In the mid-1980s, Paul Ragonese came to the Wilmer Eye Institute seeking treatment for glaucoma, a leading cause of adult blindness that runs in his family. Decades later, he continues to see a team of ophthalmologists at Wilmer, with his longtime provider Henry Jampel, M.D., the Odd Fellows Professor of Ophthalmology, coordinating the full scope of his care.
Ragonese says that being able to access many specialties in one place is what first drew him to Wilmer, and why he and his wife, Anne, have decided to support the institute through a planned gift today to create their legacy during their lifetime. “The beauty of Wilmer is that it’s a facility that is staffed with a broad range of professional people. It’s a one-stop shop,” says Paul, who worked as a mechanical engineer for the U.S. Coast Guard from 1985 until his retirement in 1998.
While reflecting on what inspired him to support Wilmer, Paul stresses that he and Anne, who was a nurse at Union Memorial Hospital for 32 years, have been fortunate in many ways, and their gift gives them a chance to help others. “We felt we could do something that would be a benefit to people,” says Paul, a 1967 graduate of the engineering program at what was then called the Johns Hopkins evening college.
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that cause high pressure in the eyes, which can damage the optic nerve and lead to impaired vision and blindness. As part of his treatment, Paul used eye drops and later had an outpatient laser procedure, both of which lowered his eye pressure for some time. Then, Paul had a trabeculectomy in each eye about seven years ago. With this procedure, a new passageway is created in the eye for fluid to drain to relieve the eye pressure and prevent further vision loss. The procedures were successful.
As Paul’s provider for three decades, Jampel says his role is akin to a quarterback who keeps track of all the moving parts involved with his patient’s multiple diagnoses. This includes his treatment for a wrinkled retina and cataracts — treatment provided by two other ophthalmologists at Wilmer: Adam Wenick, M.D., Ph.D., and Esen Akpek, M.D., the Bendann Family Professor of Ophthalmology. Judith Goldstein, O.D., chief of the Lions Vision Research and Rehabilitation Center at Wilmer, has also played a key role in his care.
“It would be very difficult for one patient to keep track of all of these details,” says Jampel, a member of the glaucoma division since 1988. “So, I look out for his care and make sure that nothing is done in a vacuum. It’s all done with consideration for the whole patient.”
Today, Paul continues to visit Wilmer several times a year. “
At Wilmer, I feel I’m being attended to by very competent people,” says Paul, who also supports the Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering. “They are very patient in telling me what the problems are, and they’re willing to discuss them with me. I feel like I am in good hands.”
“Legacy gifts, such as the one given by the Ragoneses, have always been a source of strength and support for Wilmer. They have endowed professorships and research funds, expanded resources for our clinical care, and provided opportunities to educate the next generation of leaders in ophthalmic medicine,” says Wilmer Director Peter J. McDonnell, M.D. “They also inspire us, because these gifts demonstrate the faith our supporters have that investing in the future of Wilmer is worth doing.”