Charles “Chuck” Meyer’s extensive career in architectural engineering led him to work on some of the most transformative renovations at the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), including the construction of the Homer S. Gudelsky and Harry & Jeanette Weinberg buildings. It never crossed his mind that one day he would undergo a cutting-edge and lifesaving surgical procedure within the same hospital walls.
In 2016, Chuck was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a serious lung condition that causes thickening and scarring of the lung tissue, making it harder to breathe overtime. Medication and therapies can help with the symptoms, but do not remedy the disease. Ultimately, a lung transplant is needed for long-term survival.
“I had gone downhill to the point where my quality of life was really terrible,” Chuck explains. “I couldn’t do simple things like daily household chores and shopping.”
Prior to his diagnosis, Chuck was in good shape with no significant health issues. He and his wife Mary enjoyed entertaining their friends and spending quality time with their son and daughter’s families, including their five grandchildren. Chuck played tennis, took walks, and travelled. He lived an active life until the disease took hold.
“Chuck went from such a healthy, healthy man to somebody who couldn’t do anything,” Mary recalls. “I just always had hope that this would all work out.”
Chuck sought treatment at UMMC and met Aldo T. Iacono, MD, who at the time was the director of Training & Education for the Division of Transplantation, the associate director of the Advanced Lung Disease Program, and the Hamish S. and Christine C. Osborne Distinguished Professor in Advanced Pulmonary Care at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
Dr. Iacono and his comprehensive care team closely monitored Chuck’s condition and determined that he would be a good candidate for an organ transplant. Two years following his diagnosis, Chuck underwent an 11-hour bilateral lung transplant at UMMC.
“By the time I had my surgery, my lungs were essentially gone,” Chuck says. “My lung functions right now are as good—if not better—than they were before the transplant. I was very lucky to get the surgery.”
While luck may have played a partial role, Chuck and Mary attribute his successful outcome to the entire lung transplant team—especially to Dr. Iacono and Dr. Bartley P. Griffith, who performed the bilateral lung transplant. Dr. Griffith is the director of Cardiac and Lung Transplant Programs at UMMC and the Thomas E. and Alice Marie Hales Distinguished Professor in Transplant Surgery for the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
“I cannot say enough about the excellence of the department, and I stress that it is probably one of the top programs in the country,” Chuck explains. “But it was clear that in order to advance the program and to continue to provide the highest level of care, they needed more support.”
Philanthropy has always been a priority to Chuck and Mary; and giving back to health care institutions is embedded in their family’s history—particularly Mary’s family, the McCormicks, whose philanthropy extends throughout Baltimore and beyond. When they look back on Chuck’s experience and success, they can’t help but think about the dramatic progress in organ transplantation over the past two decades. Not long ago, these types of complex surgeries were unavailable to patients.
“I think this is where our gift fits in,” Chuck explains. “To make it possible for faculty-physicians to advance their research and methods for new treatments and discoveries that will impact the next generation.”
The couple made a significant philanthropic gift to support a new transplant surgeon; someone to maintain the high-quality of the program and advance efforts in research, discovery, and patient care. Their philanthropy led to the recruitment of Alexander Sasha Krupnick, MD, who now serves as the chief of Thoracic Surgery and surgical director of the Lung Transplant Program and is a professor of surgery for the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
“I am incredibly grateful to Charles and Mary Meyer for their generosity and selfless commitment to the University of Maryland Lung Transplant Program. Their extraordinary gift gave me the opportunity to join this esteemed program that is at the leading-edge of research and clinical care for acute lung disease and respiratory failure,” explains Dr. Krupnick. “Their generosity has funded mechanistic research focusing on developing lung specific immunosuppression that will eventually help future transplant patients. Without their gift none of this would be possible. Philanthropy plays a large role in all our pursuits, providing us with the necessary tools to expand our programs, pursue innovative research, and make groundbreaking discoveries that lead to better outcomes for our patients.”