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Researcher | Research Overview

Dr. Mary Whitman is a practicing pediatric ophthalmologist and strabismus surgeon and is one of relatively few pediatric ophthalmologists in the country combining clinical care with basic research.

Researcher | Research Background

Dr. Mary Whitman is a practicing pediatric ophthalmologist and strabismus surgeon and is one of relatively few pediatric ophthalmologists in the country combining clinical care with basic research. Her undergraduate degree is in Biochemical Sciences from Harvard College. She obtained her MD and PhD in Neurobiology at Yale University, where she studied migration along the rostral migratory stream and synaptic integration of adult-born neurons in both mouse and human. She showed that newborn granule cells in the olfactory bulb receive incoming synapses before integrating into the local circuit. She completed ophthalmology residency at Columbia University. Dr. Whitman was a fellow in the Boston Children’s Ophthalmology program in 2013/2014, immediately afterward becoming an Instructor in the Department of Ophthalmology, Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, and a scholar with the Harvard Vision Clinical Scientist Development Program (K12), under the mentorship of Dr. Elizabeth Engle. In 2017, she transitioned from the K12 program to an individual K08 award, studying mechanisms of axon guidance in the oculomotor nerve in both normal development and a rare form of paralytic strabismus, Congenital Fibrosis of the Extraocular Muscles (CFEOM).

She was appointed Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology in 2019. Recently, she has created several new techniques, including ex vivo oculomotor slice cultures, and made significant advances in the understanding of oculomotor development. She has contributed more than 20 peer-reviewed papers to the literature within 5 years, including a paradigm-shifting paper questioning the use of bifocals in accommodative esotropia and some magnificent work related to neural development in extraocular muscles and beyond.

She has given invited lectures regionally, nationally, and internationally. She has been named the Precision Medicine Expert for the Ophthalmology Department at BCH and is on the Genetics Subcommittee of the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus.

Teaching and mentoring are very important to Dr. Whitman, as she credits a series of wonderful mentors who have been instrumental in her career. Her clinical teaching is to residents and fellows, in the clinic and operating room, and while on call. Her didactic teaching includes instructing research fellows in the “Molecular Mechanisms of Eye Disease” course, and clinical fellows and residents in our weekly ophthalmology conference. As a clinician-scientist, she informally mentors residents, medical students, and junior faculty who are interested in combining clinical care and research, and specifically in writing K awards. She also makes herself available to students (especially MD/PhD students) for clinical shadowing and mentoring. She has also informally mentored several research assistants in the lab.

Researcher | Publications