Meet a Specialist: Yoshihiro Yonekawa, M.D.

Yonekawa Yoshi 160 x 240When Dr. Yoshihiro Yonekawa was deciding on a career path, his grandfather had some advice: “Do what you love. And make sure you help people.” Dr. Yonekawa took those words to heart, and quickly fell in love with ophthalmology.

Expert Care for Rare and Complex Retinal Disorders

Today, Dr. Yonekawa is a retinal surgeon at Mass. Eye and Ear and Boston Children’s Hospital. Although he cares for patients of all ages, he has unique expertise treating children and infants.

“Pediatric retinal disorders are rare and often require very complex surgeries,” Dr. Yonekawa explains. In children, retinal conditions are typically caused by injuries, developmental anomalies, genetic differences, or premature birth. Because Mass. Eye and Ear doctors see so many patients from around the world, Dr. Yonekawa has vast experience treating the full spectrum of pediatric retina conditions, ranging from retinopathy of prematurity persistent fetal vasculature, familial exudative vitreoretinopathy, and Coats' disease, to traumatic injuries, retinal detachment, and even ultra-rare conditions such as dyskeratosis congenita.

Pediatric vs. Adult Retina

Pediatric and adult retinal surgeries are very distinct. “I consider the rule books to be complementary, but different,” Dr. Yonekawa says. Working with tiny structures inside a child’s developing eye requires specialized surgical approaches, instruments, and viewing systems. Depending on the patient's anatomy, he may modify the surgical technique. And in severe cases that affect the entire eye, he works with pediatric cornea and pediatric glaucoma colleagues for perform multidisciplinary surgeries. 

In addition, he indicates, "Being a pediatric retina surgeon requires you to be able to fix some of the most difficult retinal detachments, and those skills are transferred over to tackling the most complex adult retinal detachments as well."

The Gift of Lifelong Sight

“Pediatric retina is a particularly challenging specialty area in ophthalmology. But it’s also one of the most rewarding and exciting fields, says Dr. Yonekawa. “Children have their whole lives ahead of them—saving their vision has a huge impact on their quality of life. There is nothing better than telling a parent that their baby is going to be able to see,” he says.

Research Aims to Improve Patient Care

In addition to treating many patients, Dr. Yonekawa is working on research projects with colleagues around the world. He hopes his work will help improve diagnostic methods and lead to new treatments for pediatric and adult retinal conditions. He has published more than 200 scientific papers, textbook chapters, and editorials in his field, and lectures internationally.

Dr. Yonekawa also lends his expertise to the worldwide retina research community and serves as Assistant Editor for RETINA, Editor for www.retinaroundup.com, Deputy Editor for the Journal of Vitreoretinal Diseases, Retina Section Editor for the American Journal of Ophthalmic Clinical Trials, and Section Editor for Ophthalmic Surgery Lasers and Imaging Retina.

A Mentor for Future Retina Specialists

Dr. Yonekawa is also a Harvard Ophthalmology faculty member and serves as a mentor to ophthalmology residents and clinical fellows. “I really enjoy teaching and sharing my enthusiasm for ophthalmology. And it is incredibly rewarding to help trainees grow in their careers,” he says. Additionally, as a member of the educational committees for professional societies—
including the American Society of Retina Specialists and the Vit Buckle Society—Dr. Yonekawa contributes to the education of trainees and colleagues worldwide.

Learn more about Dr. Yonekawa

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