Lloyd M. Aiello, MD
A retired Harvard Medical School Professor of Ophthalmology, Part-time, and former Founding Director of Beetham Eye Institute, the late Dr. Aiello was a pioneer in the treatment of diabetic retinopathy.
Revolutionized Patient Care for Diabetic Retinopathy
Dr. Aiello was the second of three family generations of ophthalmologists who specialized in diabetic eye disease at Joslin Diabetes Center. He joined Joslin in 1962 after earning his medical degree from Boston University and completing postgraduate training at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts Eye and Ear. At that time, diabetic retinopathy was the most common cause of blindness in adults in the United States.
In 1967, Dr. Aiello and his father-in-law, William P. Beetham, MD, pioneered the use of laser photocoagulation for the treatment of diabetic retinopathy. This bold approach was based on their clinical observation that proliferative diabetic retinopathy was often less active in patients with retinal scarring.
Over the next two decades, Dr. Aiello helped lead two multicenter randomized clinical trials—the Diabetic Retinopathy Study and the Early Treatment Diabetic Retinopathy Study—which proved the effectiveness of photocoagulation. As a result, photocoagulation remained the standard-of-care for diabetic retinopathy for almost 50 years and dramatically reduced the risk of blindness in these patients.
Improved Access to Early Diabetic Eye Disease Screening
Another important focus of Dr. Aiello's work was the early detection of diabetic eye disease in remote areas. In 1990, he collaborated with Sven-Erik Bursell, PhD, to develop the Joslin Vision Network—a telemedicine system that uses advanced video technology to detect early signs of retinal damage from diabetic eye disease. This approach has now been applied to many other medical conditions throughout the United States and the world.
Recognized as World Authority on Diabetic Eye Disease
Throughout his career, Dr. Aiello received numerous awards for his seminal contributions to research and clinical care, including:
- David Rumbough Scientific Award of the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation International
- Lighthouse Pisart Vision Award
- American Diabetes Association Outstanding Physician-Clinician Award
- Gertrude D. Pyron Award of the Retina Research Foundation
- American Telemedicine Association President's Award
- Warren Alpert Foundation Prize, in partnership with Harvard Medical School
Notably, both Dr. Aiello and his son Lloyd Paul Aiello, MD, were selected to give the Paul Henkind Memorial Lecture of the Macula Society, making them the only father and son pair to receive this honor.
Generous Teacher, Mentor, and Friend
During Dr. Aiello's 52 years at Harvard Ophthalmology, he earned a reputation as one the department’s most generous, insightful, and patient mentors.