Meet a Specialist: Lucy H. Y. Young, M.D., Ph.D.
Fluent in Mandarin Chinese, Portuguese, and Spanish, Dr. Lucy Young is a vitreoretinal surgeon with the Retina Service at Mass. Eye and Ear and an authority in the diagnosis and treatment of infectious retinitis. Her clinical practice also includes the treatment of diabetic retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), retinal detachment, ocular trauma, and retinal vascular diseases.
Caring for patients of all ages, including children five years of age and older, Dr. Young offers a unique perspective that comes from growing up in Taiwan and then Brazil, after her parents fled mainland China in 1949. “They had to leave their families behind, so I never met my grandparents,” she says. “There was never money for comforts, but my parents gave us dreams.”
Perhaps because of her family history, Dr. Young says she is particularly attuned to the needs of her most elderly patients. Many have AMD, which requires monthly intravitreal injections to slow the progression of the disease.
“There’s something special about them, and we really bond,” she says, “maybe because I treat them the way I would want my family and my father to be treated.”
After earning her M.D. at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine, Dr. Young earned her Ph.D. at Harvard University, where she studied with Professor John Dowling, a world expert on the neurobiology of the retina. She then completed her Ophthalmology residency at Harvard Medical School (HMS), followed by a vitreoretinal surgery fellowship at Mass. Eye and Ear.
Diabetes-related retinal disease is one of Dr. Young’s chief clinical interests. “Prevention is the best treatment,” she says, “so I try to help patients understand that blood sugar control is essential. Unfortunately, when diabetes is not properly managed, it triggers blood vessel growth and bleeding into the eye’s vitreous cavity that can lead to blindness. In the early stages of retinopathy, however, the patient has no pain and no vision symptoms, so we have to closely monitor these patients.”
Injections of anti-VEGF medications or laser treatment can slow or reverse abnormal blood vessel growth and leakage in the retina, but if abnormal blood vessel growth continues, surgery is the next step. Dr. Young provides patients who reach this stage with the best possible surgical treatment.
Dr. Young is also an expert in the clinical treatment of infectious retinal disease, an area in which she also conducts research. She oversees retinal care for Massachusetts General Hospital’s patients with HIV, whose compromised immune system makes them particularly vulnerable to infections, including infectious retinitis. Today, with antiretroviral therapies, the virus that most commonly caused infectious retinitis in HIV-positive patients two decades ago has been tamed. Now syphilis is much more of a concern, Dr. Young says.
Dr. Young’s research currently focuses on analyzing patient response to a parasitic form of infectious retinitis known as toxoplasmosis. This infection can arise from eating under-cooked meat, drinking contaminated water, or handling of contaminated soil or cat litter. As this disease is fairly common in Brazil, Dr. Young and a Brazilian colleague are undertaking genomic and proteomic analyses to determine the biology of toxoplasmosis and the factors that affect patient susceptibility in hopes of generating better treatments.
An Associate Professor of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Young is deeply committed to the education and mentoring of HMS residents and clinical fellows. She has formally supervised over 70 trainees, many of whom have gone on to faculty positions at HMS and other academic medical centers. Since 2002, she has served as Director of the Lancaster Course in Ophthalmology, the world’s oldest ophthalmic education program, which draws ophthalmology practitioners and trainees worldwide. She also serves as Director of the Altschuler Ophthalmology Surgical Training Laboratory, a state-of-the-art facility designed to bolster residents’ pre-operative surgical training experience.
Having served in many leadership roles at Mass. Eye and Ear since becoming part of its community over 30 years ago, Dr. Young says she cannot imagine working anywhere else. “It’s a culture of communication and collaboration, and I love it,” she says, adding, “We focus on what’s most important – providing the best possible care for all our patients.”
Contact Dr. Young’s office at 617-573-3710.