The Fellowship of Comfort and Healing

Published in Wilmer - Annual Report 2019

Despite its name, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows is hardly an odd bunch. In fact, it is one of the most civic- minded fraternal orders in operation today. And there is nothing odd whatsoever about the Odd Fellows’ mission to “visit the sick, relieve the distressed, bury the dead and educate the orphan

Ties between the Odd Fellows and The Johns Hopkins Hospital run deep. The first American lodge of the Odd Fellows was established in Baltimore in 1819, and many speculate that the Odd Fellows’ American founder, Thomas Wildey, and philanthropist Johns Hopkins — both Baltimoreans — may have been business associates in the mid-1800s.

Regardless of the history, the connection between the two organizations — one committed to comfort, the other to healing — has proved a fruitful partnership. Wilmer has been a direct beneficiary of the Odd Fellows’ commitment to Baltimore and to those in need of care.

The relationship was first formalized on Dec. 20, 1963, when leaders of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and the Wilmer Eye Institute officially agreed to establish the Independent Order of Odd Fellows Professorship in Ophthalmology, using an endowment funded entirely by the contributions of individual Odd Fellows members that is still going strong today.

The professorship is currently held by Henry Jampel, M.D., an expert in glaucoma research and surgery and the director of Wilmer's Green Spring Station clinic. He is the third Wilmer specialist to hold the professorship. Previously, it has been held by Arthur Silverstein, Ph.D., from 1964 to 1989 and W. Richard Green, M.D., from 1989 to 2006, when Jampel assumed the chair. To date, the three Odd Fellows Professors, collectively, have authored more than 1,000 peer-reviewed research papers, advancing scientific understanding and treatment, and training the next generation of ophthalmologists. “This is a trio of giants in ophthalmology,” opines Wilmer Director Peter J. McDonnell, M.D.

In the last year, the relationship blossomed further when the Odd Fellows announced it had raised an additional $1 million for the professorship endowment.

“The Odd Fellows has made a strong case that glaucoma is an important area of research and that Dr. Jampel is on the doorstep of some important advances that could help a lot of people,” says Mark Ulrich, chairman of the Odd Fellows Visual Research Foundation.

For Jampel, the Odd Fellows Professorship provides the necessary time and resources to explore research interests that he might otherwise not be able to pursue. In his case, these interests have the common theme of using medical and surgical therapies to improve patient outcomes from glaucoma treatment.

Jampel says the Odd Fellows funding has allowed him to pursue collaborations with other investigators who have helped patients improve adherence to their glaucoma medications and with those who are working to find ways to better detect glaucoma through improved imaging technologies. The professorship also provides the time he needs to recruit and train junior investigators who will carry glaucoma research forward.

“Wilmer’s leadership in glaucoma care and my research, in particular, would not be possible without the support of the Odd Fellows research endowment,” Jampel says. “They are very committed to this cause and do a wonderful job of bringing better eye care to a great many people.