Ruthanne Bush Simmons, M.D.

January 29, 1959 - November 8, 2002

NEEDHAM, MA -- Ophthalmologist Ruthanne B. Simmons, MD, a glaucoma and cataract specialist with Ophthalmic Consultants of Boston, died of breast cancer Friday, November 08, 2002, at her home in Needham. She was 43.
         After majoring in Psychology as a college student, Simmons was still undecided as to a future career path. However, it was not long before she decided to become a physician, the same career as her father, Dr. Richard J. Simmons, an internationally-renowned eye surgeon and glaucoma expert. She also followed in her father’s footsteps by attending Harvard Medical School, from which he had graduated 30 years before. She soon discovered that her true interests and talents were in the same specialty as her father, namely ophthalmology.
        Following medical school, Simmons completed her internship training at Framingham Union Hospital and then moved to North Carolina with her husband, for her ophthalmology residency at Duke University Medical Center. She stayed on at Duke for her glaucoma fellowship under the direction of M. Bruce Shields, M.D. and David L. Epstein, M.D., both respected glaucoma specialists. During her five years in Durham, NC, she had two children, neither a common nor easy feat for a woman in a competitive surgical subspecialty training program. However, at Duke she found great support for the balance of medical career and family. For example, four of the five residents in her residency year were women, and, during their three years of residency training, there were four pregnancies in the group.
        The junior Dr. Simmons then returned to the Boston area to join in practice with, and learn from, the senior Dr. Simmons. She joined Simmons Eye Associates of Boston, the highly regarded specialty practice her father began in the 1970’s, after he worked as the associate of Dr. Paul A. Chandler in a practice that dated back to the turn of the 20th Century. Then, in 1996, Drs. Ruthanne and Richard Simmons both joined the large and prestigious group practice, Ophthalmic Consultants of Boston, with offices in Boston, Cape Cod, and Waltham.
        Simmons was a member of many professional societies, including the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the American Glaucoma Society, the New England Ophthalmological Society, and the American Eye Study Club. She was on the faculty in the Department of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School, was on the associate staff at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston, and had privileges at various other Boston area hospitals and surgery centers, including the Boston Eye Surgery and Laser Center, Massachusetts General Hospital, Tufts-New England Medical Center, Newton-Wellesley Hospital, and Cape Cod Eye Surgery and Laser Center. Simmons was also a member of the National Registry of Who’s Who.
        Although her passion in medicine was clinical practice, surgery, and patient care, Simmons also was an active researcher and author. She was Director of Research for the New England Eye Research Foundation and authored multiple chapters in major Ophthalmology textbooks, as well as numerous scientific journal articles, primarily dealing with new methods of glaucoma surgery and laser treatments. She was also a frequent lecturer and course director at national and international ophthalmology meetings.
        A major focus of Simmons’ career involved training new ophthalmologists in the specialty of glaucoma. In addition to mentoring American eye surgeons during their specialty glaucoma fellowships, she once again continued a tradition established by her father, by training foreign ophthalmologists who would spend one to two years in the United States, frequently without salary, to learn clinical glaucoma care and to participate in research under her supervision. Recent fellows of the Simmons International Glaucoma Fellowship came from countries such as Brazil, the Philippines, Columbia, Paraguay, and China.
        Soon after joining Ophthalmic Consultants of Boston in 1996, Simmons was first diagnosed with breast cancer. She stopped practicing for one year, during which she underwent several surgical procedures as well as six months of chemotherapy. Following her treatments, she returned to full-time practice, and during the subsequent years was responsible for the care of approximately 10,000 patients. In a recent letter from Dr. B. Thomas Hutchinson, President of Ophthalmic Consultants of Boston, to Simmons’ patients, he stated that, “[Dr. Simmons] typified what it has always meant to be a good doctor: professional integrity, a caring and compassionate demeanor, strong advocacy for her patients, and always hardworking while striving to do her best.”
        In April 2001, Simmons was on vacation abroad with her family to celebrate five years of being cancer-free when she developed pain, causing her to return to Boston prematurely. It was quickly determined that her breast cancer had spread throughout her liver. She then left the practice of medicine to undergo aggressive chemotherapy at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and to spend valuable time with her friends and family, including her two children, Nicholas and Laura Simmons-Stern, who at the time were eleven and nine years old, and her husband, Dr. Robert A. Stern, a neuropsychologist at Brown Medical School and Rhode Island Hospital.
        Simmons was raised in Newton, MA and was a 1977 graduate of Newton North High School, where she and her husband first met. Prior to receiving her Doctor of Medicine degree from Harvard, she attended Smith College and then transferred to Wesleyan University, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa and was awarded the Thorndike Prize for excellence in Psychology.
        In addition to her husband and two children, Simmons leaves her parents, Dr. Richard J. and Anne C. Simmons of East Orleans, MA, formally of West Newton, MA; her brother Richard D. Simmons of Windham, NH; her sister Sarah Cousins and her husband Daniel Cousins of Lincoln, MA; her sister Katharine Simmons and her husband Al Caruso of Acton, MA; her brother-in-law and sister-in-law Lew and Jean Stern of Wellesley, MA; her sister-in-law and brother-in-law, Beverly and Marc Silver of Bloomfield, CT; several nieces and nephews; and many aunts, uncles, and cousins.
        A memorial service will be held Monday, November 18, 2002, at 2:30 PM at The Second Church in Newton, with a reception immediately following at Brae Burn Country Club also in Newton.

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