Living, and Giving, on "Hopkins Time"
After Ed Stephenson got married in 1951, his mother sent him and his new wife a piano for their apartment in New York City. The piano needed to be placed on top of a rug in their living room, a job that required Stephenson to lift it an inch and a half for a couple of minutes to get the rug in place.
“The next thing I knew,” Stephenson remembers, “I was in the worst misery I’d felt in my life.” His back went out, leaving the now 87-year-old investor unable to do much without severe pain.
Stephenson says he knew immediately what to do. “I wanted to go to the best,” he says, “so I made an appointment at Johns Hopkins.”
The surgeon he saw counseled him to avoid surgery and instead prescribed a set of daily exercises—which he continues to perform more than half a century later. It was his first successful treatment in what’s become a decades-long relationship with Johns Hopkins. In 1997, doctors here including cardiologist Stephen Achuff performed a triple bypass on Stephenson. Then, in 2009, head and neck surgeon Nasir Bhatti and his colleagues diagnosed Stephenson’s throat cancer and removed it. He’s since been treated at Johns Hopkins for a narrowing of the spinal column called spinal stenosis, and Johns Hopkins doctors are monitoring tumors on his pancreas.
“Johns Hopkins has saved my life again and again,” Stephenson says. “I figure I owe them something because I’m now living on Hopkins time.”
To give back, Stephenson has included a gift as a bequest in his estate planning to three Johns Hopkins departments: Cardiology, Psychiatry and Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery. “Just as they helped me,” he says, “they’re going to help an awful lot of other people with their work.”
The funds for Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery will directly benefit Bhatti’s research, which focuses on the best ways to train surgical residents.
The residency program widely used to train physicians and surgeons in the United States started at Johns Hopkins at the turn of the 20th century. The curriculum for current otolaryngology—head and neck surgery residents is the most intensive in the history of the specialty. But based on recent rule changes, residents must pack this extreme training into a severely restricted amount of time. Finding the most effective way to fill those hours, and how best to evaluate residents’ skill sets, is Bhatti’s passion outside his clinical work—research that’s difficult to find federal funding for, despite its importance for the future of medicine.
“If it weren’t for the generosity of Mr. Stephenson and our other donors,” Bhatti says, “this work would not be possible. Johns Hopkins itself was founded on philanthropy. It’s humbling and gratifying that our patients want to give back.”