Meet a Specialist: Carolyn Kloek, M.D.

KloekDr. Carolyn Kloek cares for patients with a wide range of eye disorders, but she is particularly fascinated by the treatment of cataracts. “Performing cataract surgery is incredibly satisfying,” she explains. “Even though I perform cataract surgery all the time, the feeling of being able to dramatically improve a patient’s quality of life is always wonderful,” she says.

Dr. Kloek’s passion for her work dates back to her days as a Harvard Medical School student. During that time, her great uncle had cataract surgery, and she remembers being impressed with the “amazing” results.

“The surgery was life-changing for him,” Dr. Kloek recalls. “Activities that were once problematic for him—such as reading and driving—suddenly became a lot easier.” Seeing the transformation in his life was one of many factors that inspired Dr. Kloek to become an ophthalmologist.

Comprehensive Eye Care

Today, Dr. Kloek is Clinical Director of Ophthalmology at Mass. Eye and Ear, Longwood and Chief of the Division of Ophthalmology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. As a member of the Comprehensive Ophthalmology and Cataract Service at Mass. Eye and Ear, much of her clinical practice is devoted to providing medical and surgical care for patients with cataracts. But she also performs routine eye exams and provides care for a variety of other common eye conditions, such as glaucoma, conjunctivitis (pink eye), dry eye, diabetic eye diseases, and age-related macular degeneration.

According to Dr. Kloek, involving patients in the decision-making process about their care is essential. This is particularly true when deciding about the timing of cataract surgery, or even whether or not to proceed with surgery at all. Often, patients will opt to not have surgery if the cataracts are small and do not significantly impair vision. But not every case is the same.

For instance, Dr. Kloek remembers one patient who was in the early stages of cataracts. At first, urgent surgery did not seem necessary because the patient’s vision was still good. But once Dr. Kloek found out that the patient was a pilot and required the best possible vision, they decided to proceed with the surgery. The patient was thrilled with the results, and he was able to continue flying.

Generous Teacher and Mentor

In addition to providing top-notch patient care, Dr. Kloek is passionately committed to teaching. As Director of the Harvard Ophthalmology Residency Training Program, she develops and implements innovative tools and training methods to enhance ophthalmic education. Under her leadership, the program has experienced an increase in the number of surgeries performed by residents.

She is also a preceptor to medical students and teaches residents in the clinic and the operating room. Helping trainees build and refine their skills is exciting, Dr. Kloek says. In 2008, she was awarded the department’s prestigious Teacher of the Year Award for her outstanding mentoring skills and contributions to medical education.

Research Aims to Advance Medical Education

Not surprisingly, Dr. Kloek’s research is mainly focused on advancing medical education. In particular, her research led to an innovative approach to cataract training, in which residents are introduced to the procedure earlier in the program through a series of progressive training modules. She was also a vital member of the team that developed the Mass. Eye and Ear Cataract Master™—an interactive computer program for teaching cataract surgery, which is now available to residency programs worldwide. And she helped develop an online ophthalmology curriculum for medical students.

As a devoted clinician and medical educator, Dr. Kloek is convinced that improving the quality of ophthalmic education is one of the best ways to improve eye care. “The teaching process leads to a more thoughtful treatment process,” she notes, “and that enables the best possible care for patients.”

View Dr. Kloek's online bio for more information.

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