Madison family donates $140K in daughter’s honor
When Madison residents Martha and John Hill were anticipating the arrival of their first child in 1993, they couldn’t have imagined the challenges that lay ahead.
Their infant daughter was diagnosed with a rare genetic condition known as ocular albinism, leaving the couple with more questions than answers.
Ocular albinism reduces pigmentation in the iris (the colored part of the eye) and the retina (the light sensitive tissue at the back of the eye), which is essential for normal eyesight. Given the severity of the diagnosis, the Hills were informed that their child might never lead a conventional life. Everyday activities such as driving a car or attending a local school are often out of reach for someone living with her condition.
“She was diagnosed during a consultation for a clogged tear duct,” Martha Hill said. “It was quite a surprise to learn there was much more. As new parents—young parents—this was unfamiliar territory for us.”
Desperate for answers, the couple sought help at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, where their daughter was evaluated by a geneticist. Fortunately, her case of ocular albinism turned out to be one of the milder ones. After receiving treatments at a young age, she has since managed to achieve milestones that were initially deemed unlikely. “We feel so blessed because her condition, given the prognosis, was minimal and she is doing well.”
In honor of their daughter, the Hill family donated $140,000 to the UMMC Department of Ophthalmology in support of its mission to provide the best, most comprehensive care to the people of Mississippi. The state— burdened with a high prevalence of chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity— has a significant number of individuals with disease-related eye conditions such as diabetic retinopathy, cataracts and glaucoma.
“We wanted to help Mississippians— children and adults with vision issues,” John Hill said. “Also, we want to recognize the ophthalmologists that helped us. All of whom attended and were trained by UMMC Department of Ophthalmology.”
Being the sole ophthalmology practice in Mississippi with faculty experts in all major ophthalmic subspecialties, the Department of Ophthalmology receives patients from across the state and even neighboring states. In 2021 alone, the department treated nearly 20,000 patients, 2,500 of whom required additional surgical care.
“We know how concerning that situation was for our family,” John Hill said. “We want to help other families out there that don’t have the access to medical resources we were fortunate enough to have.”
Over the years, the Hills have donated to several clinics providing vision assistance locally and regionally. They have also funded a scholarship at Mississippi State University for students with vision impairment. “We’ve tried to donate where we can over the years, but we always wanted to do something more,” he said. “We were finally in a situation where we could do that, and we knew it would have a big impact at UMMC because they help a lot of people.”
Dr. Kimberly Crowder, professor and chair of ophthalmology said, “We are very grateful to the Hill family for this generous gift that will allow us to invest in our faculty, students and patients in a way that we haven’t before.”
The Hill family’s donation will establish The Martha and John Hill Ophthalmology Access Fund, which will facilitate investments in state-of-the-art equipment, continuous medical education for ophthalmological technicians and essential care for patients.
To support the Department , contact Melissa Robinson, DHA, director of principal gifts and strategic planning, at 601-984-1106 or firstname.lastname@example.org