Meet a Specialist: Reza Dana, M.D., M.Sc., MPH

As a medical student at Johns Hopkins University, Dr. Dana was drawn to ophthalmology for several reasons.DanaReza170x242

“I was working as a student in a transplant immunology lab and became drawn to ophthalmology as a result. I was intrigued that ophthalmology is one of the few medical specialties where you can observe and precisely measure disease pathology directly. You can actually see what’s happening in the tissue, and how inflammation can ravage the eye, and how it responds to medical treatments,” he explained.

Today, Dr. Dana serves as Director of the Cornea and Refractive Surgery Services at Mass. Eye and Ear, where he specializes in corneal and external eye diseases, immunology, and a type of eye inflammation known as uveitis.

Many of his patients have severe corneal inflammation that requires corneal transplantations or specialized treatments with specially formulated medications that alter the immune system.

He treats a variety of autoimmune eye diseases, which occur when the body’s immune system attacks itself. In particular, he treats many people with graft-versus-host-disease (GVHD) of the eye, a common and serious complication in stem cell and bone marrow transplant recipients who have lymphoproliferative and bone marrow disorders such as lymphoma and leukemia. “Because their immune system has been altered as a result of the transplant, there is an increased risk of the immune system attacking the body,” Dr. Dana explained.

In fact, many of Dr. Dana’s most rewarding moments as a clinician have been with patients who have GVHD. “These patients have gone through so much. They’ve had to make multiple life and death decisions about their care, and because they’ve been given a new chance to live, they are among the wisest and most grateful people, not just patients, whom I know,” he said.

Dr. Dana, who is also the Claes Dohlman Professor of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School and a Senior Scientist at Mass. Eye and Ear, is committed to providing state-of-the-art treatment for his patients. An eminent scientist, he conducts research at Mass. Eye and Ear and in his laboratory at Mass. Eye and Ear’s Schepens Eye Research Institute. His work primarily focuses on basic and translational immunology research—he leads dozens of research initiatives that are examining the underlying causes of transplant rejection, dry eye disease, corneal inflammation, and corneal angiogenesis, as well as GVHD outcomes.

Of particular note, Dr. Dana’s research has led to several potential new therapies for inflammatory eye diseases. In fact, several of these therapies have been granted Investigational New Drug applications from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which means they are being studied in humans to determine their safety and effectiveness.

Dr. Dana is also collaborating with the Cornea Center of Excellence Co-director, Ula Jurkunas, MD and researchers from Harvard’s Immune Disease Institute and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute to enhance stem cell transplantations in patients with corneal disorders. The project involves cultivating stem cells out of the eye and then transplanting them into the cornea. “We’re the first center in the country to do this,” Dr. Dana noted, adding that, “Mass. Eye and Ear’s capacity for translational research is second-to-none.”

In addition to his clinical and research responsibilities, Dr. Dana also serves as Vice Chair and Associate Chief of Academic Programs for the Harvard Medical School Department of Ophthalmology. He teaches students and residents in the clinic and classroom; in his laboratory, he has trained nearly 100 postdoctoral fellows and students from more than 30 countries.

Dr. Dana, who has been a member of the full-time Harvard faculty since 1995, considers teaching to be a rewarding and enriching experience, professionally and personally. “Teaching is a bi-directional process. As you teach, you also learn. When your trainees ask questions and challenge you, it becomes an amazing method that fertilizes both ends—both the teacher and the students,” he said.

Contact Dr. Dana’s office at 617-573-4331.

View Dr. Dana’s online bio for more information.

Request an appointment.