Meet a Specialist: John B. Miller, M.D.

MillerJohn150x208During medical school, Dr. John Miller quickly gravitated toward ophthalmology. The specialty combines everything he loves about medicine, including the ability to develop long-term relationships with patients, while providing both medical and surgical solutions to their visual limitations.

“In medical school, I saw that ophthalmologists can essentially become primary care doctors for the eye,” Dr. Miller explained. “Ophthalmology is one of the few surgical specialties in which the physician can develop extended care relationships with their patients, while also having a direct impact on what many consider the most critical sense—vision.”

Dr. Miller is a member of the Retina Service and Macular Degeneration Unit at Mass. Eye and Ear and the Diabetic Eye Disease Center of Excellence at Harvard Ophthalmology, while also serving as an Instructor of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School. He typically cares for patients with conditions like macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, macular hole, epiretinal membrane, retinal detachment, retinal vein occlusions, trauma, macular telangiectasia, and other complex medical and surgical retinal problems.

Dr. Miller is passionate about helping people and is known among his peers and patients for his friendly and compassionate demeanor. Many of his patients have long-term conditions that require multiple checkups throughout the year, which allows him to develop close relationships with them. “It’s important that my patients have a positive experience. I want to help them gain a better understanding of their conditions because in the long run, it means they will be more likely to follow treatment instructions and achieve better results,” he said.

Because Mass. Eye and Ear is a major national and international referral hospital, Dr. Miller sees many patients with rare and complex conditions and injuries. “Oftentimes, we’re the last stop for patients who have seen multiple doctors without much improvement,” he said. For instance, Dr. Miller recalled a patient who had a hole in the macula—the part of the eye responsible for detailed, central vision. After first undergoing a complicated surgery in New York, she was not optimistic about her condition. But Dr. Miller, who is an expert in vitrectomy and surgical retina techniques, was hopeful that he could help. He was able to successfully close the macular hole and restore her vision. “It was incredibly rewarding to see the patient go from feeling hopeless, discouraged, and frustrated with her condition to feeling pure relief and excitement that her vision was restored and she could return to her daily routine,” Dr. Miller said.

Committed to improving patient care, Dr. Miller is actively engaged in research and serves as the Director of Retinal Imaging. He is particularly interested in new imaging devices that may help diagnose diseases earlier, provide better prognostic information, and improve disease maintenance. He is currently using Swept Source Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) to study a variety of diseases in the back part of the eye, including diabetic changes in the choroid. Compared to traditional imaging technology, Swept Source OCT provides higher resolution images, while also visualizing deeper structures within the eye.  This potentially allows Dr. Miller and his colleagues to identify contributors to retinal disease not previously examined. 

In addition to his retinal diagnostics work, Dr. Miller is also exploring a new device, developed at Schepens Eye Research Institute of Mass. Eye and Ear, to measure an important element of visual function known as contrast sensitivity—which refers to the contrast between objects and their background. Contrast sensitivity can be affected by injuries or alterations of central vision, but it is not measured efficiently or effectively with current technology. “A device like this, which can provide additional visual function measures, may explain why some people can have 20/20 vision on the office chart but still feel that they cannot see well,” Dr. Miller said.

Working with colleagues from the Harvard Ophthalmology Age-related Macular Degeneration Center of Excellence, Dr. Miller is also using imaging technology and looking at markers in the blood to categorize AMD into smaller groups based on disease progression and treatment response. Dr. Miller is hopeful that this work will enable doctors to prescribe more effective and precise treatment plans for age-related macular degeneration in the future.

In addition to patient care and ongoing research projects, Dr. Miller has a large role in Harvard Ophthalmology education.  He currently serves as the Associate Director of the Vitreoretinal Fellowship at Mass. Eye and Ear and Residency Retina Curriculum Advisor. A dedicated teacher and mentor, he plays an important role training ophthalmology residents, fellows, and medical students from across the world. “I love working with the trainees. They are remarkably intelligent and enthusiastic, and it is rewarding to help the future leaders in ophthalmology grow in their careers,” said Dr. Miller. 

Contact Dr. Miller’s office at 617-573-3750.

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

Request an appointment.