Meet a Specialist: Mary Beth Aronow, M.D.

Photo of Dr. Mary AronowWhen Dr. Mary Beth Aronow learned how to examine the back part of the eye—known as the retina—she knew she had found her passion. At the time, she was in medical school, working under the mentorship of an eye cancer specialist. “The first conditions I saw through my lens were ocular melanoma and retinoblastoma, and I was fascinated.”

Providing Specialty Eye Care

Today, Dr. Aronow cares for patients with the full spectrum of adult and pediatric eye tumors and medical diseases of the retina at Mass. Eye and Ear’s main campus (243 Charles Street, Boston) and Stoneham–Eye Center (1 Montvale Avenue). Most commonly, she sees patients who have ocular melanoma, retinoblastoma, lymphoma, hemangioma, tuberous sclerosis complex, and von Hippel-Lindau disease.

Eye tumors are rare and can be challenging to diagnose and treat. “At Mass. Eye and Ear, we have the unique expertise and the state-of-the-art technology to make accurate diagnoses and to provide care for the most complex cases,” says Dr. Aronow.

She loves when she is able to exceed her patients’ expectations. “Sometimes when patients come to us, they’ve already seen multiple specialists, and they don’t have much hope. But we can establish the correct diagnosis, provide top-notch treatment, and in some cases, restore or preserve their vision,” she says.

In fact, Dr. Aronow remembers one patient who sought a second opinion for a large eye tumor. A previous doctor had recommended that the eye be surgically removed. Fortunately, Dr. Aronow was able to biopsy the tumor and determined that it was benign. “The patient was able to keep her eye and maintain good vision. I felt that I had a made a big difference for her,” says Dr. Aronow.

Cancer Research Aims to Advance Patient Care

In addition to seeing patients, Dr. Aronow conducts research with the ultimate goal of improving treatment for eye cancers, including uveal melanoma—the most common type of primary intraocular cancer in adults. She is especially interested in finding out what causes certain cancers to spread. She is also trying to identify biological markers that may help doctors predict how patients will respond to medications.

She hopes her work will have broad implications for other types of cancers as well. “As ophthalmologists, our work is central to developing newer therapies for individuals with eye cancer, but I believe that we also have the potential to make discoveries that could positively impact the overall field of oncology,” she says.

Mentoring Future Ophthalmologists

As a Harvard Ophthalmology faculty member, Dr. Aronow also mentors medical students, residents, and clinical fellows. “I love working with trainees. Having the privilege to teach the next generation of clinicians and scientists is an opportunity to leave behind a meaningful legacy.”

View Dr. Aronow’s online profile

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