Meet a Specialist: Jia Yin, MD, PhD

Headshot of Dr. Jia YinDr. Jia Yin got her first pair of eyeglasses in middle school. It was an experience she’ll never forget. “I could finally see clearly—the glasses changed the way I saw the world,” she says. From then on, her annual eye exams became something to look forward to, and she quickly developed an interest in medicine.

By the time she entered medical school, Dr. Yin had fallen in love with ophthalmology. “It’s a wonderful combination of medicine and surgery. And although the eye is a small organ, you can have a big impact on a patient’s life,” she says.

Cornea Specialist

Dr. Yin is a member of the Cornea and Refractive Surgery Service at Mass. Eye and Ear. In addition to performing cataract surgery and vision-correction surgeries (like LASIK), she also treats the full spectrum of conditions that affect the cornea—the outer layer of the eye that plays an important role in focusing vision. She most commonly sees patients with dry eye disease, cataracts, eye infections, trauma, corneal edema, corneal dystrophies, and an abnormal growth on the eye called pterygium. She also specializes in several corneal transplantation techniques, including full- and partial-thickness procedures.

Enhancing Patients’ Quality of Life

“My specialty area is tremendously rewarding. Whether I’m performing a corneal transplantation or LASIK surgery, patients are typically very satisfied after surgery. I feel like I’m making a real impact on their quality of life,” says Dr. Yin.

For instance, she remembers helping one patient who relied on his sight as a way to communicate. This particular patient had a progressive neurodegenerative disease, known as ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease). The only muscle movement he had left was in his eyes, which was how he communicated with his family. However, severe corneal ulcers and cataracts left him blind in both eyes.

“The patient was turned away by many outside ophthalmologists because of his advanced ALS. But at Mass. Eye and Ear, we were able to safely and successfully perform a corneal transplantation and cataract removal,” Dr. Yin explains. “After surgery, his wife was in tears telling me that she could finally see her husband’s blue eyes again after nearly two years of cloudy corneas. He was able to see his grandchildren again and use his eyes to tell them how much he loved them,” Dr. Yin says.

Research Aims to Advance Patient Care

In an effort to enhance treatment options for her patients, Dr. Yin is involved in several research projects. She is particularly interested in how nerve loss and abnormal blood vessel growth in the cornea cause the cornea to become cloudy. She hopes this research will ultimately translate into new treatment and prevention strategies for blinding conditions.

A Mentor to Future Leaders in the Field

Dr. Yin is also a Harvard Ophthalmology faculty member. In addition to presenting lectures on corneal diseases, she also supervises residents in the clinic and mentors research fellows in the laboratory. “I enjoy the interactive and bi-directional nature of teaching the most. Discussion sparks curiosity and novel ideas, and I’m excited to help inspire future leaders in the field.”

View Dr. Yin’s online profile

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