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!

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.

Millers
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 "Simply for Sight"
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.

BrittanyWilliams_AshleyHickey
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.

egg

 

“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 "Amazing Grace" for a patient and his family.
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 greg_donnelly@meei.harvard.edu 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. To 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 www.linkedin.com/company/mass-eye-and-ear. 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 joseph_oshea@meei.harvard.edu.

-- 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.

ss
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.

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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 www.bostonabcd.org.

-- 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 T-shirt...how 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 mwentworth@partners.org.

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 -- http://www.masseyeandear.org/specialties/pediatrics/pediatric-ent/airway/OperationAirway/PatientStories/Juan/

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 need...surgery, 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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