A Passion for Service

On May 8, Carlisa Jones, administrative supervisor at Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins Medicine (JHM), participated in the annual JDRF One Walk to benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. During the event, held at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore City, volunteers trekked about 1.5 miles through the sprawling park in the rain. This marked the 16th walk in 17 years in which Jones, the JHM captain, has participated (the only one she missed was in 2020 during the initial months of the COVID-19 pandemic).

Jones’ involvement began in 2001, when she worked in the radiology department at The Johns Hopkins Hospital and the department’s chairman summoned her to become a team captain. The rest is history.

Since 2005, Jones and team have collectively logged more than 300 miles participating in the annual fundraising and awareness event for type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disorder that occurs when the pancreas does not generate insulin. According to a 2020 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, more than 1.5 million people are living with type 1 diabetes, with 1.4 million adults over the age of 20 diagnosed, and people under the age of 20 accounting for nearly 200,000 diagnoses.

Founded in 1970, JDRF has one goal in mind: to eradicate type 1 diabetes and its many complications by investing heavily in research, innovation and development. “It has been extremely important for me to volunteer my time and fundraising efforts to help those who have type 1 diabetes,” says Jones.

Jones’s dedication and commitment to volunteering and fundraising on behalf of type 1 diabetes has earned her recognition by the Greater Chesapeake and Potomac Chapter of JDRF as the 2015 Pacesetter Award recipient. The Pacesetter Award is given to those who set the fundraising bar and “eat it for lunch” Jones says jokingly, referencing the dedication it takes to follow through.

The following year, the Greater Chesapeake and Potomac Chapter recognized the Jones-led JHM team at its 2016 MD Hope Gala. That year, the team was honored not only for being a steward of the community, but also for raising more than $20,000 to combat type 1 diabetes.

Following the gala, Jones was recognized as a 2016 recipient of the Martin Luther King Jr. Award for Community Service for her unwavering advocacy on behalf of juvenile diabetes, among other causes. The award honors Johns Hopkins staff, graduate students and faculty who exhibit an outstanding commitment to volunteer service.

“I was caught off guard because I did not know that out of hundreds of nominees, I would be one of eight chosen,” says Jones. “I was honored to be presented with this prestigious award.”

Working at Wilmer, Jones is particularly aware of the impact of diabetes on the health of the eyes. In recent years, JDRF has devoted research dollars to detect biomarkers that predict the progression of non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy and the response to therapy.

Non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy occurs when the blood vessels in the retina swell, causing leakage and bleeding—sometimes leading to vision loss, and/or macular edema, which is bleeding at the center of the retina. The National Institutes of Health reports 90% of those diagnosed with type 1 diabetes will develop diabetic retinopathy within 25 years.

At Wilmer, Jones not only supports administrator Cathy Kowalewski, but she also manages more than five conference room schedules, arranges the annual Wilmer Day of Learning, coordinates the Wilmer blood drive, organizes the JHM/JDRF annual walks and fundraising, and still finds time to be a practicing certified notary public.

You can support Jones’s efforts to benefit the JDRF by joining the JHM team or by donating here.