Meet a Specialist: Hajirah N. Saeed, M.D.
Hajirah Saeed, MD, was on a medical mission in Kenya when she discovered her passion for ophthalmology. As a medical student, she worked in underserved communities in Nairobi, where she performed free eye exams and managed refractive error and diseases on the surface of the eye. “Many people were able to see clearly for the first time, and their lives changed instantly. That’s when I realized I could have a tremendous impact on a patient’s quality of life by practicing ophthalmology,” she said.
Today, as a member of the Cornea and Refractive Surgery Service at Mass. Eye and Ear, Dr. Saeed performs vision correction surgery and cares for patients with diseases that affect the cornea—the transparent layer that covers the front of the eye. She has specialized expertise in burns, herpetic disease, artificial cornea transplantations, tumors on the outer surface of the eye, and pediatric corneal conditions.
“I chose to specialize in these areas to fill an unmet need in the Boston area. Many of my patients, especially children and those with burns, require highly specialized care that is not always readily available. Although poor vision and other debilitating symptoms can be improved dramatically with appropriate care, not many ophthalmologists specialize in these conditions because they can become complicated quickly. I am fortunate that the resources and team available to me at Mass. Eye and Ear and Boston Children’s Hospital are unparalleled, allowing me to fully engage in this work. It really brings me great joy to be able to help these patients,” she said.
Dr. Saeed remembers one particularly rewarding experience with a young, but brave patient. A five-year-old boy was in the intensive care unit with Stevens-Johnson syndrome/toxic epidermal necrolysis (SJS/TEN)—a rare but serious condition that results in burn-like injuries on the body, including the eyes. “It was heartbreaking to see such a young child go through something so painful. We placed a specially processed tissue on his eyes to prevent damage, and he was incredibly brave through all the treatments and did very well. Now, he gives me a hug, a kiss, and a high five every time he sees me in the clinic,” Dr. Saeed said.
Committed to improving patient care, Dr. Saeed hopes to learn more about the underlying cause of SJS/TEN. Although many medications and some viral infections have been linked to the condition, it is still unclear why it occurs in some people but not others. Dr. Saeed is developing a national registry so that she and other researchers can learn more about the causes and potential genetic predispositions linked to the condition. “Our goal is to determine who is at risk for developing SJS/TEN and improve our ability to detect the disease in its earliest stages,” she explained.
In addition to caring for patients and performing research, Dr. Saeed is a dedicated educator who plays an important role in training residents, fellows, and medical students from around the world. “I was fortunate to have brilliant, supportive mentors throughout my career. Now it is my turn to foster innovation and curiosity in the next generation of trainees,” she said.
Contact Dr. Saeed’s office at 617-573-3202.
View Dr. Saeed's online bio for more information.
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