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Founding Donor Invests in Cochlear Implant Center

March 21, 2019
It is estimated only 5% of the approximately 466 million people worldwide with hearing loss seek and receive service. We know children with hearing loss will be unable to develop speech and language, perform well academically and reach their fullest potential without assistance. But did you know adults with untreated hearing loss are more likely to suffer from isolation and depression, will be forced to leave the workforce early, have increased risk of dementia and suffer poorer overall health?

The Presbyterian Eye, Ear & Throat Charity Hospital Board of Governors' recent leadership gift created a permanent and lasting legacy within the walls of GBMC that will sustain and grow the Cochlear Implant Center to serve as a national model for other cochlear implant centers around the globe. The Presbyterian Eye, Ear & Throat Charity Hospital stepped up for GBMC to ensure no one with hearing loss is overlooked.

"It was really the idea that we could have such an impact," Stephen Plano, current Board of Governors' President, said of the group's decision to make this gift. "As well as a concern that if somebody didn’t do something, the program didn't seem sustainable otherwise. It was unanimous.

"We had a preschooler at Havenwood Presbyterian Church Preschool Center a few years ago with an implant that allowed him to mainstream into the classroom and made a big difference in his life. Relating to that story, people just melted."

The Presbyterian Board of Governors Cochlear Implant Center of Excellence at GBMC – re-named in honor of the gift – is the only nationally-recognized, yet community-based program within a 100-mile radius, which puts GBMC in a unique position to make a great impact for many. The Presbyterian Board's investment supports innovative technology and efficient new clinical standards that change test protocols, creates standardization of care around the globe, and, most importantly, provides life-changing technology to many in need.

The Center's leadership has an exciting vision to develop a state-of-the-art Center of Excellence that would serve not only our local and surrounding communities, but would be able to reach great distances to provide optimal care to all those in need. These changes are critical to the growth of the field, and made possible because of continued support.

The Presbyterian Board's relationship with GBMC is ingrained it its own history. The Presbyterian Eye, Ear & Throat Charity Hospital is one of GBMC's founding hospitals. In 1965, when they merged with the Women's Hospital of Maryland, Baltimore City to form GBMC, the Board continued to give back to support its original intent to treat patients in the areas of ophthalmology and otolaryngology. The Cochlear Implant Center has been a recipient of this generous support since its creation 17 years ago.

"This board goes back to the 1800s. Having that kind of legacy, a link back to that mission and advancing that, tying it into something for the future with the Cochlear Implant Center, it’s a big deal," Steve said. "Members that have been on the board for many years remember the way it used to be, and I think they feel that this links them back to that very hands-on, patient-based thing."

At the same time cochlear implant case volumes have been increasing, the number of patients being seen for outpatient consultation and follow-up has remained relatively static. Such a discrepancy indicates GBMC is not able to meet the demand for patients seeking the full spectrum of services.

Resources needed to provide comprehensive services leading up to and following surgery are greater than the healthcare revenue generated from billing insurance companies for these services. Despite the negative margin for the program, GBMC remains committed to providing these services to patients seeking a solution to their hearing loss. And because of long-standing donors like the Presbyterian Board, GBMC can continue to innovate and grow to meet those needs.

GBMC is unique in the cochlear implant community in its position as one of the largest programs to be based in a community hospital setting. By partnering with research arms of industry leaders, GBMC can maintain its forward-thinking approach to the care delivered to patients. In certain circumstances, Institutional Review Board – approved studies offered by GBMC – can lead to international developments and breakthroughs, and cover the costs of patients participating.

This transformational gift will allow the Cochlear Implant Center to create a thoughtful, evidence-based model that will change the industry and support GBMC’s role as a leader on a national and international stage. This evolving program will no longer be influenced by time or distance. Instead, a strong, more efficient model will serve people around the world with the highest quality care and cutting-edge technology.
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