When Geraldine Fox was only 27 years old, she lost hearing in her
left ear after contracting mumps from a young boy in the nursery class she taught. The doctors she saw expressed their sympathy but also were unable to help. It was frustrating, Fox remembers, to have no cure or even effective treatments for hearing loss.
Eventually, she discovered an organization raising money for hearing
loss research, the Deafness Research Foundation. “I thought it was a great idea, so I suggested things to that organization,” Fox remembers. “Before I knew it, I was serving on their board.”
Thus began a long career in advocating for hearing loss research. Through her lobbying efforts, Fox played a pivotal role in prompting Congress to launch the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), one of the branches of the National Institutes of Health. Through serving as chair of the NIDCD Advisory Board, she had a front-row seat to new research taking place. These efforts, she felt, weren’t nearly enough to combat this problem.
She remembers: “I felt that the institute was only funding what I call ‘safe science.’ They weren’t doing anything radically new, weren’t encouraging young researchers with fresh, new ideas.”
It was time, she reasoned, to start her own funding organization. Soon, she’d raised enough capital to start giving out small grants to promising researchers. With the aid of a group of experts, including physicians and Ph.D.s, Fox’s foundation—known as the National
Organization for Hearing Research (NOHR)—spent the next 28 years
making grants that furthered its mission to support research into the causes, preventions, treatments and cures for hearing loss and deafness.
Recently, as Fox considered retirement, she wasn’t sure what the next
steps should be for NOHR: close up shop, or find another leader?
“I wanted to place my child in the very best situation,” she says, “one that carried on its mission.”
After months of consideration, Fox reached out to Johns Hopkins
otolaryngology researcher Elisabeth Glowatzki
—herself a recipient of a Burt Evans Young Investigator Award, given by NOHR. Together, the two developed a plan to continue the spirit of NOHR’s mission at Johns Hopkins starting this year, by creating the Geraldine Dietz Fox Endowed Research Fund.
Through this mechanism, Johns Hopkins will continue the annual Geraldine Dietz Fox Young Investigators Award, an honorary prize accompanied by a modest monetary award given to scientists just beginning to work independently in their research careers. Researchers at any institution from around the world can be nominated for this award, presented annually at the Association for Research in Otolaryngology meeting.
Additionally, the Geraldine Dietz Fox Research Award will provide funds for promising young investigators at Johns Hopkins to apply for grants that will further their work at what could be a turning point in their careers.
Being chosen as the caretaker for NOHR’s funds “is an incredible honor,” says Glowatzki. “She’s basically putting her legacy in our hands.”
“At a time when funding is short, especially for young investigators,” she adds, “this gift will help excellent new research to enter the field.”