As an eye specialist in Mass. Eye and Ear's Retina Service, Dr. Ivana Kim treats common and rare retinal conditions including all of the medical and surgical diseases affecting the vitreous, macula, and retina in patients of all ages. While she employs the most advanced tools in the diagnosis and treatment of macular degeneration and other diseases of the retina, one of the most important instruments she uses as a surgeon is, in fact, her hands. “I have always loved working with my hands… and when I use them to help people see better, and sometimes even cure their vision problems, it is incredibly satisfying,” said Dr. Kim.
Dr. Kim received her medical training at Harvard Medical School (HMS) and deepened her knowledge of the eye as a resident in the HMS Department of Ophthalmology Residency Training Program, and subsequently, as a retina fellow at Mass. Eye and Ear. Dr. Kim joined the department’s Retina Service in 2003 and now maintains a busy clinical practice that focuses on age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and uveal melanoma (cancer of the eye). “I feel fortunate to be practicing ophthalmology at Mass. Eye and Ear,” Dr. Kim commented. “The long-term relationships that I’ve developed with my patients and colleagues over the years make my job very rewarding.”
On the research front, Dr. Kim is very involved with important clinical studies that focus on developing new therapies for AMD, the leading cause of severe, irreversible vision loss in individuals over the age of 50 in Western societies. For example, she was the lead Mass. Eye and Ear researcher for the Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2, a five-year study that evaluated the impact of adding omega-3 fatty acids and lutein and zeaxanthin to the currently recommended nutritional supplements for AMD (vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, zinc).
The study involved more than 4,000 people at 82 clinical sites nationwide. Participants ranged in age from 50 to 85 years who were at risk for advanced AMD. Researchers found that adding omega-3 fatty acids to the currently recommended formulation of supplements (vitamin C, E, beta-carotene, zinc) did not have any added benefit in reducing progression of AMD. However, the results suggested that replacing beta-carotene with lutein and zeaxanthin could be beneficial. According to Dr. Kim, “There is a lot of conflicting information circulating about nutritional supplements and eye disease, so large, randomized trials such as the AREDS studies provide valuable guidance to clinicians on how to advise their patients.”
Dr. Kim’s current research focuses on investigating the genetic risk factors associated with AMD as a means to understand the mechanisms that cause the disease and further refine and advance therapies. In addition, she also is working to improve visual outcomes in patients with ocular melanoma—investigating strategies to reduce radiation complications—and hopes to help improve survival in these patients by studying frequently occurring mutations in this tumor type.
An Associate Professor of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Kim teaches and mentors medical students, residents and fellows. She also co-directs the HMS Department of Ophthalmology AMD Center of Excellence, a multidisciplinary collaboration among HMS clinicians and scientists who are pooling their knowledge and resources with the goal of speeding up advancements and breakthroughs in treatment for patients who suffer from AMD.
Dr. Molly Yancovitz, a dermatology specialist at Mass. Eye and Ear, became interested in medicine very early in life. “My father is a physician, and I remember joining him on rounds at the hospital as a child. He had this amazing ability to be so reassuring with patients; it was very inspiring to witness,” Dr. Yancovitz recalls.
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