bleier, Stacey Gray and Eric Holbrook, gathered for their seventh year to give an extensive public forum on all things sinus: Know Your Nose. The lectures were part of the hospital's community benefits program, which aims to educate and inform our community so members can live healthier lives.

The audience was small, as one might expect on that rare spring day, but these Harvard Medical School-affiliated physicians' smiles did not fade and their enthusiasm for the topic did not dim. The caliber of these talk was evident by the intelligent and inquisitive questions offered by the audience. Twenty people or 200...the number didn't seem to matter to this cadre of teachers or students.

Sinus staff members at public forum

What may be even more telling is the assemblage of Mass. Eye and Ear nurses and medical staff assistants in the audience.

(shown from left to right): Van Le, Medical Assistant, Allison Casella, R.N., Linda Sheehan R.N. and in the back row, Debbie Clain, ENT Operations manager.

Although not required to attend, they joined our sinus center team to learn as much as they could to help their patients. And all involved had big smiles on their faces.

On this Nurses Week celebrate the dedication of our nurses and all staff who go above beyond to learn as much as they can to help our patients -- even on Saturday mornings!

-- Mary Leach (Public Affairs)

May 5, 2014
Many Differences, One Goal

Nurses come in many shapes and sizes, from different backgrounds and genders, but they all share one thing: the desire to provide the most compassionate care possible to our patients.

Caregiver and patient at longwoodOn this first day of National Nurses Week, we celebrate our nurses and the entire team of caregivers who aim to provide the highest quality, compassionate care this week and every week.

Their efforts were eloquently described in a recent card that was sent to the entire to the team -- nurses and other caregivers -- at Mass. Eye and Ear, Longwood.

"The efficiency and marvelous manner extended to me was phenomenal. Never before have I experienced meeting a medical team so unique. When leaving, my daughter commented:'If I ever, I am coming here.'" -- Handwritten note in a card

The printed sentiment in the card really said it all: "Thoughtful people like you all are very special indeed."

All of our nurses are special -- and if there is ever anything that we can do to help make your visit to Mass. Eye and Ear better, please do not hesitate to let us know.

-- Mary Leach, Public Affairs

May 2, 2014
Small Kindnesses Make a Huge Difference

It’s the little things that make a difference to patients: a warm blanket, a kind smile, the knowledge that you are not alone, even if you are in the hospital hundreds of miles away from home.

We receive many letters about the competent and kind care of our nurses, but one addressed to a nurse on the 11th floor adult inpatient unit stands out.

Nurse Amy on pedi floorMatt,
I certainly appreciate your care and concern during my stay in the hospital. The entire staff did a great job by me. It is a most difficult job, reassurance and comfort are not commodities. There are
so many to thank.. Marilyn, Carol, Liz, Marianne, Mitch, Jackie…please let them know I appreciate the team.– Letter from patient

All of the nurses mentioned in this kind note are exceptional, but they are just a few of many outstanding nurses at Mass. Eye and Ear. Reassurance and comfort aren’t commodities, but they are in great supply on our inpatient and clinical care floors.

Next week is National Nurses Week. This is the time to recognize the professionalism, commitment to excellence and dedication of nurses everywhere. The theme of National Nurses Week is Nurses Leading the Way. Join us in celebrating nurses embracing new technologies, resolving issues, and accepting ever-changing roles in their profession.

Our nurses lead the way for their patients, colleagues, organizations and the health care profession as a whole. We are proud to celebrate the difference they make in patients’ lives – both big and small – on National Nurses’ Week and every week.

-- Mary Leach, Public Affairs

May 1, 2014
The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

This tired saying seems especially true at Mass. Eye and Ear on a rainy Thursday, the day of the week now commonly known as "#ThrowBackThursday."The first Mass. Eye and Ear Infirmary

The photograph above from our archives shows one of Mass. Eye and Ear's early buildings. What began in 1824 as a one-room eye clinic in the Beacon Hill area of Boston has now grown to 13 locations all over eastern Massachusetts.

Our physical space has changed since our founding fathers Drs. John Jeffries and Edward Reynolds first set up shop with the goal of treating Boston's needy. But doctors' and nurses' commitment to providing the finest specialty care never waivered.

This is our vision:
Massachusetts Eye and Ear will be the preeminent world-wide source of advances and leaders in preserving and restoring vision, hearing, balance and voice, as well as in curing disorders of the head and neck.

We are working hard to help patients on this rather dreary day in Boston. It is raw outside but our doctors, nurses and researchers are warm and snug in inside -- in whichever Mass. Eye and Ear building they happen to be in -- with the knowledge that they are here to help.

-- Mary Leach, Public Affairs

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