Championing compassionate and connected care

2020-11-13 11:19:38 AM

When Louise Fast thinks back to her childhood, she remembers the caring and compassion of her grandfather, Dr. Rosaire Frigon – a family physician in rural Quebec who would jump to answer a call and was always ready to help those who needed him. Decades later, it is that same care and compassion that continues to inspire Louise’s dedicated philanthropy.
“Family medicine, to me, is one of the most important parts of medicine. A family physician cares for you from before you are born until you die,” says Louise. “But Family Medicine doesn’t always get the recognition that it deserves. When I became a patient at Women’s College Hospital over 30 years ago, I experienced the hospital’s unique commitment to caring – and caring for women, specifically, which is what first inspired me to donate.”
In 2012, The Fast Foundation established The Frigon Blau Chair in Family Medicine Research, named after Louise’s grandfather and retired Women’s College Hospital family physician Dr. Nadia Blau. Functioning as a partnership between the Family Practice Health Centre at WCH and the University of Toronto’s Department of Family and Community Medicine, the Chair position serves as a catalyst for developing knowledge that addresses important issues in family medicine, to foster innovation and enhance patient-centred primary care.
“Even back then, the hospital was forward thinking and looking for ways to better connect patients and doctors,” says Louise. “In the decade since, they’ve been able to improve so many different aspects of medicine through technology and bring seemingly far-fetched ideas to reality, like same-day knee and hip replacements and virtual mental health group therapy sessions.”
A trailblazer in her own right, Louise has supported a number of other major innovation initiatives at Women’s College Hospital since establishing the Chair in family medicine, including founding support of the directorship fund at the Women’s College Hospital Institute for Health System Solutions and Virtual Care, also known as WIHV. Through this support, her impact on virtual care and digital health innovation has been profound.
Now the provincial Centre of Excellence in Digital Health Evaluation, WIHV is at the centre of a partnership of more than 30 organizations, including hospitals and universities, working to unlock the power of innovation and digital technology to make healthcare more accessible, more effective and more sustainable for everyone.
In 2019, expanding on its research and expertise, Women’s College Hospital launched its next bold new virtual healthcare initiative: Women’s Virtual. As Canada’s first virtual hospital, Women’s Virtual is utilizing digital health tools and virtual models of care to re-envision the entire healthcare experience and bring it into the 21st century.  
Now, once again, Louise has stepped forward with transformational support: a $1 million gift to help bring together innovations in research, care, policy and knowledge translation, and make virtual care a mainstream option for patients and providers across the country.
According to Dr. Sacha Bhatia, Chief Medical Innovation Officer at Women’s College Hospital, Louise’s support is just the sort of investment needed to continue driving forward this important research. “We know that government won’t fund untested and unproven programs or technology,” he says. “Thanks to fearless philanthropic leaders like Louise, who are courageous enough to invest in the forefront of virtual care and digital health tools, we can continue to innovate, improve healthcare and close gaps that are putting patients’ lives and our entire healthcare system at risk.”
For Louise, the potential for Women’s Virtual to care for people across the country was imperative. “This isn’t research and innovation that will remain in a silo,” says Louise. “It’s in the culture at Women’s to think beyond the hospital, to share ideas and innovation to benefit us all. My hope is that by supporting this work, it can make a difference well beyond Toronto.
Thinking back to what my grandfather did with his practice – helping people and making sure they were getting the care they needed – that’s what I’m trying to do.”