Interview with Haiyan Gong, MD, PhD

Dr. Haiyan Gong talks about her research on glaucoma and what motivated her to become a scientist.

Learn more about Dr. Gong's BrightFocus-funded research.


Please note: This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Sarah: Please state your name and what institution you are with.

Dr. Gong: My name is Haiyan Gong. I work in Boston University School of Medicine. I'm working at the Department of Ophthalmology.

Sarah: Great! Can you tell me about what you're working on now? 

Dr. Gong: I'm working mainly with glaucoma, but I work on the aqueous drainage system. Mainly, I'm trying to understand what regulates the resistance of the eye’s drainage system and how this resistance increases in glaucomatous eyes.  

Sarah: Okay, great! Good, good… What would you say is one of, kind of the best days in the lab that you experienced so far?

Dr. Gong: For me, I think there [were] a couple of days. But one of those days was developing the simple imaging methods. We can look at the segmental outflow in one shot. Yeah, before we had to cut the eyes, then do montage – it takes a long time. So, I want to develop a method where we can just, you know, take a whole global imaging to look at the flow pattern. With that, you know, we can do that.

Sarah: So that was that day for you. That Aha!

Dr. Gong: Yeah, that was a good day for me...

Sarah: That's fantastic! Great... When a non-scientist asks you what you do, what do you tell them?

Dr. Gong: Oh, I work on the aqueous [humor]. Oh, eye’s drainage system. Mainly, the fluid has to get out of the eyes, right?  

Sarah: – Right.

Dr. Gong: So, how that is regulated. If the fluid continues to be produced, then it has to continue draining out. If the drainage passage is blocked, then that will cause IOP increase. The pressure inside of the eye increases. So, I mainly work on that system, trying to understand how that system regulates.

Sarah: Right. That’s very important. So why did you become a scientist?

Dr. Gong: (sigh) Why I became a scientist? … Okay… I was trained as a physician, an ophthalmologist, then I came to the U.S. I did one-year research and I really liked it. So, then I enrolled in a PhD program trying to learn to be a better problem solver. So, after that, I worked on the aqueous drainage system. Since then, I trained to do that and worked on more than 20 years now. So, I really enjoy doing it.

Sarah: Fantastic! Great! And one last question for you. Outside of the lab, what do you do for fun?

Dr. Gong: Okay, I like to walk. I live near a river, so I like walking along the river. And I like to [go] swimming. And also, I like to learn how to cook very simple, delicious dishes that doesn't take a long time. I also play around with my grandchildren.

Sarah: How old are your grandchildren?

Dr. Gong: I have three.

Sarah: Oh wow...

Dr. Gong: Five, three, nine months...

Sarah: Five, three, nine months... Wow... That's fantastic. Well, thank you so much for your time today.

Dr. Gong: Thank you for having me here.

Sarah: Yes, absolutely!

This content was first posted on: June 27, 2019
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