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Doctor leaving mark in specialty; Honoree deals with birthmarks.

Byline: Anna Griffin

FITCHBURG - For Dr. Aaron Fay, being named Physician of the Year by the Vascular Birthmarks Foundation was a humbling honor.

"When you see what these families go through to get help for their children who have these birthmarks, they're the ones who really struggle with this," said Dr. Fay. According to the organization's Web site, the Vascular Birthmark Foundation is the leading not-for-profit organization in the world for families affected by vascular birthmarks. There are two categories of these types of birthmarks, hemangiomas, the most common tumor of infancy, and vascular malformations.

It provides support and information and resources for individuals affected by such as hemangiomas (an abnormal buildup of blood vessels in the skin or internal organs), port wine stains and other conditions.

Further, the Web site states, one in 10 children are born with a vascular birthmark that will require the opinion of a medical specialist; approximately 40,000 children per year.

He was named their physician of the year because of his work with eye conditions as they relate to hemangiomas, glaucoma in Sturge-Weber Syndrome (Sturge-Weber Syndrome is a condition that is also characterized by a congenital facial birthmark and neurological abnormalities) and tissue hypertrophy in Port Wine Stains.

He is one of the physicians at the MGH Vascular Birthmarks Clinic under director Dr. Martin Mihm.

According to information from the clinic, it is a multi-specialty clinic devoted to providing comprehensive care to children and adults born with such congenital lesions. The clinic is held on a monthly basis in the Wang Ambulatory Care Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston.

"Having the chance to work with other physicians who have specializations is the way to go," said Dr. Fay. "There are parts of a surgery that I may be best at doing, and then to have a doctor with another expertise right there who can take over and do what he or she does best, this is truly the best care for the patient."

"These can be dangerous conditions because they can lead to blindness and even death," Dr. Fay said.

For example: He said that some of these types of birthmarks form on the eyelids of children, causing the eye to be shut.

"People think the eye sees; it's the brain that sees. The eye just collects the information," Dr. Fay said.

However, the doctor said, if the eye is not opened sufficiently to be able to collect the information at an early age, the brain will not be "trained" to see. Therefore a child could become blind if one of these birthmarks are not removed.

Other types of these birthmarks cause excessive bleeding, bleeding that can be internal and can lead to death.

"As a parent, I can say the best thing a parent can do is to ask questions and to seek out treatment for their child," Dr. Fay said. "I just was involved with a case in which the parents were told there were no treatments available for their child, when in fact, there was treatment available."

In addition to be named the organization's "Physician of the Year," Dr. Fay is also among the medical experts on the organization's Web site. "Ask the Eye Specialist" on the foundation's Web site www.birthmark.org.

"I do get some interesting e-mail and I welcome their questions," said Dr. Fay.

Dr. Fay said research in this area is key. "We really don't know exactly how these birthmarks come about, but there has been some very promising research on their origins."

He said that's why organizations such as the Vascular Birthmarks Foundation are so important. "They help to connect people with resources, but also help to raise awareness as well and perhaps that will lead to more money for research."

In addition to his work with MGH, Dr. Fay practices at the office of his father, Dr. Stuart S. Fay.

ART: PHOTO

CUTLINE: Dr. Aaron Fay was named "Physician of the Year" by the Vascular Birthmarks Foundation.

PHOTOG: File Photo
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Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jan 14, 2007
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