Relationships. Husband and wife, sister and brother, father and son, high school friends. Each important in its own way. At Johns Hopkins, the doctor – patient relationship is one of our core missions and no physician better exemplifies “clinician excellence” than Dr. Fred Wigley, Director of the Johns Hopkins Scleroderma Center. The 2009 recipient of the Distinguished Clinician Scholar Award from the American College of Rheumatology, Dr. Wigley founded the Johns Hopkins Scleroderma Center in 1991.
That doctor – patient relationship was equally important to Mrs. Chresanthe Staurulakis who first came to see Dr. Wigley more than two decades ago. Originally from Montgomery County, Maryland, Mrs. Staurulakis sought out Dr. Wigley for his expertise and national recognition dealing with scleroderma – an autoimmune, rheumatic and chronic disease that affects the body by hardening connective tissues. Connective tissues add strength to organs and other parts of the body and are made up of many kinds of proteins. Among them is collagen of the skin. Scleroderma literally means “hard skin”.
Mrs. Staurulakis and her husband, John, knew a few things about relationships too. Raising three children and founding their family business (John Staurulakis, Inc – JSI), providing consulting and advocacy for America’s independent telephone companies, their personal and business success became dependant on cultivating and stewarding these relationships.
In the early years of the Johns Hopkins Scleroderma Center, the Staurulakis family began a philanthropic relationship that would support Dr. Wigley and his colleagues as they searched for clues to unlock the mystery of this terrible disease. We say “family” because this relationship has become exactly that – a family relationship with Dr. Wigley and the Center.
In January 2009, Mrs. Staurulakis passed away at age 75 due to complications from scleroderma. In the weeks preceding her death, Dr. Wigley had been in constant contact with Chresanthe, John and their children Manny, Joanne and Leo.
This relationship which began so many years ago was not about to end just yet. The Staurulakis family wished that in lieu of flowers, family and friends would make a gift in Chresanthe’s memory to support Dr. Wigley and the JHSC. It was with this wish – that we at Johns Hopkins truly saw the impact of “relationships”. In the weeks and months that followed, over 100 gifts in Mrs. Staurulakis’ memory were received from all across the United States. Friends and family from Maryland and their new “home” state of Florida, businesses from Texas, South Carolina, North Dakota, Georgia and Wisconsin – just to name a few.
In the months following Mrs. Staurulakis’ death, her family decided that they wanted to do more. They wanted to continue that philanthropic partnership their wife and mother began with Dr. Wigley almost twenty years ago. With the thousands of dollars received, the Chresanthe Staurulakis Memorial Fund for Scleroderma Research was established at Johns Hopkins. With gifts from John Staurulakis and the business, John Staurulakis, Inc (JSI) – the Chresanthe Staurulakis Memorial Fund allows Dr. Wigley and his team to advance the research initiatives within the Center.
“We have some of the smartest people at Hopkins working in our Center and consulting with us. The Chresanthe Staurulakis Memorial Fund allows me to identify and immediately support a faculty member whose research looks promising”, said Dr. Wigley. “Translational research – taking what we learn in the clinic and applying in the lab, and vice versa – is the basis for our success and Staurulakis family’s support is the engine that makes it possible. I thank John and his children for making this possible. I am honored to have known and cared for Chresanthe and will always maintain our efforts in a manner which appropriately honors her memory”.