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Estate gift from former patient funds diabetic retinopathy, other vision research at MCW

June 11, 2013 College News - In appreciation for the care he received at the Froedtert & The Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) Eye Institute, Charles F. Hofbauer established a planned gift known as a charitable remainder unitrust in 1996 to support retinal disease research. When he died in November 2012, the unitrust resulted in a donation of nearly $100,000 that will provide funding to faculty ophthalmologist Judy E. Kim, MD, for her diabetic retinopathy research and to the Eye Institute’s retinal research team.

Judy E. Kim, MD

“We deeply appreciate the thoughtful gift from Mr. and Mrs. Hofbauer, as well as memorial gifts from their family and friends,” said Dr. Kim, Professor of Ophthalmology. “These funds will ensure that research on diabetic retinopathy, which is one of the major causes of vision loss, can continue here at the Eye Institute. It is a perfect way to honor him, and his spirit will live on through our work. I was privileged to know and care for Mr. Hofbauer, an amazing person whose generosity and kindness are evidenced by this gift.”

Mr. Hofbauer was one of more than 25 million Americans affected by diabetes. And like 40 percent of diabetics 40 years or older, he developed diabetic retinopathy, which can pose a significant threat to sight. He benefitted from surgical procedures at the Eye Institute that restored his vision, and research conducted by MCW investigators like Dr. Kim will figure prominently in helping future patients preserve or recover their sight.

Dr. Kim’s efforts include leadership in the multi-site Diabetic Retinopathy Clinical Research Network as the principal investigator at MCW. The network, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health, has carried out more than 20 clinical trials, and Dr. Kim and her colleagues are able to bring those innovative treatments to patients at the Eye Institute.

Since vision loss can be prevented in many instances with earlier detection, Dr. Kim is also investigating better ways to obtain images of the eyes prior to the onset of diabetic retinopathy.

In addition, she has initiated a project that seeks to advance the management of diabetic retinopathy through improved screening using telemedicine. Barriers to care such as geography, economic status, or lack of education can be partially overcome through teleophthalmology because advances in noninvasive retinal imaging now allow the technology to be applied over distances.

Teaming with primary care physicians and endocrinologists, images can be acquired with a digital fundus camera and transferred to an ophthalmologist remotely through a secure server for interpretation, thereby saving time, controlling costs and increasing accessibility. Dr. Kim is also exploring teleophthalmology's viability as a teaching tool for medical students and residents.

“Matched with Dr. Kim’s ingenuity and that of other retinal researchers at the Eye Institute, these funds will help enhance patient care, improve our understanding of retinal diseases and potential therapies, and foster educational capabilities in ophthalmology,” said MCW President and CEO John R. Raymond, Sr., MD. “We are honored that Mr. Hofbauer considered the Medical College so favorably in his estate plans.”

Charles Hofbauer founded the Serv-U Pharmacy chain that at one time was the largest chain of independent pharmacies in the state of Wisconsin with 22 stores. At the time that he established his charitable unitrust, he said: “It makes me feel good to know that I am playing a part in the progression of eye research and, thereby, in the quality of life for people who are at risk of losing their sight.”

In the know

Q: What is a charitable remainder unitrust?
A: It is a life income gift that provides income payments to the donor or beneficiary based on a specified percentage of the trust’s value. Donors may make additional contributions, and upon the death of the last beneficiary, the assets remaining in the trust are transferred to the charity named.

For details, contact Rick Worcester at (414) 955-5824 or rworcester@mcw.edu.

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Page Updated 09/11/2013