February 2015




Coupling up in ophthalmology

by Ellen Stodola EyeWorld Staff Writer


Being married to someone who understands your language and is interested in the same things has been so much fun and so gratifying. Mary Lynch, MD


Dr. Brown and Dr. Lynch on their wedding day in Dallas in 1986

While singing a duet at the annual skit performed by the residents at the Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute, Dr. Lynch and Dr. Brown realized they had real chemistry.

Dr. Brown and Dr. Lynch in Italy

Dr. Brown, Dr. Lynch, and their daughter Annie (far left) attend their daughter Veronicas high school graduation in 2007. Source (all): Reay Brown, MD

Together for nearly 30 years, 2 ophthalmologists discuss their medical marriage

For Reay Brown, MD, and Mary Lynch, MD, Atlanta, ophthalmology isnt just a professionits part of the family. Both luminary ophthalmologists (and glaucoma specialists), they have been married for 28 years and have practiced medicine together, separately, and in several locations. In this issue for the month of Valentines Day, they spoke about their careers, their relationship, and what it is like being married to someone in the same medical specialty.

Their story

For Dr. Lynch, ophthalmology runs in the family. My grandfather was an ophthalmologist, my uncle was an ophthalmologist, and 2 of my cousins are ophthalmologists, she said. I always thought I would be an ophthalmologist. After attending Johns Hopkins as an undergraduate and doing volunteer work at the hospital, Dr. Lynch decided to stay there for medical school. I spent 13 years in Baltimore, and it was in the middle of that time that I met Reay, she said.

For Dr. Brown, the choice to become an ophthalmologist was not necessarily an obvious one. After graduating from Harvard and working as a banker in San Francisco, he received his medical degree at the University of Michigan. Dr. Brown headed to Baltimore to Johns Hopkins for his training, and it was there that he met his future wife.

I met Mary when we were both running on the track, he said. I thought she was beautiful, and I started talking to her. But after learning that she was a fourth-year medical student, he was skeptical about the relationships future, as he had a rule about not marrying a doctor. I thought it would just be too complicated, he said.

I finished medical school and stayed at Hopkins to do my internship, Dr. Lynch said. When I arrived for the first day of my residency and Reay was there as a third-year, I recognized that he was the guy running on the track. While singing a duet at the annual skit performed by the residents at the Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute, Dr. Lynch and Dr. Brown realized they had real chemistry. However, it would be 2 more years before they finally got together. They were married in 1986.

Matching up practice locations

Compromise was an important aspect of their relationship from the beginning. We were worried about finding jobs in the same city, Dr. Brown said. This was largely because he had finished his training in Baltimore a year before Dr. Lynch, and their timelines were not synchronized. I did my fellowship in Miami and then came back to serve as chief resident at Hopkins, and Mary still had her fellowship year to complete, he said. So I got a job with an HMO in Maryland to wait for Mary. Then we moved to Texas as a team in 1985. We immediately began working on projects and papers together. We were young, ambitious, and enthusiastic. It was a very happy time. They were recruited to join the faculty at Emory University in 1988. Emory was appealing to them because it was close to family on the East Coast and needed 2 glaucoma specialists immediately. In 1994, Dr. Lynch transitioned to working at the Atlanta Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center. Emory was interested in developing the VA department with a full-time chief of ophthalmology. With 3 young children at home, Dr. Lynch volunteered to make the transition.

I always thought it was going to be a temporary move and I would go back to practicing at Emory, she said. But I really enjoyed working with the veterans, and now 20 years later, Im still here! She built the Atlanta VA up into a powerhouse, Dr. Brown said, adding that it has one of the best VA ophthalmology departments in the country, with an excellent training program.

In 1999, Dr. Brown left Emory to found Atlanta Ophthalmology Associates with David Palay, MD.

Sharing a medical specialty

Being married to someone in the same medical specialty has had some challenges, but Dr. Lynch and Dr. Brown agreed that overall it has been fulfilling.

In the beginning, when we were in practice together and we had our young family, it was difficult because our schedules were mirror images of each other, Dr. Lynch said. When one person was in clinic, the other was in the OR and vice versa. It was hard to be flexible and available.

But in every other way, being married to someone who understands your language and is interested in the same things has been so much fun and so gratifying, she said. Weve collaborated on a number of projects and weve written a number of papers together. At home, we often talk about difficult issues over dinner. We are a sounding board for each other. Being in the same subspecialty within ophthalmology offers a unique experience for the couple. We have both been interested in glaucoma surgery, Dr. Brown said. We have collaborated in trying to make the surgery better. In the late 1990s they began to work on a new glaucoma surgical device, the EyePass (GMP Vision Solutions, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), which was a precursor to the current iStent (Glaukos, Laguna Hills, Calif.). The idea of the EyePass was to help drain aqueous fluid from the anterior chamber into the physiologic drainage system while bypassing the trabecular meshwork. Dr. Brown and Dr. Lynch have several fundamental patents in the area of trabecular bypass devices.

The idea for the EyePass came when they were returning home from a meeting, Dr. Lynch said. We had the kids in the backseat and we were talking about the meeting. We started exploring different ideas, she said. I was sketching and he was driving.

Secrets to success

Although sharing career interests is very important in a relationship, both Dr. Lynch and Dr. Brown said that the key is deeper. It is love and commitment, Dr. Lynch said. You have to keep the romance alive. They do this by continuing to go out on dates and traveling together. They recently attended a spiritual retreat in New Mexico. That was a different experience for us, but it was great to do it as a couple, Dr. Brown said. Dr. Lynch plans a family reunion at the beach in the summer for each side of the family. That keeps us connected to everyone, she said. They also travel frequently to visit their daughter in San Francisco and for other family functions.

It is important to keep a good sense of humor. When people ask how we met, Mary tells them she was a resident and I was the chief resident. She enjoys telling them that I was her boss. Then everyone laughs because they know how ridiculous that is. Dr. Lynch chimed in, We are great together, and we are very lucky.

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