Gift creates Karalis Johnson Retina Center at UW Medicine in Seattle

Donor is passionate about finding a cure for macular degeneration

Angie Karalis Johnson tours the new retina center in Seattle with Russ Van Gelder, director of the UW Medicine Eye Institute. COURTESY PHOTO, Randy Carnell/UW Medicine

Angie Karalis Johnson tours the new retina center in Seattle with Russ Van Gelder, director of the UW Medicine Eye Institute. COURTESY PHOTO, Randy Carnell/UW Medicine

Angie Karalis Johnson has a dream that a cure for the progressive eye disease known as age-related macular degeneration will one day happen because of research advances at UW Medicine. To help realize this dream, Karalis Johnson has made a significant donation to the UW Medicine Eye Institute to establish the new Karalis Johnson Retina Center.

The Karalis Johnson Retina Center opened Wednesday at UW Medicine’s South Lake Union campus, according to a UW Medicine news release. It will occupy 5,000-plus square feet as part of a new research and clinical building on the corner of Republican Street and Dexter Avenue in Seattle.

“The opening of the Karalis Johnson Retina Center will be a major resource for the region in terms of research and clinical care of retinal disease,” said Dr. Russell N. Van Gelder, chair of the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Washington School of Medicine, and director of the UW Medicine Eye Institute.

“The Karalis Johnson Retina Center will help us reach more patients to provide new treatments, slow degenerative conditions and ultimately restore vision,” he said.

It will be the first facility focused on clinical research for retinal vision loss in the five-state region of Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho. Patients with retinal diseases will have the opportunity to participate in clinical research, giving them access to the latest clinical trials.

Currently, providers at the UW Medicine Eye Institute see 220 to 230 patients a day and perform 10 to 15 surgeries daily. The UW Medicine Department of Ophthalmology already is among the top ophthalmology departments nationwide. Research faculty work in areas few other ophthalmologists tackle, including stem cell research to recreate eye diseases in a dish, advanced optics to get more information at a cellular scale to help doctors diagnose diseases at much earlier stages, analysis of huge amounts of data to understand disease patterns, and studies to advance gene therapy for ocular diseases. They provide care for patients with conditions such as advanced macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, hereditary retinal degeneration and uveitis.

For Karalis Johnson, her gift follows her life’s dream to help people with vision disorders.

She is the widow of Dr. Roger H. Johnson, a clinical professor of ophthalmology at the University of Washington School of Medicine, and a well-known ophthalmologist who ran a practice that was the primary referral center for Seattle Children’s and for eye diseases in the Pacific Northwest. She was the office manager at her husband’s practice and was touched deeply by seeing patients, often older people with macular degeneration, whose quality of life was drastically reduced by their vision problems.

Her gift is for an undisclosed amount and will be used to purchase state-of-the-art equipment as well as support research in improving advanced imaging; using big data approaches to retinal disease; accelerating the therapeutic pipeline; and advancing vision restoration techniques.

“Angie is an incredibly generous person, with a great vision for a future free of blindness from retinal disease. Her gift is transformative,” said Van Gelder. “I anticipate many advances in the care of retinal disease will be made possible from her remarkable gift.”

In 1982, Dr. Roger Johnson and Angie Karalis Johnson endowed the Roger Johnson Lectureship at Seattle Children’s Hospital, which continues to bring top pediatric ophthalmologists to Seattle to lecture each year. In 2001, they also endowed the Roger H. Johnson Award for Macular Degeneration, a cash prize that is presented annually to the scientist who has made the most significant contribution to the understanding and treatment of age-related macular degeneration.

Macular-degeneration happens when the light-sensing cells in the eye stop working and eventually die. Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of visual impairment for people over 60. Approximately 2 million new cases are diagnosed annually.

Karalis Johnson said she will never give up her fight to find a cure for macular degeneration.

“Until it’s cured, I won’t rest,” she said.

More in Northwest

In this file photo, marchers make their way from Trinity Episcopal Church in Everett on Feb. 26, 2017. Muslim refugees’ admissions into the U.S. have declined by 85 percent since the Trump administration came into power in 2017, according to the International Rescue Committee. Sound Publishing file photo
Report: Fewer refugees settling in U.S. and Washington state

Admissions are on pace to only reach around one-fifth of their limit in 2019.

A high tide at Raymond’s Willapa Landing Park in Grays Harbor County, Washington. Sound Publishing file photo
On the West Coast, Washington is most prone to sea level rise damage

Report by the Center for Climate Integrity shows multibillion-dollar cost of battling back the sea.

Photo Provided by Naomi Parkman Sansome Facebook Page
Buckle up for another smoky summer

Wildfires in Washington will likely roar back this year and into the future.

What’s next for Washington’s 2045 green energy goal?

The Legislature set the goal, but how does the state actually get there?

Tasting room proposal could redefine alcohol production in King County

Pilot program would benefit wineries, breweries and distilleries. Several farmers are concerned.

Susan’s quest for ‘justice’ and the civil legal system dilemma

While citizens have the right to an attorney in criminal cases, they’re not afforded the same rights in civil litigation.

King County Councilman Reagan Dunn sent a letter to the FBI asking for them to help investigate Allan Thomas (pictured), who is under investigation for stealing more than $400,000 of public funds and skirting election laws in an Enumclaw drainage district. Screenshot from King 5 report
King County Council requests report on special districts in wake of fraud allegations

Small, local special districts will face more scrutiny following Enumclaw drainage district case.

The Marquee on Meeker Apartments, 2030 W. Meeker St. in Kent, will feature 492 apartments and 12,000 square feet of retail. The first phase of 288 apartments is expected to be completed in early 2020. Developers are targeting people in their 20s and 30s to rent their high-end, urban-style apartments. Steve Hunter/staff photo
Housing study pokes holes in conventional wisdom

High construction and land costs will incentivize developers to build luxury units.

I’ll miss Doug Baldwin the player, but I’ll miss the man more

I witnessed ‘Contemplative Doug,’ not ‘Angry Doug,’ in my time covering the Seahawks.

File photo
Eviction reform passed by state Legislature

Tenant protections included longer notices and more judicial discretion.

Overdose deaths continue to rise locally and nationally

This may not be the same opioid epidemic anymore.

Cherry trees fully in bloom at the State Capitol Building in Olympia. Photo by Linda J. Smith
I-1000 passes state Legislature as advocates hope to increase equality

The initiative could allow affirmative action to return to Washington state after 20 years.