Massachusetts Eye and Ear Opens New Facility

The Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, one of the nation’s leading providers of above-the-shoulders treatment and research, cut the ribbon Wednesday morning on a new 90,000-foot facility on Huntington Avenue in the Longwood/Mission Hill area of Boston.

“This building is good news for patients, and it’s bad news for blindness, ear problems, and eye problems,” said Mass. Eye and Ear Board Chairman Wyc Grousbeck, the co-owner of the Boston Celtics.

The new facility, which will begin accepting patients this month, is to be staffed by leading physicians, most of whom will move from other Mass. Eye and Ear locations, according to Joan W. Miller, chair of the Infirmary’s ophthalmology department and an ophthalmology professor at Harvard Medical School. The Longwood branch will also partner with local hospitals, including the Brigham and Women’s Physicians Group and the Joslin Diabetes Center.

At first, the new facility will focus on ophthalmology. To that end, its walls are painted in high contrast colors and the interior is decorated with furniture designed to help visually impaired patients find their way. Natural light flows in through expansive windows.

The Huntington Avenue facility was praised by community representatives at the event.

“Mass. Eye and Ear really did its homework,” said Patricia Flaherty, the senior project manager at Mission Hill Neighborhood Housing Services. “Here in Longwood, we have a growing senior population. The new facility gives us access to ophthalmology services, to ear and eye care, and even a place to buy eyeglasses, which we didn’t have before.”

Flaherty credited Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino not only with making the project a reality, but also with ensuring that it was a positive addition to the area.

“This was actually Plan B,” Flaherty said. “A seven-story biological lab was originally planned, but that didn’t fit at all into our community.... The Mayor really heard us. He heard us say ‘no.’ And he helped us go in another direction.”

That new direction was Mass. Eye and Ear, and the organization has made extensive efforts to integrate itself into the community.

“We’ve worked with them to set up two job fairs,” Flaherty said. “And so far they’ve hired half a dozen workers from the neighborhood. As we continue to work together, I really hope that number grows.”

Menino had planned to attend the opening but was under the weather. In a press release, he said, “Massachusetts Eye and Ear has a long history of excellent clinical care and innovative research. Today I applaud this great institution for working closely with the Mission Hill neighborhood to bring critical specialized services to the community.”

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