Kathleen Stoessel, MD, is one of five recipients of the 2022 Yale Medicine Distinguished Clinical Career Award. The award was created in 2020 to recognize and honor the careers of physicians marked by significant accomplishments, exemplary dedication, and important contributions in advancing Yale Medicine, the overall medical profession, and the community.
Dr. Stoessel has devoted her professional life to treating diseases and injuries of the retina in the most vulnerable patients, including premature infants and babies who may have suffered abuse. She is one of the most recognized experts in the state of Connecticut in three key areas: retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) screenings and treatment, retinal evaluation in babies with abusive head trauma, and evaluation of patients with inherited retinal dystrophies. With regard to ROP, she has been the “go to” physician statewide for the evaluation and treatment of very premature infants who have a high risk of developing visual loss from severe ROP. Over the course of her career, Dr. Stoessel has cared for countless infants in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) who were born prematurely, performing screenings and, when necessary, laser treatments. Examining and treating the small eyes of these tiny babies not only requires superb clinical skills, but also is stressful and calls for a great deal of care and patience.
Dr. Stoessel also performs the clinically and emotionally difficult task of screening the eyes of infants with possible abusive head trauma. As a consultant to the Yale DART (Detection, Assessment, Referral and Treatment) Team that evaluates injured children for signs of abuse, Dr. Stoessel testifies in court when necessary regarding retinal hemorrhages in cases of possible abusive head trauma. In addition to her work with babies, Dr. Stoessel has expertise in evaluating retinal dystrophies and has a statewide and regional referral practice for electroretinogram (ERG) evaluation of inherited dystrophies as well as toxic, autoimmune, and cancer-associated retinopathies. Throughout her career, she has cared for patients with these and other retinal disorders, including performing retinal evaluations and laser treatments for children and adults who have retinopathy due to sickle cell disease and diabetes.
In addition to being an outstanding clinician, Dr. Stoessel, an associate professor of ophthalmology and visual science, also is a dedicated teacher of retina fellows, ophthalmology residents in the medical retina subspecialty, some medical students on ophthalmology rotations, and pediatric residents and fellows in the NICU. She has served as director of the Retina Fellowship Program since 2008.