Meet a Specialist: Michael Yoon, MD
It was the dexterity and focus required to perform a sonata on the piano or violin that most absorbed Mass. Eye and Ear oculoplastic surgeon, Dr. Michael Yoon, when he was a youngster. “I grew up playing both instruments,” he recalls. “Ten years on each taught me the necessity of constant practice to reach a certain level of musical proficiency. So when I decided to become a surgeon, I had already learned what kind of dedication it might take to develop mastery of even the most complex procedures.”
Today Dr. Yoon’s penchant for precision and artistry is focused on the surgical treatment of disorders arising in the delicate structures around the eye. As a member of Mass. Eye and Ear’s Ophthalmic Plastic Surgery Service, Dr. Yoon treats patients with orbit, eyelid, or tear drainage system dysfunctions. His expertise includes reconstructive and cosmetic eyelid surgery, treatment of orbital tumors and inflammations (such as thyroid eye disease) and treatment for traumatic lacerations and fractures.
Coming to understand each patient’s situation is always Dr. Yoon’s primary concern. “First, and most importantly, every patient is different,” he says. “Finding out how these afflictions affect my patients and their quality of life is the art and challenge of providing great oculoplastic care for each individual. And that’s what I most enjoy.”
By the end of his first year at Albany Medical School, Dr. Yoon knew he wanted to be a surgeon and that treatment of the eye fascinated him. During his ophthalmology residency training at Tufts University School of Medicine, he had the opportunity to work with an oculoplastics group — and he was hooked! The highly collaborative nature of the field was particularly appealing, he recalls. “As an oculoplastic surgeon, you’re always working with many other specialists — otolaryngologists, dermatologists, ENT specialists, neurologists, radiologists, and plastic surgeons. I enjoy that collegial environment.”
Furthering his training, Dr. Yoon completed two fellowships at the University of California, San Francisco. The first was in neuro-ophthalmology and orbital surgery; the second was in ophthalmic plastic and reconstructive surgery. He then joined the Ophthalmic Plastic Surgery Service at Mass. Eye and Ear. “This is a phenomenal institution,” he says. “It’s a worldwide leader in patient care, research, and physician training, so being part of the Mass. Eye and Ear community is really a privilege. In my practice, I am privileged to treat adults and children, and the breadth of resources we can bring to our patients really covers the whole range of medicine, surgery and science.”
According to Dr. Yoon, there are effective surgical solutions to most functional eyelid and orbital disorders. Eyelid malposition and lacrimal dysfunction (which affects the tear drainage system) are by far the most common disorders he treats, usually in adults. Eyelashes that turn in and scratch the eye surface may also pose a risk of infection and can be treated surgically. Many of his young patients require treatment as a result of an injury or trauma, sometimes for fractures of the eye socket, or lacerations or injuries to the eyelids, the facial skin, or other areas adjacent to the eye. “Droopy” eyelids can occasionally be a cosmetic issue, but repair is absolutely necessary when excessive skin around the eyelids blocks vision. While rare in children, this is a serious condition because it can affect normal eye function. “And that can prevent a child’s vision from developing properly,” Dr. Yoon explains. “Pediatricians need to be attuned to this problem so they can properly screen their patients.” Dr. Yoon also treats patients with skin growths, inflammation, or tumors in the orbital area, some of which can be cancerous.
Dr. Yoon’s clinical research is focused on improving the diagnosis and treatment of orbital diseases, including some that involve growths in the eye socket. He also investigates thyroid-related eye disease, which can cause changes in the eye socket that may lead to impaired vision, including double vision or vision loss.
Like his colleagues in the Harvard Medical School Department of Ophthalmology at Mass. Eye and Ear, Dr. Yoon is involved in teaching. Training young ophthalmic surgeons is a mentoring relationship akin to apprenticeship, he notes. Here again, his musical experience offers a valuable perspective. It’s a form of coaching not unlike teaching a student to play an instrument. “You’re not just teaching skill, dexterity, and knowledge. You’re nurturing an emotional connection that, like the student playing music, is so crucial to a physician forming a bond with his patients,” he says. “For me, being a physician means getting to know my patient as well as I can, so that I can provide him or her with the best possible care.”
“But,” he adds, “as a teacher, I also learn from my students. They see things through a slightly different lens. They may notice things about the patient that you didn’t pick up on. Or their questions may prompt you to re-think something. Our academic environment makes everyone a little sharper. In the end, we all perform better because we’re training the next generation of ophthalmologists, and that directly benefits our patients.”
Contact Dr. Yoon’s office at 617-573-5550.
View Dr. Yoon’s online bio for more information.