A onetime federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland, Charlie Scheeler went on to a highly successful 37-year career as a defense attorney with DLA Piper. Now a retired partner with the law firm, Scheeler remains very active in the community, serving as chair of the board of Rosedale Federal Savings & Loan Association, and on the boards of The Johns Hopkins University and Johns Hopkins Medicine. In those roles, and as chair of the board of Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, Scheeler has come to know well the work of David Hellmann and the Center for Innovative Medicine (CIM), and to champion CIM’s efforts to promote healthy aging. In the conversation that follows, Scheeler tells why Johns Hopkins is “the perfect fit” for an Institute for a Long and Healthy Life.
Q. Your ties to the Baltimore community and to Johns Hopkins run deep, don’t they?
A. Yes. I’m fairly certain my dad, Charles Scheeler, was born at what today is Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. His family moved from Butchers Hill to Rosedale after the 1904 Baltimore fire. My dad’s grandfather formed the Rosedale Permanent Building and Loan Association with $71 in assets in 1908 to pool their money and help others buy homes. My dad followed his own father at what became Rosedale Federal Savings & Loan Association. He sat on its board for 64 years and spent 26 years as chair. When he joined the board in 1952, Rosedale had about $3.8 million in assets. When he stepped down, it had $800 million.
“As native Baltimoreans, we saw firsthand how incredibly important Johns Hopkins is to the greater Baltimore community.”
My own ties to Johns Hopkins go back more than 20 years, when our youngest daughter, who was 4 at the time, was struggling with obsessive-compulsive disorder. My wife, Mary Ellen, and I came to Johns Hopkins to search for solutions for Cecelia. Once we found those solutions, we stayed closely connected with Johns Hopkins and got involved as volunteers. As native Baltimoreans, we saw firsthand how incredibly important Johns Hopkins is to the greater Baltimore community.
Q. In remarks you made in August at CIM’s annual retreat, you talked about the need for the U.S. to confront the health issues of our rapidly graying population. Why is that so critical?
A. Taking action is vitally important, not just to address the physical health of our country’s seniors but also to address the financial health of our nation. As a country, we are currently spending more than$3 trillion on health care, and $1 trillion of that is dedicated to providing health care for those over age 65. And our nation is only getting older. By 2020, for example, one-quarter of residents in Baltimore County will be over 65. Each year, we are seeing a climbing curve in health care costs for the aged as a percentage of the gross domestic product. We must figure out a way to care for our elderly population in a less expensive manner.
Fortunately, that lines up with what elderly people want. By providing an entire ecosystem that allows for more independence in our later years, for healthier and more enriched lives, we can also save money on health care. The goals are completely congruent.
As a society, we need to pursue this. We owe it to our parents to provide as dignified an old age as possible. Economically, it’s imperative that we address this so we don’t starve our children of future resources.
“We owe it to our parents to provide as dignified an old age as possible. Economically, it’s imperative that we address this so we don’t starve our children of future resources.”
Q. That brings us to plans within the Center for Innovative Medicine to establish an Institute for a Long and Healthy Life…
A. Yes! So, if we agree that we need to take action, then the question becomes, where? And to that, I respond: What better place to establish a national institute on healthy aging than at Johns Hopkins –a place that consistently ranks No. 1 in geriatrics, a place that has such strong programs in psychiatry, neurology, rheumatology. The Johns Hopkins Hospital and Johns Hopkins Bayview have long housed centers of excellence for all of the specialties that collectively support healthy aging. We’re a perfect fit.
“What better place to establish a national institute on healthy aging than at Johns Hopkins – a place that consistently ranks No. 1 in geriatrics, a place that has such strong programs in psychiatry, neurology, rheumatology.”
I think that creating an Institute for a Long and Healthy Life here could be a real game changer. Here in Baltimore, we can develop and road-test models for innovative programs – entirely new ways for individuals and for groups of people to have healthier and more productive later lives – and then export these models to the rest of the world, which matches perfectly with Johns Hopkins’ mission. Every day that I get older, the more excited I become about the prospect for this institute!