Meet a Specialist: Teresa C. Chen, MD
Sitting in a New York City ophthalmology waiting room as a teenager, a young Teresa surveyed the room and noticed the many individuals with eye problems. While she waited for the doctor to update her glasses, she thought about a future career in which she could help people. From that experience and others, her path in life became clear: she would pursue ophthalmology training and help people by giving them the gift of sight.
Today, Dr. Chen is a full-time member of the Glaucoma Service and specializes in treating glaucoma in both adults and children. Glaucoma, an eye disease in which the optic nerve can be damaged severely, is the second-leading cause of blindness after cataracts and the leading cause of irreversible blindness in the world. Often called the "silent thief of sight" because vision loss often occurs gradually over a long period of time, glaucoma produces symptoms only when the disease is quite advanced. Unfortunately, vision, once lost, cannot be recovered, so treatment is aimed at preventing further loss.
“Because I treat patients with glaucoma, I tend to see them every four months for follow-up care. Sometimes, the whole family comes to support the patient, so I have the privilege of really getting to know each person,” noted Dr. Chen. “Helping my patients to preserve their vision and better enjoy their remaining vision is very rewarding.”
Dr. Chen recalled one patient—a young teenage athlete—who came to her with juvenile open angle glaucoma. The patient already had lost sight in one eye because the glaucoma had irreversibly clouded her vision to the point where she could not see images anymore, only light. To prevent vision loss in the patient’s other healthy eye, Dr. Chen performed a trabeculectomy, which prevented the glaucoma from worsening and enabled the patient to stop all her glaucoma medications. “I was truly inspired by this patient,” Dr. Chen reflected. “Her great maturity was simply outstanding, and I was so glad to be a part of her being able to be back out playing sports again.”
Glaucoma has no known cure, and Dr. Chen’s research interests include investigating new imaging technologies that will enable physicians to diagnosis the disease sooner and to have a more sensitive tool that better detects disease progression. Dr. Chen was the leader for the initial clinical studies that evaluated spectral domain optical coherence tomography (OCT) for glaucoma care as well as swept source imaging while working with Johannes de Boer, PhD of Massachusetts General Hospital. She continues to collaborate with him and other researchers at Mass General.
As the Chief Quality Officer for Ophthalmology at Mass. Eye and Ear, Dr. Chen also is involved with making sure the quality of care at Mass. Eye and Ear is excellent. “Our hospital is one of the first to objectively evaluate the quality of eye care and to make this information available to the healthcare community and the public,” she explained. “This information also shows us where we excel and motivates us to improve in other areas.” Click here to read Mass. Eye and Ear's 2012 Quality and Outcomes Report.
Dr. Chen graduated number one from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute-Albany Medical College’s Six-Year Accelerated Medical Program in 1993, and subsequently completed a residency in ophthalmology at the University of Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary. She then completed a fellowship in glaucoma at Mass. Eye and Ear. She is currently the President of the Chandler-Grant Glaucoma Society, which is the Harvard Medical School glaucoma fellowship alumni society. As a part of her presidency, Dr. Chen organized a 2013 glaucoma symposium which was held at Mass Eye and Ear and which featured international speakers who seek to integrate research and clinical disciplines that will aid in the prevention of blindness from glaucoma.
As an Associate Professor of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Chen is grateful to continue giving back to the community by teaching medical students, resident and fellows. She shares her in-depth glaucoma knowledge around the world through her glaucoma book entitled, Glaucoma Surgery, which is published by Elsevier.
Contact Dr. Chen’s office at 617-573-3670.
View Dr. Chen’s online bio for more information.