Meet a Specialist: Dr. Han-Ying Peggy Chang
A specialist in corneal and external diseases as well as comprehensive ophthalmology, Dr. Han-Ying Peggy Chang originally planned to become a computer scientist.
“Our family moved here from Taiwan so that my dad could complete his PhD in computer science,” she explains. “And he used to give my brother and me fun brain teasers and puzzles to teach us logic. We would compete at the dinner table to solve them! By the time I was in junior high school, my dad was teaching me how to program.”
After earning an undergraduate degree at Northwestern University in Computing and Information Systems, she worked as a programmer for an investment bank in Chicago, and was planning to return to school for her PhD. But an encounter with a group of blind youngsters prompted Dr. Chang to apply instead to medical school.
“My parents hosted a group of teenagers who had come to participate in a Beep Baseball Tournament,” she recalls. Played in Asia and some parts of the United States, the game offers blind and low-vision youth a version of baseball built around sound signals–or beeps–that help the players run toward soft-object bases.
“It was my first experience with blind people,” she says. “And in getting to know some of those teens, I came to understand that, for many, their loss of vision at a young age might have been prevented–or at least, mitigated–had it been diagnosed earlier.”
She recalls one youngster’s story in particular. “In Taiwan, parents and teachers are very strict. And this boy was punished frequently because he wasn’t doing well in school. What no one realized was that he was slowly losing his vision to glaucoma, an insidious disease that often causes no symptoms until the person suffers irreversible vision loss. By the time they discovered that he had the disease it was too late to treat. ”
“Those kids changed everything for me,” she says. “After that, I decided I wanted to become an ophthalmologist. That’s the reason I went to medical school.”
Dr. Chang completed her medical training at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and her residency with the Harvard Medical School Department of Ophthalmology Residency Training Program. She followed this with sub-specialty training in Cornea, External Disease, and Refractive Surgery at Mass. Eye and Ear where she served as Chief Clinical Fellow in the Cornea Service. Today a full-time ophthalmologist at Mass. Eye and Ear, Dr. Chang divides her time between the Comprehensive Ophthalmology Service and the Cornea and Refractive Surgery Service.
In addition to caring for patients in the comprehensive ophthalmology setting, Dr. Chang’s clinical interests include cataract surgery, corneal disease and surgery, laser vision correction, and refractive surgery. Given her information technology background it is no surprise that Dr. Chang’s research interests include bioinformatics (developing software tools that help store, retrieve and analyze biological data) and the development of enhanced electronic patient medical record systems.
One aspect of ophthalmology that Dr. Chang particularly enjoys is diagnostic problem-solving. “I love the thought process that goes into making a differential diagnosis where you systematically narrow down the cause of a patient’s disease. It requires consolidating a lot of different data and, for me, that involves the kind of logical process that I’ve gravitated towards since my childhood.”
Perhaps most gratifying, Dr. Chang adds, is that in ophthalmology, the diagnosis often provides the basis for a plan of action–a type of treatment–that can help the patient. “That’s important to me,” she says. “You may not always be able to cure the patient. But there are many situations today where we have the surgical or medical options necessary to help patients maximize their vision.”
Contact Dr. Chang’s office at 617-573-3202
View Dr. Chang’s online bio for more information.