Patient stories: Estate gift from grateful patient

Douglas County resident Jim Lewis, former attorney and judge, has recently made gift commitments for medical research in three departments at Emory University’s School of Medicine. Those departments include ophthalmology (Emory Eye Center); cancer (Winship Cancer Institute); and Alzheimer’s disease (Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center). Lewis’ planned gifts come to $100,000 to each of the entities with the cancer research funding to be divided equally between colon and lung cancers.

Lewis’ experiences over the past few years have informed how he thinks about the world. An ophthalmology patient himself at Emory Eye Center, Lewis became more involved with healthcare when his parents were patients before their passing in 2013 and 2014. His father was a glaucoma and cancer patient, and his mother received both cancer and Alzheimer’s treatment.

“I see the world differently now, and I want to give back. We need to push along our medical research—for Alzheimer’s disease, for glaucoma and for cancer. We can do better. I’ve been familiar with all three of these. My father had glaucoma, both my parents had cancer and my mother had dementia with Alzheimer’s tendencies. So, it is personal.”

He hopes that his gifts to Emory will inspire others who are touched by these diseases to contribute as well. On a recent trip to the Eye Center’s research labs, Lewis listened as researcher Eldon Geisert explained the complicated nature of glaucoma, which he is currently studying. It is a hard disease to understand. Only about 6% of the primary open angle glaucoma cases have a specific genetic cause. “That leaves a large area to be explored in future studies and trials,” notes Geisert.

Geisert is professor in the Department of Ophthalmology Research (Basic Science) Section and co-director of the Atlanta Vision Research Community (AVRC) Biostatistics and Bioinformatics (Bioanalysis) Core Laboratory at Emory Eye Center.  Identifying the genetic differences that lead to glaucoma is the central research goal being addressed by a new $1.5 million grant awarded to him from the NEI.  Geisert affirms that understanding the genetic causes of glaucoma will aid in early detection of individuals at risk for developing the disease and could lead to more effective treatments for this blinding disease.

Lewis is all too eager to be a part of that mission for future study. His contributions to multiple departments within Emory’s School of Medicine will be used for years to come. It is personal for Lewis, and in time, his heartfelt donation will pave the way for new knowledge and treatment.

Donor Jim Lewis listens as researcher Eldon Geisert explains the complicated nature of glaucoma.

Donor Jim Lewis listens as researcher Eldon Geisert explains the complicated nature of glaucoma. Press release.

Debra Owens with her daughter and Suma Shankar

Rebecca King, research specialist, and Ying Li, postdoctoral fellow, in the Biostatistics and Bioinformatics (Bioanalysis) Core Laboratory.

Eldon Geisert at the confocal microscope in the Bioanalysis Core Lab

Eldon Geisert at the confocal microscope in the Biostatistics and Bioinformatics (Bioanalysis) Core Laboratory.

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