Women supporting WOMEN'S, and each other

2020-07-02 1:09:27 PM

As we look ahead and fully embrace the warmth and freedom offered by the summer months, we look back and realize how far we have come despite unprecedented challenges on many fronts. Women’s College Hospital has accomplished so much over the last three months and we simply would not have been able to do it without our generous community continuing to step forward with unbridled support.

As restrictions begin to lift across the province, and we begin to see recovery planning implemented within our hospital, we are grateful for everyone who answered our call. This helped us stay open every day, allowing us to provide over 22,000 virtual COVID-19 assessments and over 5,000 in-person assessments, move 75% of our clinical activity to virtual care, support 36 long-term care facilities in Toronto and 6 refugee shelters, and perform life-changing surgeries other hospitals could not perform.

Unfortunately, as the spikes of COVID-19 penetrated our healthcare system, it became all too clear that women are being disproportionately affected. Women are the majority of frontline healthcare workers, of primary caregivers and, sadly, victims of domestic violence exacerbated by forced quarantine and economic losses.

But what I have also seen is that it has been women who are coming forward with resilience, determined to help each other, and to help our community. Using their collective power to change the course of the pandemic, they are helping us to emerge strong and more prepared for the future.

Celebrating our Healthcare Heroes

In the first weeks of the pandemic, Zvelle, a luxury shoe brand run by close friend and former WCHF board member, Elle AyoubZadeh, launched its Healthcare Heroes campaign. Recognizing, empowering and thanking female healthcare heroes for their tireless work, the campaign planned to gift a select number of nominated workers with a pair of Stowe sandals — named after Women’s College Hospital’s fierce founder, Dr. Emily Stowe.


After being flooded with deserving nominations from around the world, Zvelle expanded the campaign and gifted shoes to every healthcare hero that had been nominated on Twitter and Instagram. As of April 22, over 300 pairs of luxury Stowe sandals had been shipped to deserving front-line healthcare heroes.

100Women Leading Change

In April, we reached out to our 100Women community asking them to step forward to support our courageous front-line workers who continue to sacrifice to keep our community and loved ones safe. We were profoundly inspired by their immediate response and extraordinary generosity. Within two hours of our request, we began receiving donations and messages of support:

“Caregivers and front-line workers are truly courageous and deserve all the support they can get. Thank you to WCH who makes itself available with the best services possible in the overall effort to contain the pandemic.”

“Happy to help. Stay safe through these troubling times.”

Together, the 100Women community is one of the most powerful forces for advancing healthcare. Above and beyond their on-going commitment to philanthropy at Women's, they have donated over $145,000 in support of our COVID-19 Response Fund and to champion the advancement of virtual care capability across the hospital, to ensure patients and providers remain safe while receiving and delivering care. We are so grateful for their enduring support. To learn more about this incredible group of women in philanthropy, please click here.

Breaking the silence on domestic violence

SamraZafar.jpgSamra Zafar, Women’s College Hospital Foundation Board member and award-winning international speaker, author and social entrepreneur, began hosting weekly webinars to support women who are being impacted by increased incidents of abuse and violence in the face of COVID-19.

Driven by her own harrowing personal experience, having escaped a decade of abuse living as a child bride in Canada, Samra has been sharing her story and advocating for change around the world in order to help break the silence and smash the stigma associated with domestic violence and abuse.

The weekly webinars, which also act as pseudo-support groups and a safe space for women to turn for advice, touch on topics ranging from emotional and psychological abuse to family law and how to navigate the court system to safety planning and tips for building support systems for women experiencing domestic violence. Guest speakers, allies and advocates in the violence against women sector join Samra to offer insights and resources to those who may be feeling the strain and impact of the pandemic more now than ever before.

In a time when perpetrators are emboldened by isolation, financial insecurity and increased togetherness, it is even more imperative that we find ways to support women affected by domestic violence and abuse. Women’s College Hospital’s Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Care Centre has continued to serve women 24/7 throughout the pandemic to help ensure care and support are available to everyone who needs it, with no appointment necessary.

Stepping up for those who need us most

Our redeployed staff continue to assist Kensington Gardens long-term care home in managing their needs in order to keep our seniors safe, and we have witnessed the powerful impact of the work of our Crossroads Clinic on the health of refugees and newcomers to Canada. To support the health and wellbeing of the Indigenous community during COVID-19, the Centre for Wise Practices in Indigenous Health has recently launched a virtual hub for Indigenous patients to access a wholistic framework for safe wellness and wisdom from our matriarchs.

As our physicians, clinicians and staff have stepped forward during this time of need, so too has our community of donors and supporters — to ensure Women’s could continue to boldly revolutionize healthcare despite the disruption of responding to a global pandemic.

I continue to be amazed not only by our community’s generosity during this difficult time, but also how the community has embraced supporting Women’s dream to make sure everyone, everywhere has access to high quality healthcare when they need it.

The flowers pictured above have generously been donated by Feel Good Flowers Toronto.

Together, we can continue to make progress in the fight against the pandemic and all the threats to healthcare access and equity.

Thank you for continuing to step forward for Women’s.

Stay safe and well,


Jennifer Bernard, CFRE
President and CEO
Women's College Hospital Foundation



To view our previous updates and learn more about how Women's College Hospital has been responding to the COVID-19 pandemic through the support of our donor community, please click on the links below: