Hamila Lotfi's Story
“It’s so important to help patients take control and get their lives back.”
Thinking back to her cancer diagnosis, Hamila Lotfi says her double mastectomy was the easy part. In fact, it was the decision to have breast reconstruction the following year that proved much more difficult.
“The mastectomy had to be done, but reconstruction was a choice, not a necessity,” says the Toronto resident. She feared it was a choice rife with excruciating pain, a long recovery and separation from her family, especially her 10-year-old son, who worried every time his mother entered the hospital.
"I figured for 10 days to two weeks, I’d be at home in agony. But there was no pain the next day… it was amazing.”
All concerns were put to rest the minute Hamila met with Dr. John Semple, Women’s College Hospital’s chief of surgery. With chemotherapy and radiation now behind her, Hamila was a candidate for a groundbreaking approach to breast reconstruction. TRAM (transverse rectus abdominis myocutaneous) flap surgery uses abdominal skin, fat and muscle tissue to reconstruct the breast. This procedure is being executed at Women’s College Hospital with minimal discomfort, a short patient stay and safe recovery at home.
“It was a miracle,” says Hamila, who underwent the procedure in 2010. “I can’t tell you how happy I am with the decision.”
Not only was Hamila back home with her family within 18 hours (the national average for breast reconstruction is six days), she was able to return to work after just three weeks – three weeks sooner than expected. This innovative surgery allows women to recover at home faster and with fewer complications.
“Who would have thought this was even possible?” Hamila asks. “It’s so important to help patients take control and get their lives back.”
She credits Women’s College Hospital with helping her do exactly that.
Your donation today will help more women like Hamila receive the support they need to get back to their health and their lives. Donate online and transform the future of healthcare for women everywhere.
Kathleen Mulheron's Story
Kathleen and George create a powerful legacy of support for generations to come
Close to 100 times, Kathleen Mulheron has travelled from her home in Scarborough to Women’s College Hospital for a treatment regime that lasts between three seconds and three minutes. And she wouldn’t trade the experience for the world.
Kathleen is a patient at Women’s College Hospital’s Phototherapy Education and Research Centre (PERC)
, where she receives specialized light therapy as treatment for psoriasis, a chronic and often painful skin disease. “There are so few facilities like this and the benefits of treatment are amazing,” says Kathleen, who, at age 60, has battled psoriasis for more than 50 years. “It seems to work really, really well for me.”
So well, in fact, that Kathleen and her husband, George Szuszwal, recently made a planned gift to Women’s College Hospital Foundation in support of PERC. They chose to include a bequest in their will because:
“It’s a very easy way of giving, it doesn’t impact us during our lifetime, the money gets where we want it to go and it’s straightforward for our executor,” explains Kathleen.
Although a planned gift also allows donors to make a more substantial donation than they might otherwise be able to give during their lifetime, Kathleen says it’s important to remember you don’t have to be wealthy to invest in Women’s College Hospital.
“Every amount helps. Small gifts by many donors can create lots of good work.”
For more information on planned giving at Women’s College Hospital Foundation, contact Leigh Naturkach, Senior Director, Philanthropy & Legacy Giving at 416-323-6323 ext. 2936 or email@example.com.
Caroline Noakes's Story
Facing cancer at age 29, Caroline credits WCH not only for her recovery, but also her new outlook on life.
Diagnosed with breast cancer at age 29, just three years after getting married and months after the purchase of her first house, the Whitby resident has endured three surgeries in just a little over a year, all at Women’s College Hospital.
“Facing cancer at this stage in our lives wasn’t something we ever imagined, but we came out on the other side even stronger than before,” she says of her relationship with husband Matt. “I gained a different perspective and a greater sense of clarity about life.”
Caroline credits her new outlook on life to the excellent care she received at Women’s College Hospital.
Immediately after her diagnosis in March 2012, Caroline was referred to WCH surgical oncologist Dr. Tulin Cil. Dr. Cil performed a lumpectomy in April and Caroline followed up with six rounds of chemotherapy. In December, after an inconclusive result from her BRCA1 genetic test, Caroline elected to have a double mastectomy to eliminate almost any chance of her breast cancer recurring.
The fear of recurrence made the decision straightforward, but, still, Caroline worried about the cosmetic results. Dr. John Semple, chief of surgery and the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation Ontario Region chair in surgical breast cancer research, set her mind at ease.
“He presented me with options,” she says. “If I’d known ahead of time how remarkable the results would be, I would have made the decision in an instant.”
Caroline underwent the final stage of her breast reconstruction in May, the first surgery to take place in Women’s College Hospital’s new outpatient hospital. While the quality of care was equal to her previous two procedures, there was one noticeable difference this time around.
“Last year, I remember waking up in a stark, windowless room, " Caroline says.
"This time, it was a beautiful, soothing space, not at all clinical and with lots of natural light. It gave me such confidence in the level of care. I could tell my medical team was bursting with pride of their new space.”
She was back home the same day to recover with her family and the help of a smartphone app pioneered by Dr. Semple to help post-surgery patients keep in touch with their healthcare team.
“Women’s College Hospital has a reputation for ground-breaking work,” says Caroline. “I feel lucky to be part of such a rich history.”
Your generosity will help more women like Caroline gain back their health and strength to live long, fulfilling lives. Donate today and transform the health of women and families.
Ken Yip-Hoi's Story
"As long as Women’s College Hospital is here, I'm here."
Four months ago, Ken Yip-Hoi was living in Trinidad and literally wasting away at 120 pounds. Diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2001, his blood sugar levels started spiralling out of control in 2011 and no amount of medication, diet or exercise could turn the tide.
That is, until Ken’s family doctor in Canada referred him to the Centre for Integrated Diabetes Care
at Women’s College Hospital.
Tests quickly revealed Ken had adult late-onset diabetes. “They put me on insulin and I started to measure my blood sugar levels on a regular basis,” says the 48-year-old, who relocated to his Toronto home this summer.
“It’s amazing what’s happened. I’m back to almost 160 pounds, I’m eating right and I exercise more. I see these great effects now compared to when I wasn’t responding to anything.”
Ken attributes his fast-track improvement to WCH’s exceptional care team. The Centre for Integrated Diabetes Care was introduced in 2012 to provide a team approach to diabetes research, teaching and treatment. Led by acclaimed endocrinologist and Women’s College Research Institute
scientist Dr. Lorraine Lipscombe, the centre supports patients with one-stop care from an interdisciplinary team of doctors, nurses, dieticians, social workers and other specialists.
“I have only good things to say,” Ken says of his entire centre team. He reserves special praise for nurse practicioner Nicola Farnell, whose care and compassion have had a significant impact on his recovery. Nicola is Ken’s point-person at every appointment and she even emails him several times a week for health updates.
“When you’re sick and you’re not seeing results, you feel like there’s nowhere to turn, no one to talk to,” he says of his years of declining health in Trinidad. In sharing his story, Ken hopes to let others know they don’t have to face diabetes alone.
“As long as Women’s College Hospital is here, I’m here. My recovery has everything to do with the people who work here.”
Your donation today will help more people like Ken receive the support they need to get back to their health and their lives. Donate online and transform the future of healthcare for women everywhere.
Samson & Helen's Story
Finding courage and hope at the Crossroads Clinic
Dr. Meb Rashid was knee-deep in day-end paperwork after his clinic closed late on a Friday last year when a receptionist told him a patient had walked in.
“I went outside to find Samson standing proud with his wife and two beautiful daughters. They had joined him in Canada,” remembers the medical director of Women’s College Hospital’s Crossroads Clinic
, Toronto’s first hospital-based refugee health clinic.
A patient of the clinic since he fled his home country of Eritrea in 2011 to avoid religious persecution, Samson was anxious to introduce his family to the Canadian doctor he describes as a “friend and a good person.”
Each year since its opening in late 2011, WCH’s Crossroads Clinic has helped approximately 950 newly-arrived refugees navigate Canada’s medical system. Dr. Rashid and his team help to ease their transition into a new life by providing comprehensive primary care aimed at preventing chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension, and reducing the number of emergency room visits. After two years, they help to connect patients with a family physician near their home.
With thousands of people like Samson arriving in Canada each year as refugees, including 25,000 currently escaping the Syrian Civil War, the work of the Crossroads Clinic is more urgent than ever. Having faced extreme poverty, hardship and trauma, many refugees have complex health needs that have not been addressed. Dr. Rashid and his team are working hard to bring Canada’s refugees to a place of good health so they begin settling into their new lives.
“Because I have a lower back problem and stomach problems, Dr. Rashid gave me medication,” Samson explains through a translator.
“When I worried about how I’m going to take care of my family, he encouraged me. He gives me hope. He says, ‘Tomorrow you will walk. You will run.’ He gives me courage.”
Samson’s wife Helen and daughters Mihret and Bethelehem are now patients of the Crossroads Clinic as well. The excellent care they continue to receive leaves Samson convinced that he made the right by setting in Toronto.
“Canada is a beautiful, peaceful country. It is now my country.”
Your donation today will help more families like Samson's receive the support they need to get back to their health and their lives. Donate online and transform the future of healthcare for women everywhere.
Lori Sylman's Story
After suffering 44 years with migraines, Lori was finally able to find a healthcare provider at WCH who truly understood her distress.
When Lori Sylman had her first migraine, her schoolteacher sent her to stand alone in the hallway as punishment. She was just 11 years old. That moment of pain and isolation was the first of countless more she would experience over the next 44 years.
By the time Lori was in her 30s, she was suffering from three or four migraines a week, unable to find a healthcare provider who truly understood her distress. Eventually, the pain landed the mother of three in hospital at least once a month.
"That was the breaking point for me," she remembers. "I had to figure out a different way to manage this."
Advice from her sister sent Lori to Dr. Christine Lay, an internationally renowed neurologist and director of Women's College Hospital's Centre for Headache
. Over the last five years, Dr. Lay has helped Lori manage her headaches with a combination of medication, diet, vitamins and exercise. Lori's 20-year-old daughter also receives life-changing treatment from Dr. Lay.
"I spent years hiding behind the pain because I got so tired of constantly saying I had a headache," says Lori. "Now I feel like I can actually talk about it."
From standing alone in that hallway to finding a champion in Dr. Lay, Lori takes comfort is knowing that she'll never again have to feel alone with her headaches.
"Without Dr. Lay, I wouldn't be where I am today, feeling good and positive about my own daughter's future. I know it's going to be okay for her, because she has Women's College Hospital."
Donate today and give the gift of hope and healing to more women like Nadine. If you are interested in becoming a patient at the Centre for Headache, please speak to your doctor to learn more and get a referral.
Sharon Newman's Story
Fifteen days after Sharon Newman was diagnosed with breast cancer, she was a survivor crediting WCH research with saving her life.
In 2010, Sharon participated in a WCH research study testing 2,000 Ontario Jewish women for the BRCA genetic mutation, which has been linked to increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
She received the news that she carried the mutation while trying to get her children out the door for an afterschool activity. "I picked up the phone and everything stopped. I was just blown away. I figured it was a mistake."
Following consultations with WCH’s genetic counsellors and further testing, her worst fear was confirmed: Sharon already had breast cancer.
"I'm not usually a very decisive person," Sharon says. "But in that moment it was so clear. I wanted a double mastectomy and reconstruction."
A month after the surgery, Sharon’s son, Tommy, asked if his mom was going to die.
"I told him I was going to be okay," says Sharon. "He smiled and held my hand high in the air like a champion and said, 'Mommy beat cancer!' That's when I realized how truly lucky I am to be given the gift of life for a second time."
Sharon believes that without the BRCA finding, her cancer might have gone undiagnosed for some time – perhaps for too long – since she was too young to qualify for a mammogram.
In the summer of 2016, Sharon celebrated a major milestone: five years cancer-free. Over the past five years, she says that her experience has helped her understand the true power of her inner strength – a strength that she is now harnessing to make a difference for others.
Empowered with the knowledge that she can help save the lives of women around the world, Sharon established The Sharon Newman Family Fund to support hereditary breast and ovarian cancer research at Women’s College Hospital.
In addition to fundraising within her community, she has also committed to donate a portion of the proceeds from her sales of Beautycounter products to her fund. Beautycounter is a line of cosmetic and personal products that is leading by example to advocate for better regulation of ingredients that pose health risks – including cancer.
“Making a difference at Women’s College Hospital through fundraising efforts and supporting a movement towards safer products have become my two passions,” Sharon says. “It is through this work that my journey makes sense, and I can continue moving forward while giving back.”
Support hereditary breast and ovarian cancer research at WCH by donating to The Sharon Newman Family Fund.
If you would like to browse the Beautycounter product line, visit Sharon’s Beautycounter. Your online purchase of any Beautycounter product will help the movement towards safer beauty while also helping to advance research at Women’s College Hospital.
Rodger & Joann McLennan's Story
Women's health matters to the McLennans. "At Women’s College, they care for whole families, " says Joann.
There’s no mistaking where Joann McLennan is from. Although she’s lived in Canada for more than 40 years, the tones of her native New York City ring clear. “It never goes away,” she says proudly. “And I go home every year to reinforce it!”
She met Rodger in the late 1960s, while visiting a Canadian friend in Windsor, Ontario. The two connected at a New Year’s Eve party. A month later she had moved to Canada, and they were married within a year.
The McLennans settled in Toronto in 1975 when Rodger got a job with the Scarborough Public Library. When they started looking for a family doctor, someone recommended a young woman who was just starting up her practice. Her name was Dr. Carolyn Bennett, and she was affiliated with Women’s College Hospital.
Bennett, of course, went on to enter politics, winning a seat in the 1997 federal election. She was re-elected in 2000, 2004 and 2006, and served in several cabinet positions. “We didn’t want her to win,” says Joann with a smile.
The McLennans continued to attend the practice Bennett started and to receive most of their secondary care at Women’s College Hospital. “Women’s health matters to me,” says Joann. “The research done at the Hospital is very impressive, and so is the care women get when they go there. At Women’s College, they care for whole families.”
She is especially appreciative of the Multidisciplinary Osteoporosis Program
, a team of physicians, nurse specialists, occupational therapists, physical therapists and pharmacists.
“It’s a wondrous thing for women – as far as I’m concerned, if you don’t get all that attention from different professionals, you’re not getting proper treatment.”
Rodger is enthusiastic about the mission of Women’s College Hospital, too. “I’m glad there is an emphasis on service for women, because for too long women have gotten short shrift in medical services.” He is impressed by the care he receives, and by the Hospital’s trademark warmth and friendliness.
“You get to know your care providers here, and it all becomes like a family get-together. I think we’re both very lucky to have Women’s College as our main medical base.” He and Joann have recommended Women’s College to many friends and acquaintances over the years.
Several years ago, Joann was seriously ill and was hospitalized for eight months. She spent three months in a coma in the Critical Care Unit at Sunnybrook and Women's College Health Sciences Centre. Her surgeon, Dr. Theodore Ross, visited her seven days a week until she was out of danger. (The two hospitals were de-merged in 2006. Dr. Ross continues to practice at Women’s College.)
Rodger was also pleased with the thorough care he received when he visited the Urgent Care centre with heart concerns. “The doctor kept me overnight so that she could check my readings several times. She didn’t want to make a decision based on 15 minutes of monitoring.”
Rodger and Joann have supported Women’s financially for many years. Joann explains their generosity in simple terms: “We have it, the hospital needs it, so we give it!” They are also members of the Foundation’s Spirit of Life society, which honours those who have made a bequest in their will to benefit the Hospital. “We can’t be here forever,” says Rodger. “This will help the Hospital when we’re gone.”
For more information on planned giving at Women’s College Hospital Foundation, contact Wendy Dias, Senior Development Officer, Leadership and Planned Gifts at 416-323-6323 ext. 2261 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Katie Osler's Story
Katie finds in WCH a space that feels "really intimate, protected and safe."
In a masterful understatement, Katie Osler describes the last eight years of her life as “a busy time.” During those years, Osler gave birth to her two children at Women’s College and was treated for breast cancer at the hospital. Recently she underwent a hysterectomy, also at Women’s College.
What’s amazing about Osler is that her enthusiasm and energy for life is undimmed by her challenging experiences. “You can get depressed or angry, but then your body is using all that energy that it could be using to fight the cancer,” she says. “I knew it was going to take a lot of energy to get through my treatment, and I didn’t want to waste it.”
Osler, who was herself born at the hospital, is a real estate agent with Chestnut Park, where she works on a team with her mother and sister. She started making monthly donations to WCHF after giving birth to her daughter, who is now eight.
“I have very, very happy memories of that time at Women’s College,” she says. “When I was having my babies, it felt really intimate, protected and safe. And yet I knew that they had everything they needed if something went wrong.”
It was just before Christmas 2006 that Osler found a lump in her breast and had an initial consult with her surgeon. A biopsy was performed on December 29, she got her results January 10, and had her surgery on January 16. “That was fast, especially over the Christmas holidays. And I had great care for my mastectomy. I continue to be in awe of what the women at that hospital can do.”
Since her treatment, Osler has directed her donations to support the Henrietta Banting Breast Centre. She says that giving on a monthly basis makes it easy to make a significant gift every year. “It comes off my VISA and I don’t feel it!”
She adds: “I think it’s wonderful that there’s a hospital that deals with and caters to women. I love Women’s College and I love supporting it. Mine is not a big donation, but it all adds up.”
Become a monthly donor and join Katie in transforming the lives of women and their families for future generations to come.
The Power Family's Story
Three generations live to share their story
Stephanie Power is the first woman in her family to grow up with a grandmother. In every previous generation, breast cancer had stolen the Power women before they could know the joy of loving their children’s children.
That cycle is over now, thanks to Women’s College Hospital’s Familial Cancer Research Unit and innovations in breast cancer surgery. Over the past 18 years, Stephanie, her mother Michele and her grandmother Gail have all tested positive for the BRCA1 genetic mutation and have all opted for life-saving preventive surgery.
And all had the same surgeon: Dr. John Semple, WCH’s surgeon-in-chief, who has seen research breakthroughs at Women’s College Hospital make grandmothers out of women who previously would have died early of hereditary cancers.
Women’s College Hospital no longer brings babies into the world, but Dr. Semple happily says the hospital is now delivering grandmothers and inter-generational joy – instead of devastating news – to generations of women like Stephanie, Michele and Gail.
Your donation today will save the lives of generations of women like Stephanie, Michele and Gail. Donate online and build a better future for the health of women.
Elana Trainoff's Story
At the age of 40, Elana didn't expect to experience a full-blown heart attack. Thanks to WCH, she's on the road to recovery.
Your donation today will help more women like Elana receive the support they need to get back to their health and their lives. Donate online and transform the future of healthcare for women everywhere.
When she woke up in the middle of the night with crushing chest pain, Elana Trainoff thought she was just experiencing bad heartburn. She had been feeling off for the previous two days, but put it down to symptoms of indigestion.
Initially too embarrassed to go to the hospital, she finally had her partner at the time take her to their local emergency department. At age 40, Elana was shocked to learn that she was in the middle of a full-blown heart attack.
“On the way to the hospital, I had joked about it: ‘Can you imagine if I’m having a heart attack? How crazy would that be?’” she says. Even though heart disease runs in her family, she always thought that it was something she’d worry about later in life – not while in her prime, with an active lifestyle and busy career as a film and television producer.
Two months after her heart attack, Elana enrolled in the Cardiac Rehabilitation Program at Women’s College Hospital, the first heart health program in North America specifically designed for women. Having tried another rehabilitation program at a different hospital, she was looking for a non-judgmental environment where she felt supported and cared for. She found all of that at Women’s College Hospital and more.
“Walking into Women’s College, I immediately felt a strong sense of accessibility and support, and all of my care came without judgment,” she says. “It was so reassuring in a difficult time.”
Self-conscious about being one of the younger patients in the program, Elana says it would have been easy to feel alone and isolated in her journey back to good health. Instead, the Cardiac Rehab team made her feel like part of their family.
“I was treated with kindness from everyone,” she says. “They welcomed me with open arms and open hearts. Going there is like getting a warm hug!”
Elana recently graduated from the Cardiac Rehabilitation Program after spending six months undergoing a personalized treatment program that included exercise, meal plans and lifestyle changes. Today, she is doing well and focusing on reducing stress, eating better and living healthier. She’s also passionate about getting a message out to other young women like herself: this could happen to you too.
“Women need to really listen to their bodies and not feel afraid or ashamed to take the time to look after our health,” she says. “If something doesn’t feel right, really listen to your gut and do something about it.”
Catherine Atkins's Story
For generations, no woman in her family has lived past the age of 60. Catherine was determined to break the cycle of heart disease.
Catherine knows all too well the impact that heart disease can have on a family. For generations, no woman in her family has lived past the age of 60 as a result of hereditary heart challenges. With the help of Women’s College Hospital’s Cardiac Rehab Program
, Catherine intends to break that cycle.
Nine years ago, Catherine developed an irregular and faster than normal heartbeat. To help regulate her heart, she underwent an operation to have a special device placed in her chest. But she and her doctors knew that in order to achieve her goal to live well into old age, Catherine had to focus on getting healthy and strong. That’s when she was referred to WCH’s Cardiac Rehab Program, the first heart health program of its kind in Canada focused specifically on women.
At Women’s College Hospital, Catherine participated in a 12-week course that focused on exercise and making healthier lifestyle choices – and she quickly got hooked. So hooked, in fact, that she requested to return for a second round of the full course.
“Women’s College has given me confidence and the ability to say, ‘Yeah, I can do this – I can exercise and get healthy!'” Catherine says.
“I feel stronger and more secure in my health. I intend to be the one in my family who goes above and beyond – who lives past that life expectancy of 60 for the women in my family.”
We are so grateful to Catherine for sharing her powerful story. The next time you visit Women’s College Hospital, be sure to look for Catherine’s photo and inspiring message on elevators throughout the facility.
Your gift will help more women like Catherine gain back their health and strength to live long, fulfilling lives. Donate today and transform the health of women and families.
Nadine Griffiths's Story
WCH is the place that helped Nadine find what she’d been searching for her whole life: the ability to believe in herself.
Donate today and give the gift of hope and healing to more women like Nadine by helping Women's College Hospital continue to grow as a global leader in women's mental health.
For Nadine Griffiths, Women’s College Hospital is the place that helped her find what she’d been searching for her whole life: the ability to believe in herself. A patient of WCH’s Women’s Mental Health Program
, a global leader in treating and researching the unique mental health challenges faced by women, Nadine says that the caring and support she receives at the hospital have profoundly changed her life and outlook.
“Since I started coming here, I feel like I can breathe,” she says. “I felt so lost until I got here. Now I know I’m not alone, and I’m not afraid to talk about what happened to me. I’ve learned to just believe in myself. I have learned value – my value.”
Nadine’s journey to better health began last year, when her world came crashing down around her. A 48-year-old mom of two daughters, she was in the middle of an average work day when she suddenly began crying and shaking uncontrollably. Initially thinking the pressure of her job was taking a toll on her, Nadine quickly realized what was happening: her past had caught up with her.
While growing up in Jamaica, Nadine suffered repeated sexual and physical abuse at the hands of her aunt and her aunt's husband, her primary caregivers. To escape the horror she faced, she would often run away to her grandmother’s house. There, she says, her aunt would always find her – and bring her straight back home.
“My aunt would come and get me,” says Nadine. “Her husband would molest me and then my aunt would beat me at night if I didn’t clean the house.”
At age 21, Nadine escaped her abusers for good by moving to Canada with her four-year-old daughter. A loving, outgoing person, Nadine couldn’t understand why she felt so sad after settling into her new life. For years, she struggled to find the motivation to go out with friends, explore Toronto or simply enjoy life. Most of the time, she wished she could just stay in bed.
Worst of all, Nadine felt that she had no one to turn to – no one who understood what was happening to her. She says that in her culture, mental illness is highly stigmatized and rarely discussed – a big reason why she didn’t seek help until her depression almost killed her.
After her panic attack that day at work, Nadine says her feelings of loneliness, alienation and hopelessness grew much worse. “I sat at home and started drinking, feeling sorry for myself,” she says. “I asked God, ‘Can you just kill me so I won’t suffer like this?’ I was ashamed to tell anyone I was suffering. It was terrible.”
One day, when she was at her lowest point, Nadine found the courage to talk to a friend who had recently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He encouraged her to talk to her doctor. She did, and her journey to healing began.
Nadine’s family doctor referred her to Women’s College Hospital, where she began bi-weekly sessions with psychiatrist Dr. Jennifer Hensel. In addition to their regular meetings, Dr. Hensel felt Nadine would benefit from WCH’s group therapy program and helped her enroll.
With its women-focused care and welcoming, patient-centred environment, WCH proved to be the perfect fit for Nadine. Her past trauma makes her uncomfortable receiving care from men, and the community-based mental health programs she was initially referred to weren’t able to provide the depth of relationship-based support she truly needed.
Removing barriers to help women access better mental healthcare is a key focus of WCH’s Women’s Mental Health Program. As Canada’s largest mental health clinical and research program focused specifically on women, it includes general psychiatry, group therapy programs, virtual online support and much more to help women and their families receive the world-class support they need to live healthier, stronger lives.
“This place here, I can come here and it helps me feel normal again,” says Nadine. “Dr. Hensel is a really amazing doctor. She doesn’t just leave me to figure things out on my own; we work things out together and she helps me understand things about myself that I didn’t see before.”
Nadine wants the world to know that help is out there for others who are suffering – that the mental health services offered by Women’s College Hospital and other organizations are changing lives.
“I just want to reach out to people and say if I can do it, you can do it. Don’t be afraid. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. You’re in a country where you have so much help available to you. Women’s College Hospital is here to help and that’s what’s given me hope.”
Learn more about WCH’s Women's Mental Health Programs. If you are interested in becoming a patient, please speak to your doctor to learn more and get a referral.
Kerry Lake's Story
A future physician herself, Kerry's experience at WCH helped her fully appreciate the role of pain control in her rapid recovery after surgery.
Last December, Kerry Lake injured her knee during a national ultimate frisbee tournament. As she prepared to undergo orthopedic surgery at Women’s College Hospital, Kerry was nervous: would her recovery be painful?
She chose to participate in a department of anesthesia study testing a new kind of nerve block that manages pain longer and reduces the need for nausea-causing painkillers. When she woke up in the recovery room, she was shocked – and relieved.
“My first thought was, ‘Wow – I don’t feel any pain at all,’” she says. As a medical student at the time, Kerry knew that anesthesiologists play a critical role in helping to manage surgical pain. But until she had to face surgery herself, she didn’t realize just how much of a difference they could make.
Kerry didn’t feel any discomfort in her knee until 36 hours post-surgery, and even then it was mild. She enjoyed a rapid recovery, and today the 28-year-old is back training with her team.
“I couldn’t have asked for better care,” she says. “There wasn’t a moment I felt apprehension or confusion. The anesthesiology team at WCH made sure I was informed at every stage; they were attentive to all aspects of my care, and ensured the whole experience went smoothly for me.”
As a future physician completing her residency in internal medicine at Queen’s University, Kerry’s says her experience at WCH helped her fully appreciate the role of pain control in helping patients make a quick and robust recovery from surgery.
“I was blessed to have benefitted from the services of a superbly skilled and compassionate team. I can’t thank them enough.”
Your generosity today will help patients like Kerry recover faster and get home sooner because of innovations in anesthesia and pain management.
Sue Williams's Story
"After my heart attack, WCH really gave me back my life and my lifestyle.”
Your generosity will help save the lives of more women like Sue. Donate online today.
Sue Williams was enjoying a family trip to England when she suddenly began experiencing the early signs of a heart attack. As she was rushed to the hospital, Sue entered full cardiac arrest and died for a brief moment before being resuscitated. After spending several weeks in hospital and then at a relative’s home in the U.K., Sue returned home and immediately enrolled in Women’s College Hospital’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Program to begin her long journey to recovery.
Sue’s heart attack came as a complete surprise. A nurse with a history of cardiac disease in her family, Sue had always closely monitored her heart and maintained a healthy lifestyle. At 60, she was in excellent shape and thought she had nothing to worry about when it came to her heart health.
“I went from quite fine to nearly dead in 30 minutes,” she says. At the Cardiac Rehabilitation Program, Sue worked with a team of nurses and exercise specialists who helped her regain not only her health, but her strength and confidence.
“From my very first appointment, I felt both safe and energized,” Sue says.
“They offer more than just an exercise regimen; it’s a place to talk about how you’re going to feel, what you can expect and how the fears and doubts will change as you become strong again. Women’s College Hospital really gave me back my life and my lifestyle.”
She is now committed to educating women about risk factors and warning signs, which can be dramatically different for women than for men.
“It could happen to you,” she says. “It’s important to understand your risk factors and make the necessary life modifications to minimize them. And don’t hesitate to seek medical treatment.”
Learn more about WCH's Cardiac Rehabilitation Program.
Arlene Carpenter's Story
Because of Women's College Hospital, Arlene lived to be a grandmother.
Donate today to advance the world-leading breast cancer research and clinical care at Women's College Hospital that saved Arlene's life. Your gift will help save the lives of countless other women just like her.
When Arlene Carpenter was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000 at age 46, her first thought was that she would not live to be a grandmother. A number of close relatives had passed away from various forms of cancer over the years, including her own grandmother at age 52 from ovarian cancer, leaving Arlene with little hope for her future. Although she received life-saving treatment at a Toronto-area hospital, she constantly feared the disease would return.
Seven years after she was first diagnosed, Arlene heard about the work taking place at Women’s College Hospital to test women for an inherited gene mutation, BRCA 1/2, which significantly increases the risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer. Recognizing the prevalence of the disease in her family, Arlene made the courageous decision to undergo testing.
“I was scared, but I knew I had to do it for my family,” she says. “I have a big family, and I knew it would impact all of them if I tested positive. But I also knew that understanding the risk could help us take action that would save our lives.”
Arlene was shocked to learn that she carried the gene mutation. She urged other family members to undergo testing at WCH, and many of them tested positive for the BRCA gene as well.
In addition to the world-leading research and screening taking place at WCH, the hospital is also a pioneer of innovative treatments and surgeries that virtually eliminate a woman’s risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer. Knowing that her risk of recurring breast cancer and ovarian cancer was high as a BRCA carrier, Arlene decided to undergo life-saving treatment.
A preventive hysterectomy revealed that Arlene was already in the early stages of ovarian cancer. Following treatment, further screening at WCH showed the re-development of breast cancer. Her sister, who had also tested positive for BRCA, had already elected to have a double mastectomy to stop the development of the disease before it could begin. Drawing strength from her sister’s courage, Arlene underwent a double mastectomy as well and, several years later, breast reconstruction.
Arlene and her sister both took enormous comfort in knowing the treatment they received at Women’s College Hospital was world-leading.
“We know when we come here that it’s the latest in research and treatment,” says Arlene.
“We feel safe and confident knowing how incredible the team is here, not to mention how extraordinarily kind and compassionate they all are, and that the work taking place at WCH is truly cutting-edge.
"We want the best because we want to live.”
Today, Arlene is a proud grandmother of six and says she has no reason to believe she won’t one day be a great-grandmother as well. She has become a passionate advocate for the research and care available at WCH, and is a strong support to her family members who are considering getting tested and receiving preventive treatment. Arlene is also committed to helping the hospital continue saving lives by donating in honour of the program that gave her back her future.
“If I hadn’t been tested and received treatment at Women’s College, I would be dead today,” Arlene reflects. “I trust that we’re receiving the best healthcare at WCH, and I take comfort knowing it’s here to save future generations of my family.”
Learn more about the world-leading cancer research and clinical work at Women's College Hospital that saved Arlene's life.
Diane Birch's Story
“You need a hospital, you go to Women’s College. I feel very well taken care of."
When Diane Birch was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 1972, at the age of 24, she was told that she could expect to live for 20 more years – at most. But that was before she was referred to Women’s College Hospital’s Dr. Anne Kenshole, a now-retired leading endocrinologist, professor and pioneering diabetes researcher. That was in 1978, and Diane is now feeling great at 68 years old.
“Dr. Kenshole was a leader in diabetic care,” says Diane. “Under her care, I was one of the first patients in the country to use a glucometer. She put me on an insulin regimen that I still use today.”
For 38 years, Diane has come to WCH every six months for her diabetes check-ups. She has also received care at the hospital for cardiology, rheumatology, dermatology, gynecology and family medicine. In fact, Diane loves Women’s College Hospital so much that she says she simply wouldn’t go anywhere else.
"I would recommend Women’s to anyone,” she says. “You need a hospital, you go to Women’s College. I feel very well taken care of – they pick up on everything. I know they’re here to take care of me.”
Your generosity helps Women’s College Hospital give the gift of life to women like Diane every day. Thank you!
Nicole Abi-Najem's Story
"The health gap for me felt more like a chasm, this gaping void where I could not see the end; I could not see hope."
Women’s College Hospital has been drawing attention to the “health gap” – a term that describes the unique challenges faced by women when it comes to their healthcare. Research shows that, across the system, women’s needs are not being met as a result of overlooked physiological differences, cultural obstacles and life circumstances.
As the only hospital in Canada devoted to advancing health for women, WCH is working hard to close the gap. Nicole’s powerful story demonstrates this work in action. We are thrilled to champion her voice as she champions health for women and the impact of Women’s College Hospital.
The health gap for me felt more like a chasm, this gaping void where I could not see the end; I could not see hope.
It started in 2012 with this unrelenting urge to pee, no matter whether my bladder was full or empty. It drove me crazy, no matter what; it was there, this storm within me, tormenting me. Physical pain and discomfort is maddening, and what makes it even more intolerable is when you’re in the shadow of a disease for which no one is there to show support, or offer treatment.
I knew from early on I had interstitial cystitis (IC): a chronic condition of the bladder where the inner lining is compromised for reasons not yet known, causing symptoms of pain, urgency and frequency. IC has led many to take their own lives, and for myself, I had thought of it plenty of times, because no money, no luxuries and no love can make living a life of chronic pain and discomfort worthwhile.
Countless specialists treated me with everything from antibiotics for UTIs to the range of medications for overactive bladder syndrome. But mostly, I was told it was in my head, to see a psychiatrist, to deal with it. I was told over and over that “it will get better,” before they – they being some in the medical community – closed the door and I was once again alone.
For me, the health gap has felt like long waits to see doctors, dismissals from the medical community; the health gap has felt like hopelessness. The shadow is still there, and I have to be aware of it, otherwise it engulfs me.
I’m not alone. Research shows that three-quarters of women have been told by their doctor at least once that their pain is all in their head, that nothing can be done for them.
Compared to men, who are taken more seriously by their physicians when they report pain, women are often deeply underserved when it comes to their health concerns.
Knowing that IC overwhelmingly affects women, I eventually asked to be referred to Women’s College Hospital. I felt I needed a safe haven where my unique symptoms would be looked at with sensitivity. I remember when I heard the name of my doctor who’d be seeing me there: his last name sounded like it had the word “love” in it, and to me, that felt like hope.
Going to see Dr. Lovatsis has not meant a cure, but for the first time, someone didn’t question me. He didn’t make me question myself. He was the first one to acknowledge what I had long known: I had IC.
It certainly hasn’t been the end of the journey, but it has been the beginning of one that’s a bit brighter. Dr. Lovatsis was the first to prescribe me medication specifically for IC, and the first to hear me.
Since then, I still struggle, but I have had moments of triumph. I recently talked to David Main, CEO of the pharmaceutical company Aquinox, and he showed me what could be next – a revolutionary treatment for IC, the first of its kind. This gives me hope.
The chasm is shrinking, however slowly, with the help of Women’s College Hospital. I can now start to see the other side of the gap, and on the other end, I see women. I see them and they’ve made it, and eventually, I’ll be there, all women will be there.
For more information about the Health Gap and how Women's College Hospital is closing it, visit www.thehealthgap.ca.
The Kostuck Family's Story
Just after Christmas 2014, Henry Kostuck received the difficult news that he had developed skin cancer.
Wanting to ensure Henry would receive the very best treatment available, he and his family asked for a referral to Women’s College Hospital’s Mohs Centre
– just one of two skin cancer clinics in Ontario and the only one in the Greater Toronto Area offering Mohs micrographic surgery.
An innovative procedure that treats aggressive non-melanoma skin cancers, Mohs technology ensures maximum removal of cancerous cells while also being efficient and cost-effective. In most cases, patients undergo biopsy, analysis and treatment all in the same day, reducing the total time spent in hospital and enabling a quicker recovery.
On the day of his appointment, Henry was accompanied by his daughter, Jessica. Although they went into the appointment feeling scared and overwhelmed, Jessica says that the care Henry received at the Mohs Centre quickly put their fears at ease.
“He would go in for a test or round of treatment, and every time he came back he was in such high spirits,” Jessica says. “He had the best things to say about Dr. Solish. At one point, my dad asked Dr. Solish if his was the ugliest nose he’s ever seen. The doctor responded that it wasn’t even the ugliest nose he’d seen that day! My dad came out of that round laughing.”
Jessica says that it was clear the Mohs Centre team truly cared, wanting to make both Jessica and her father as comfortable as possible. That highly personalized approach to care is part of what makes Women’s College Hospital such a special place.
Henry is now cancer-free. In late May, he walked Jessica’s sister, Sarah, down the aisle and is preparing to do the same for Jessica this coming September.
Wanting to give back to the hospital that gave them the gift of togetherness and good health, the Kostucks are proud members of WCH’s donor family. When Jessica and her fiancé get married in September, they plan to make a special gift of their own: in lieu of wedding favours, they will be donating to Women’s College Hospital.
Your donation today will save the lives of more patients like Henry Kostuck, who was able to walk his daughters down the aisle because of Women's College Hospital. Thank you!
Laura Kelly's Story
Having lost so many loved ones to cancer, Laura became determined to live a long life. That's when she found WCH.
At age 29, Laura has lost her entire family – aside from one aunt – to cancer.
Laura’s father passed away from brain cancer when she was just two. When she was 25, her mom – her best friend – died of pancreatic cancer, after twice surviving breast cancer. Today, just Laura and her aunt are left.
Having lost so many loved ones to the disease, Laura became determined to live a long life – and to make sure future generations of her family would also have that opportunity.
In early 2014, she decided to undergo genetic testing for BRCA - a gene that, when mutated, dramatically increases a woman’s chances of developing breast and ovarian cancer. Four weeks after her test, Laura received the call: she had tested positive.
Although it was difficult, she knew she needed to take control of her life. Laura underwent a double mastectomy at Women’s College Hospital, the recommended treatment to eliminate the risk of developing breast cancer, and breast reconstruction. She was going to live – for herself, for her husband and for her family whose own lives were cut short by cancer.
“I knew that if I didn’t do something, if I didn’t get tested and have a mastectomy, that I was going to end up getting cancer,” she says. “I couldn’t let that happen. Women’s College Hospital gave me the option to know my risk and take steps to eliminate it.”
Laura and her husband, Nick, are now actively fundraising within their community to support WCH’s hereditary breast and ovarian cancer research team. Laura has also started a blog, www.laurakellybrca.ca
, to share her story and provide support to other women taking control of their lives through genetic testing and surgery.
“I grieve for the family members I’ve lost, but I choose to use these experiences to help others,” she says. “If I can save even one life through fundraising and raising awareness by sharing my story, then it will all be worth it.”
Donate today to advance world-leading hereditary breast and ovarian cancer research and clinical care at Women's College Hospital. Your gift will help save the lives of countless other women like Laura.
Kay Miki's Story
Ten years ago, Kay Miki was desperate for answers until she discovered Women's College Hospital.
She’d been experiencing terrible stomach pains for two years but hadn’t been able to find a doctor who could tell her why.
“No one could figure out what was wrong,” she reflects in frustration. “They weren’t truly understanding what I was going through and couldn’t make a diagnosis.”
Kay’s oldest daughter, Kelly, suggested that her mother try Women’s College Hospital. Kelly had recently seen a specialist there and was impressed by the care she’d received.
Kay was quickly given an appointment at WCH’s Family Practice Health Centre
, where a nurse practitioner listened closely to her concerns before referring Kay to the hospital’s gynecology clinic. There, she was advised that the pain she was experiencing wasn’t in her stomach – it was being caused by an issue with her ovaries. She underwent a procedure to have her ovaries removed, and her pain immediately disappeared.
“I’m so grateful that they saw me and really listened to me,” Kay says now. “Because they took the time to listen and get to the root of the problem, I no longer have to live with pain.”
Unfortunately, Kay’s struggle to find a doctor who would listen to her concerns and take her symptoms seriously is not uncommon. Studies have shown that women who report pain are often perceived as exaggerating and treated less aggressively, resulting in inadequate care that can prolong symptoms.
With an approach to healthcare that addresses the unique needs and challenges faced by women, including the “communication gap” that Kay encountered, WCH’s world-renowned healthcare providers are leading the way in improving care for women and their families.
Kay was so happy with WCH that, despite living in Mississauga, she decided to become a regular patient at the Family Practice Health Centre. For nearly a decade, Kay’s primary family physician has been Dr. Helen Batty, who is also a University of Toronto professor and founding director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre in Women’s Health. In fact, both of Kay’s daughters – and her grandchildren – are also now patients at the Family Practice Health Centre.
Kay says that Dr. Batty is the best physician she’s ever had. “She communicates to us in way that we can understand, she’s kind, caring and patient – and always a great listener.”
Several years ago, Kay decided to honour Dr. Batty by donating in her honour. “I’ve never had a doctor like her before, and that’s why I wanted to donate,” Kay says with gratitude.
She hopes her regular donations will help Women’s College Hospital continue to change the lives of women like her and support the hospital’s commitment to providing the very best care.
“You can’t find that kind of warmth anywhere else.”
Has a Women’s College Hospital care provider made a difference in your life? Join Kay by saying thanks with a special donation in their honour! Visit givewiththanks.ca or contact Alex Cheesman at email@example.com or 416-323-6323 ext. 2319.
Dawn Levine's Story
When Dawn heard from her doctor that she had experienced post-partum depression, it opened a door of healing which she never knew existed.
Dawn is a member of WCH Foundation’s neWCHapter group and a patient of WCH's Reproductive Life Stages Program. We are thrilled to champion her voice as she champions health for women and the impact Women’s College Hospital had on her own life and mental health following pregnancy.
I experienced post-partum depression after my first child was born, but I didn’t seek appropriate help for it then. That was a dark time.
The statistics show that women experience depression twice as often as men, yet are three times more likely to experience barriers to accessing mental health care.
Sometimes those barriers can be ourselves.
Maybe it was fear, or shame, or unwillingness to acknowledge what my mind and body were trying to tell me, but I didn’t know I had PPD. What I did know was that I felt angry, sad, anxious, scared, and lonely. Worst of all, I felt like a bad mom.
I used many different coping mechanisms to get me through that dark time, but exercise was always my sustaining force. My only “good mom” moments came each day when I power-walked our stroller through the neighbourhood, or did mom-baby fitness classes. “Mom guilt” would try and colour my thoughts with reprimand of taking that me-time, but I didn’t give in to that message, thankfully.
When I got pregnant with our second child less than two years later, I was terrified of those feelings coming back. My husband encouraged me to speak to my incredible doctor at Women’s College Hospital’s Family Practice Health Centre. My family doctor connected me with the Reproductive Life Stages program at WCH, and it was there that I met Dr. Simone Vigod, a leading psychiatrist and researcher specializing in the area of post-partum mental health.
One of the most important moments of meeting Dr. Vigod was having her acknowledge and validate everything I had been feeling.
Hearing her tell me that I had experienced post-partum depression opened a door of healing for me which I didn’t know existed. She helped me develop a host of options to deal with whatever might come my way after birth. She helped our family learn the red flags, and gave me the confidence to feel ready for my second child to be born.
I acknowledged that I had experienced PPD, and was prepared to be real with the future. No more self-made barriers.
When my second child was finally born, I still had some rough days and weeks, but I was ready. I had a host of options this time, and I wasn’t forgetting the lessons I had already learned. Getting my sweat on, daily, with an intense yoga practice, or even power walking the double stroller with my daughters, always gave me a dose of happy.
Today, I’ve taken the sweat-daily mantra to heart: I will be a certified yoga teacher in a few months. I want to share, with other new moms, the moments of joy that fitness and mindfulness have brought me. I want to encourage mothers to love themselves enough to listen to what their minds and bodies are telling them; to smash any self-made barriers.
I feel fortunate: I have a network of support in friends and family, education, resources, good physical health, and a sense of humour. But I learned that PPD doesn’t discriminate based on any of those things. It was Dr. Vigod who helped bring me forward, who acknowledged my circumstances for what they were, and who made me feel ready to face future PPD challenges.
To all the new moms: Have a low bar for being concerned when you aren’t feeling “yourself.” Ask your doctor, but first know you’re your own body and mind. Then speak your truth. It was avoidance of truth that held me back from seeking the support I needed. Don’t make barriers for yourself. Cast off the perception-management in your life. Choose truth. That’s where the healing begins.
Oh, and get your sweat on, daily, without guilt! You are worth fighting for. Your kids would agree, too.
Learn more about WCH’s Women's Mental Health Programs. If you are interested in becoming a patient, please speak to your doctor to learn more and get a referral.
Elle AyoubZadeh's Story
"When women champion each other, the world becomes a better place."
Elle AyoubZadeh says that her decision to support Women’s College Hospital was “a no-brainer.” Reflecting on the hospital’s impact, she says, “When women champion each other, the world becomes a better place. I have the luxury today of going to a hospital and being treated by a woman because women fought for that years ago. It gives me chills.”
As a Women’s College Hospital (WCH) patient and as founder and creative director of Zvelle, a web-based luxury shoe company that celebrates women of all ages and stages, Elle wanted to give back to the hospital that shares her vision to empower and inspire women to live their best lives.
For 2016, Elle has named WCH as Zvelle's charitable partner.
With every purchase, Zvelle will donate $10 will to advance the life-changing research and clinical programs taking place at Women's College Hospital. To browse for your first or next pair of beautiful Zvelle shoes and support WCH, visit zvelle.com.
Elle’s own rise to success has been championed by the many strong women she counts among her mentors and investors. Born in Iran and raised by a single mom who moved the family to New Zealand to give her five children a better life, Elle is driven by a desire to make the most of the opportunities available to her. She has received invaluable guidance along the way from women like Colleen Moorehead, WCH Foundation donor, board member and chief client officer at Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP.
It was Colleen who introduced Elle to WCH and encouraged her to consider supporting the institution. In 2015, Zvelle generously sponsored the fifth annual Women for Women’s luncheon, WCH Foundation’s signature event attended by over 800 women from across the GTA. Inspired and energized by what she’s learned, Elle has generously committed to supporting WCH throughout 2016 in a variety of exciting ways.
“Women have championed me and I want to make a difference for other women,” says Elle. “When I think of Women’s College Hospital, I think of my favourite quote by Isaac Newton – ‘If I have seen further it’s by standing on the shoulders of giants.’ We are all standing on the shoulders of women who fought for everything we take for granted. I want to help that cycle continue by giving back.”
To learn more about Zvelle, visit www.zvelle.com. Become a monthly donor or honour a WCH caregiver, and become a part of the donor community like Elle that transforms the future of women's healthcare.
Andrew Yeh's Story
Andrew's passion and advocacy for women's health inspires 20 Shoppers Drug Mart stores to direct campaign funds to WCHF.
When Andrew decided to become a pharmacist, he said it was simple decision. “It boiled down to being able to provide that first-rate patient care, in person, at any time,” says Yeh. “Our profession is really unique in the sense that we are health care professionals, but at the same time we are the most accessible ones out there.”
As a lead associate and pharmacist of two Shoppers Drug Mart stores in Toronto, Andrew Yeh sees a long line of Women’s College patients pass by his counter, and his son was born at WCH several years ago.
Yeh holds a special place in his heart for the hospital and knows how important it is to have an institution dedicated to women’s health. His experiences with Women’s College can be summed up in a few simple words: “caring, professional, empathetic and supportive.”
It’s because of Andrew’s passion and advocacy that for the second year in a row, Women’s College Hospital Foundation has been the beneficiary of the Shoppers Drug Mart Tree of Life Campaign. An initiative that offers customers a chance to purchase a leaf, butterfly or cardinal to display on the “tree of life” in the store where it was purchased.
In 2010, Andrew convinced 20 GTA stores (six more than in 2009) to direct their campaign funds to WCHF. Andrew made history pulling together those 20 stores, forming the largest group of Shoppers Drug Mart locations in Canada to support a single cause, ever, in the duration of the Tree of Life campaign.
“With the focus again on women’s care, it was a natural choice,” says Yeh. “There aren’t too many organizations that exemplify that kind of care around here.” The hard work of Andrew and his colleagues resulted in over $33,000 in customer donations to support programs at the new home of Women’s College Hospital.
If that wasn’t enough, Shoppers Drug Mart has recently announced a new initiative called WOMEN, addressing the vital importance of women’s health and putting resources and passion behind five impactful partnerships, including our very own Women’s Health Matters website. Andrew speaks highly of the program and can’t help but admit that the past two years of his advocacy with the Tree of Life campaign might have had a “little” influence on the decision.
Yeh is excited about the future, including the new building and the recently formed WOMEN partnership. “I think the community is excited. We see the new amenities and services that will be available and know Women’s College will have a unique opportunity to focus on the things that matter most to women.”
When it comes to women’s health, Andrew says it best: “100 years from now and even 100 years later, women’s care is still going to be vital to everyone’s health; women’s care is all of our care.”
Learn more about becoming a Corporate Partner of WCH, and how your company will be widely recognized as a leader in the movement to invest in the future of healthcare for women and for all. To discuss how your company can help change the world by partnering with WCH, please contact: Leigh Naturkach, 416-323-6323 x 2936, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anne Delicaet's Story
Anne left a lasting legacy in support of cancer research at WCH
Before Anne Delicaet passed away from a rare form of cancer in 2014, she told her daughter, Mary-Kathleen Young, that she wanted to make a difference in the world. A former teacher and dedicated community member, Anne arranged gifts in her will to organizations that she knew would continue helping others on her behalf – 17 in total.
Among them was Women’s College Hospital, where Anne received life-saving breast cancer treatment in the early 1990s. Mary-Kathleen says that her mother dearly loved her WCH oncologist, Dr. Maureen Trudeau, who was at Anne’s bedside when she passed away 20 years after beating the odds under Dr. Trudeau’s care.
Last December, Mary-Kathleen personally hand-delivered Anne’s gift in support of cancer research at Women’s College Hospital.
It was her way of being there with her mom when her wish was fulfilled – to create a legacy that will make a difference in the world.
To learn more about leaving a legacy at Women’s College Hospital, or including a gift in your will, please contact Wendy Dias at email@example.com or 416-323-6323 x2261.
Bill Hughey's Story
Bill leaves a future gift for WCH, a hospital that really cares.
“I’ll be the guy with the walker!” Bill Hughey told us cheerfully over the phone as we confirmed plans to meet him at WCH for an interview. When the time came, he wasn’t hard to spot – the walker aside, Bill has a youthful glint in his eye that’s hard to miss.
We wanted to chat with Bill, a retired English teacher, to find out what motivates him to donate to Women’s College Hospital. He’s been a regular donor since the early 1990s, but several years ago he decided to take his support even further by naming the hospital as a beneficiary in his will.
“Well, I’ve been a patient here for almost 30 years and I have yet to meet someone who isn’t just incredibly nice,” he says with pride. “There’s no other place like it – everyone goes out of their way to provide the best care and service. That’s what makes it so special.”
Bill says he first came to WCH in the late 1980s to receive treatment for psoriasis. Since then, he’s also received excellent care at the foot clinic
and for diabetes management
. More recently, he became a patient at WCH’s Family Practice Health Centre
and is thrilled with his new physician, Dr. Rob Dmytryshyn. Looking back on his experiences at WCH over the years, Bill credits the hospital’s personalized approach to healthcare with helping him feel better than ever.
Asked about his decision to include WCH in his will, Bill says that he wanted to make sure he could continue supporting an organization that’s had such an impact on his health long into the future.
“It’s so important to support organizations that are making a real difference,” Bill reflects. “Women’s College Hospital is one of those, and this is just another way that I can contribute to its success.”
Before we said goodbye to Bill after our interview, we accompanied him to an appointment at the Lobby Lab off the Peter Gilgan Atrium. He had hardly sat down in the waiting room before he was making friends with the staff, other patients and their families.
The scene reminded us of something he had said during our conversation: “Women’s College Hospital feels more like a community. People here really care about each other.”
For more information about how you can join Bill by leaving a gift to WCH in your will, please contact Leigh Naturkach, Senior Director, Philanthropy & Legacy Giving at 416-323-6323 ext. 2936 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brianna Varcoe 's Story
At just 10 years old, Brianna Varcoe is helping to save lives by advancing groundbreaking women's cancers research at WCH.
Her drive to make a difference comes from a deeply personal place: just before Christmas 2016, Brianna lost her mom, Krista Silverberg-Varcoe, to breast cancer. Krista was 37 years old when she passed away, leaving behind her husband, three young daughters and a loving circle of family and friends. A bright light in the lives of her family and friends, Krista’s loss came as a profound shock to all who knew her.
Krista carried the BRCA genetic mutation, which significantly increases a woman’s risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer. Her sister, Kirby, is also a BRCA carrier and recently began seeing specialists at Women’s College Hospital – a world leader in BRCA research – to explore her treatment options for stopping cancer before it can start.
As Kirby and her family began learning more about WCH’s impact in the area of BRCA research and preventive treatment, Brianna took a special interest in supporting this important work – work that strives to save the lives of women just like her mom.
In mid-March, she hosted a “spa day” fundraiser, inviting family and friends to enjoy manicures and pedicures at her home for $25 each – with services provided by her aunts, honorary aunts, grandmothers and some close family friends. About 50 guests attended the event, which raised an incredible $2,500 to advance hereditary breast and ovarian cancer research at Women’s College Research Institute.
"I decided to do the fundraiser so that other moms, aunts and grandmothers don’t have to go through what my mom did,” says Brianna, who’s in grade five. “My mom was a great person. She was really special to me so I wanted to do something and hopefully make her proud of me. I don’t want other kids to have to go through what I did."
Brianna’s event will help fund major discoveries at WCRI with the potential to save lives around the world. Just last week, the hereditary cancers team launched an unprecedented Canada-wide screening project for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes that will inform ongoing research breakthroughs and empower thousands of Canadians to know their risk and their options for preventing breast, ovarian and prostate cancer.
Kirby, like the rest of the family, is in awe of Brianna’s courage and generosity during such a difficult time in her life.
“She is very much like her mother – courageous, compassionate and strong,” says Kirby. “She wanted to raise money to help find a cure for the disease that cheated her out of a life with her mother, and to help ensure that no one else has to go through what she and her sisters are going through.”
A few days after Krista passed away, her mother, Suzanne, told Brianna and her sisters that when they find themselves really missing their mom, they can look up into the night sky and find Krista by looking for the brightest star. Just as Krista is the brightest star for her young daughters, Brianna’s generosity will help other women find the bright light of hope by supporting life-saving research.
Women’s College Hospital Foundation extends its deepest gratitude to Brianna, Kirby and the entire Silverberg-Varcoe family for their incredible courage, and for choosing to honour Krista’s memory by helping to save the lives of generations of women.
Learn more about Women's College Research Institute's hereditary cancers research team. To join Brianna in supporting this life-saving work, select "Breast Cancer Research" from the designation drop-down menu.
If you are interested in hosting your own community fundraiser in support of Women’s College Hospital, contact Randi MacQueen at email@example.com or 416-323-6323 ext. 5985.
Colleen Moorehead's Story
"I think we all have a requirement to invest in our health and invest in our network."
Meet pink brick champion and Women for Women’s co-chair Colleen Moorehead, leader at Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt.
Colleen’s pink bricks remind her every day that Women’s College Hospital is working hard to change the future of healthcare for women like her niece, who passed away from familial breast cancer. They also remind her that she helped build the Hospital of the Future, brick by brick.
and hear her story.
Join Colleen by becoming a pink brick champion today! Learn more about pink bricks and Women’s College Hospital Foundation’s annual signature, luncheon, Women for Women’s.
Dr. Heather Morris's Story
It only took a few short years for Dr. Heather Morris to figure out she was in for a lifetime.
The retired WCH obstetrician and gynecologist was fresh out of her residency and a new member of the Women’s College Hospital medical team in the 1960s when she made her first gift to the hospital.
“Once you make a commitment to something that matters, you continue,” she says.
Morris not only continued giving — she just celebrated seven straight years of monthly donations to Women’s College Hospital Foundation; she remained a part of the medical team until her retirement in 2002.
She chose WCH as the place to jumpstart her Canadian medical career 50 years ago after moving to Toronto from Edinburgh, Scotland to be close to her only brother. “It was a relatively small and intimate hospital with an academic standard,” Morris remembers. “To me, that was very important.”
Morris valued the academic connections that helped to keep her up to date and the relationships she developed with patients, students and colleagues including the late Dr. Dawne Jubb and Dr. Geraldine Maloney, who was department chief from 1957 to 1966.
That same commitment to personalized care and academic excellence are what keep her giving today. “It’s a people-place. It always was. I’m pleased to support it.”
Join Dr. Heather in making a monthly gift to Women's College Hospital Foundation that will transform the future of healthcare for women and their families for generations to come.
Dr. F. M. Hill's Story
Celebrating a trailblazer whose patient-centred approach to care continues to define WCH today.
When internationally renowned headache expert Dr. Christine Lay took to the stage as keynote speaker at the 2012 F.M. Hill Lecture, she proved why the event’s namesake will never be forgotten.
“Dr. Hill is not here today but we continue to apply her words of wisdom to our model of care. Be a good listener: the patient’s headache history is crucial. Be compassionate: disability is high. Focus on patient-centred and interdisciplinary care: use educational efforts to effect change.”
A teacher, clinician, researcher and visionary who practiced at Women’s College Hospital for 27 years, Dr. F. Marguerite Hill passed away in 2012 at the age of 93. She is credited with blazing new frontiers for women in medicine and establishing the culture of interdisciplinary, patient-centered care that continues to define Women’s College Hospital today.
Her legacy will endure in other ways, too. Dr. Hill left a $6 million gift in her will to help Women’s College Hospital change the future of health care. The largest such gift ever received by Women’s College Hospital Foundation, A portion of the $6 million will endow the F.M. Hill Chair in Health System Solutions
"The F.M. Hill Chair in Health System Solutions will allow a star researcher to engage in cutting-edge work addressing our health care system's most pressing challenges.
Women's College Hospital is increasingly seen as a "solutions laboratory" for some of the toughest issues in health care: how to keep people well and out of hospital; how to deliver the highest quality and most cost-effective health care possible in the community; and how to support people with complex chronic conditions as they transition through different parts of the system.
The FM Hill Chair is a key component of our commitment as an organization to contributing to solutions that can be scaled up across the entire health care system." says Dr. Danielle Martin, Vice President, Medical Affairs and Health System Solutions at Women's College Hospital.
The F.M. Hill Chair in Health System Solutions is the second Women’s College Research Institute
chair to bear Hill’s name. Physician-in-chief Dr. Gillian Hawker is the F.M. Hill Chair in Academic Women’s Medicine.
“I am very honoured to carry out her aspirations of good patient care and positive relationships between patients, doctors and other health professionals.” says Dr. Hawker.
“We are so pleased to be a part of this celebration of Dr. Hill’s life, her generosity and her legacy,” says Sue Carruthers, Women’s College Hospital Foundation’s president and CEO. “She will never be forgotten.”
Donate today to advance world-leading research and clinical care at Women's College Hospital. For more information on making a bequest in your will please contact Wendy Dias, Senior Development Officer, Leadership and Planned Gifts at 416-323-6323 ext. 2261 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Janet MacInnis's Story
25 years ago Janet fell in love with WCH. She's never stopped caring.
When Janet MacInnis was first asked to serve on the board of Women’s College Hospital in 1985, she wasn’t sure what to say. After all, her father and brother were both doctors at another hospital, and she’d had her four children there.
“I came to Women’s College to have a look,” says MacInnis, “and I was immediately struck by the history, the people, the intimacy, and the ethos. I was deeply moved.”
So moved that she’s been a volunteer with the Hospital ever since.
MacInnis, a mother of four, started her volunteer career with Deer Park United Church and the Junior League. She learned to lead through her involvement with United Way Toronto, where she chaired a capital campaign, and served as Chair of the Board and Chair of the Multiculturalism Committee.
At Women’s College she chaired the Special Delivery Campaign in the late 80s, and then went on to serve on many Board and Foundation committees. Today she serves on the Major Gifts Committee of the Foundation’s Campaign for Women’s College Hospital and as an honourary member of the Hospital board.
She has been a generous donor, too, and is a member of the Spirit of Life Society
, which honours those who have made a planned gift to the Hospital. Her daughter Heather is a member of neWCHapter,
the Women’s College Hospital Foundation’s young leaders group. Chances are, at least one of her 14 grandchildren will also follow in her footsteps.
“I’ve always seen Women’s College as a little gem,” she says. “It’s a feisty little place too, which is why I’ve stuck with it.”
She developed enormous respect for the women physicians who led the hospital in the early days, and remembers with special fondness Dr. Bette Stephenson, long-time Chief of Family Medicine. She delights in quoting Stephenson, who once told her, “Women’s health is a lot more than just south of the navel and north of the knees!”
Today, research is bearing out what Stephenson knew from experience – that men and women are biologically different and need different care and treatment. MacInnis strongly supports the Hospital’s renewed commitment to women’s health.
“Women are the gateway to healthcare for their children, their spouses, their elderly parents,” she says. “When women are well cared for, the rest of the family is well cared for.”
She is also excited by the future of Women’s College as the first and only ambulatory care centre dedicated to women’s health in North America. “So much can be done by the day now,” she says. “This is the healthcare and the hospital of the future.”
Learn more about the different ways you can give like Janet by volunteering or donating to make a difference in the future of healthcare for women and their families. please contact Leigh Naturkach, Senior Director, Philanthropy & Legacy Giving at 416-323-6323 ext. 2936 or email@example.com.
Larry Lamantia 's Story
Thanking a long-term friend of Women’s College Hospital
It’s rare to find a person who continuously gives his time, treasures and talents to improve the lives of others. And at Women’s College, we are very fortunate to have Larry Lamantia as a valued donor, volunteer and supporter.
You may recognize Larry’s face. His welcoming smile has graced the halls of our Hospital for more than ten years - volunteering his time, bringing comfort to those he meets.
Larry’s commitment doesn’t stop here! Since 1975, he has also been a dedicated annual donor to Women’s College Hospital Foundation. Larry and his late wife Tina, who was also a loyal volunteer, decided years ago to make personal donations in addition to their significant volunteer commitments.
“My wife and I found it only appropriate that we donate to a hospital that offers such value to women.” Larry says. “And now that she’s passed, my annual gift makes it even more meaningful to keep her memory alive.”
Today, Larry is a dedicated monthly donor and we would like to thank him warmly for both his continued commitment as a volunteer and his continued support every month. It’s because of donors like Larry that Women’s College can continue to provide skilled, compassionate care and impact the health of women and men throughout our community and around the world.
Learn more about the different ways you can give like Larry by volunteering or donating monthly to make an impact in the future of healthcare for women and their families.
Margaret Chambers's Story
"We women should support women's organizations."
Margaret Chambers learned the value of a good investment from her father at a very young age – they followed the stock market together and he encouraged her to invest as much as she could. As a teenager, she made enough money in the market to buy a bicycle.
Margaret’s lifelong passion for investing led to a 28-year career with The Co-Operators, managing investments for the company and the pension fund. She has also been a member of the Soroptimist Club, a service organization for professional and executive women for 52 years.
Along with her other commitments, Margaret has been a strong supporter of Women’s College Hospital for many years.
“I like to support organizations where I know the people involved,” she explains. “There’s great support and talent at Women’s College Hospital." She adds: “I think we women should support women’s organizations.”
In addition to making annual donations for almost three decades, Margaret has made generous gifts of securities to Women’s College Hospital Foundation, in effect, sharing her investment returns with a very worthy cause.
can be an attractive option for any donor. Normally, when an investor sells shares that have grown in value, she has to pay tax on the increased value (capital gain) of the shares. If she donates the shares to a registered charity, she receives a tax receipt for the full market value of the shares and doesn’t have to pay the capital gains tax.
“We were waiting for this tax change for over 10 years.” Says Margaret. “It’s a wonderful incentive for people like me to donate”.
Thank you, Margaret, for choosing to support Women’s College Hospital.
Leave a legacy like Margaret with a Gift of Securities. Your generous donation will help Women’s College Hospital continue to achieve extraordinary advancements in health for women and health system solutions for generations to come. For more information, please contact Mary Dodd at 416-813-4740 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marlene Cepparo's Story
Throughout Marlene's various health issues, she finds comfort and care at WCH.
Marlene Cepparo, breast cancer survivor and leader at KPMG, is a Women’s College Hospital life-changer and a pink brick champion. Visit our news gallery to listen to her story.
Symbolizing WCH’s commitment to the health of women and her personal journey as a patient of the hospital, Marlene’s pink bricks remind her that WCH is a place where she feels loved and cared for. They also remind her that she helped build the Hospital of the Future, brick by brick.
Join Marlene by becoming a pink brick champion today! Learn more about pink bricks and Women’s College Hospital Foundation’s annual signature, luncheon, Women for Women’s.
Michael J. Cooper & Dream Unlimited Corp.'s Story
“This is a hospital that’s not afraid to do things differently.”
Four minutes – that’s all it took for Michael J. Cooper, founder & CEO of award-winning real estate company Dream, to decide that he and Women’s College Hospital would have a future together.
He was on his first-ever tour of the WCH’s new building, and was completely taken aback by the hospital’s work to advance the future of healthcare.
“I was astounded by Women’s College Hospital’s unbelievably innovative approach to healthcare, patient care and research,” he says. “This is a hospital that’s not afraid to do things differently.”
Michael quickly realized that WCH and his own company have a lot in common: a passion for innovation, for doing things differently to address the challenges facing Canadians today.
He decided that not only did he want to make a major gift to help build the hospital’s new home; he wanted to explore the possibility of launching an unprecedented new partnership so that WCH and Dream could learn from each other.
On Monday, July 13, that partnership was formally announced
by Women’s College Hospital Foundation. Marked by a major donation of $1 million jointly pledged by Michael and Dream, the new innovation partnership is seeing the two organizations exchange knowledge, ideas and best practices around topics such as innovation, leadership and risk management.
Two joint learning seminars and an education workshop have already been held, with key leaders from both WCH and Dream sharing their unique approaches to creating change and changing lives.
“This is a partnership that is not just about philanthropy, but about how we can literally work together to improve the lives of Canadians,” says Katherine Hay, president & CEO of Women’s College Hospital Foundation. “We are incredibly grateful to Michael and Dream for joining the WCH family as our friends and partners as we work toward a better future for Canada together.”
Welcome to the family, Michael and Dream!
Read the full announcement here. Learn more about becoming a Corporate Partner of WCH, and how your company will be widely recognized as a leader in the movement to invest in the future of health for women.
Michele Landsberg's Story
"Women's will always be close to my heart," says Michele, who lobbied hard for WCH to stand as an independent, women-focused hospital.
Standing amidst the crowd gathered to celebrate the opening of Women's College Hospital's Hospital of the Future on June 13, 2013, Michele Landsberg was "overwhelmed with happiness."
"I looked around and saw our premier [Kathleen Wynne], our health minister [Deb Matthews], our wonderful CEO [Marilyn Emery] - all women, all there to help us celebrate," remembers the award-winning journalist, author, social activist, feminist and Officer of the Order of Canada. "I was so proud of all of them and of that moment in Ontario's history when women had come so far. It was a crowning moment."
The unveiling of the state-of-the-art ambulatory care facility built to revolutionize healthcare for women capped 40 years of ardent support for Landsberg.
She chose WCH for the birth of her daughter Ilana in 1965, because "it seemed to me it was a hospital for women in a time when women's health concerns were secondary and there weren't many women doctors." She returned to deliver son Avi in 1967. Some years later, she was treated at WCH for breast cancer.
Women's College Hospital was often the subject of Landsberg's Toronto Star column, which served as a clarion voice of women's rights in Canada and around the world. When the merger with Sunnybrook was announced in the 1990s, Landsberg used her column to lobby for WCH as an independent, women-focused hospital. Even now, eight years after the de-amalgamation, the decision to merge sparks an outpouring of emotion.
"It was such a crazy idea to close a hospital tailor-made for half the population and say that's not important," she says. "I had to fight!"
Fight she did. So hard, in fact, that Landsberg was elected head of Women's College Hospital's board of directors in 2005. Over the next four years, she shepherded the hospital through its divorce from Sunnybrook and rebirth as an example of how healthcare can and should be practiced. Her term as chair ended in 2009, but her time on the board did not. It was in this capacity that she proudly attended the hospital's phase one opening last year.
Today, one year shy of half a century since she first set foot in the hospital to deliver her daughter, Landsberg is poised to begin another new chapter in her relationship with Women's College Hospital.
She will retire from the WCH board of directors in June.
"I looked around at the last board meeting and I'm very happy with the makeup of the board. They're such strong women of great capacity who lend enormous strength to the hospital's governance," she says. "I feel content to retire now. It feels perfect."
The hospital and board plan to recognize Landsberg's many contributions with the creation of the Michele Landsberg Lecture Series.
"Isn't that incredible?" laughs Landsberg. While the details of the lecture series are still being worked out, she hopes it will open WCH's doors to new information, inspire young healthcare professionals, stimulate research and, ultimately, influence the future of medical practice.
"Women's College Hospital is small compared to other hospitals, but we're making a big contribution to the health system of the whole. I'm very proud of that and of our superb doctors, researchers and scientists. They're outstanding."
"Women's will always be close to my heart. I''ll be very glad to have my name continue in association with the hospital."
Make a gift in honour of Michele Landsberg.
Pat and Ian Fraser's Story
“There isn’t another hospital we would consider supporting.”
Pat and Ian Fraser, who have been married for over 57 years, have a long history with Women’s College Hospital. Pat has been volunteering for an impressive 42 years, and now sets her post at the Information Desk on Fridays. All four of the Frasers’ daughters and two of their nine grandchildren were born at Women’s College Hospital. Adding a recent great-granddaughter to the mix, women’s health is clearly an important issue for them.
“Women’s health is a significant part of our day-to-day lives” says Ian. “Our daughters and even their children may not be future patients of Women’s College Hospital but they will certainly benefit from the work being done here.”
It’s one of the reasons Pat and Ian chose to make a gift to Women’s College Hospital – in honour of their four daughters, four granddaughters and their new great-granddaughter.
Pat and Ian made a significant donation to The Campaign for Women’s College Hospital
– a $50,000 gift using securities they held in their portfolio. It’s an easy, tax-efficient way to support Women’s College Hospital, because donors can avoid paying tax on capital gains.
Making a donation with a gift of securities wasn’t the only easy decision for the Frasers. Giving to Women’s College Hospital just came naturally to them.
“We receive such good care and attention here,” says Pat, who is a patient of Dr. Len Sternberg, Director of Cardiology. “And there is a personal touch to your care,” adds Ian. “I’ve always been so impressed by such a comfortable and caring atmosphere.”
When asked why others should consider giving to Women’s College Hospital, both Pat and Ian note the Hospital’s impressive history and vision to tackle some of Canada’s most pressing health-care issues. “There isn’t another hospital in this city we would consider supporting. Women’s is the fit for us,” they reflect.
As the couple ages and estate planning matters become more immediate, they believe the focus of their gifts should be on initiatives that have a lasting value to the community – and Women’s College Hospital fits the bill. “You’re not just building something and plugging in doctors and programs. Women’s College Hospital is creating a modern facility designed around innovative new services, staff and most important, patients. It’s a legacy and vision that will endure.”
Leave a legacy like Pat and Ian with a Gift of Securities. Your generous donation will help Women’s College Hospital continue to achieve extraordinary advancements in health for women and health system solutions for generations to come. For more information, please contact Mary Dodd at 416-813-4740 or email@example.com.
Sheila Hambleton's Story
"When women need help, WCH is providing the best research and care."
Sheila Hambleton recalls hearing about Women's College Hospital's new plans to build the hospital of the future back in 2009 through a newspaper story.
"I remember thinking it was about time Toronto's hospital for women had a new home."
The vision in the paper proved so compelling that Sheila made a monthly pledge to support the hospital's construction - a commitment she continues to honour today.
A retired high school teacher and principal, Sheila has always been interested in the challenges and opportunities facing girls and women.
While president of the Soroptimist International of Toronto - a global women's organization devoted to improving the lives of women and girls - Sheila oversaw a $20,000 donation to WCH's new neonatal unit in the late 80s. It was through that organization that Sheila was first introduced to WCH - "I was very impressed that the hospital was started by women doctors," she says.
"Soroptimist means 'best for women.' That's what Women's College Hospital is about, too. When women need help, they're there providing the best research and care with a great bedside manner."
Join Sheila in making a monthly gift to Women's College Hospital Foundation, or by contacting Alex Cheesman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 416-323-6323 ext. 2319.
Shirley Brown's Story
"A Chair in the Making" inspires many to make a difference for women with mental illness
The Shirley Brown Chair in Women's Mental Health Research
bears the name of an exceptional woman, lawyer and volunteer who was passionate about healthcare reform, but Janet MacInnis says the chair stands for even more than the person who inspired it.
"It's an example of the incredible power of our community - the hundreds of donors who came together to raise awareness about women's mental health and the research we need to do to move ahead."
MacInnis, a long-time WCH volunteer, helped to spearhead fundraising for the endowment after Shirley Brown's death following an episode of acute depression in 1996.
"Shirley's story was incredibly galvanizing," remembers her sister Janet Brown. More than 700 family members and friends, including Shirley's partner Kath Farris, rallied behind the movement to change the model of care for mental illness through innovative research.
The Shirley Brown Chair was established in 1996 as a collaboration among WCH, the University of Toronto and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. The current chair holder, Women's College Research Institute
scientist Cindy-Lee Dennis, PhD, is identifying and preventing postpartum depression and developing innovative, accessible treatment interventions.
Her latest study into the effectiveness of telephone-based interpersonal psychotherapy for women with postpartum depression is addressing the gaps in care for new mothers who live in rural and remote areas. "If the telephone format is implemented," she explains, "all women could receive treatment."
This is exciting news for Janet Brown, who says WCH's "strengths in applying research knowledge in interesting ways" is exactly why her family chose the hospital for their gifts.
"We want the chair to make a difference - to Women's College Hospital and to the way society perceives diseases like depression. Most of all, we really want to make a difference for women with mental illness."
A Chair in the Making
A Chair in the Making
was just one of the many Women's College Hospital Foundation fundraisers led by family and friends in memory of Shirley Brown. More than 100 chairs were donated, painted by community members of all ages and then sold at a 1999 auction led by former Ontario premier Bob Rae.
A Chair in the Making
was "born out of love and hope," says the event brochure. "Love for Shirley and for others who have suffered from mental illness. Hope that what she and they have suffered will one day be understood so that others will not have to endure the pain and the stigma of a disease of the mind." The event raised more than $115,000 for the Shirley Brown Chair in Women's Mental Health Research.
Here are the voices of some of the people involved explaining why they participated and what they hoped would result:
"My sister describes depression as a humongous black hole. All my life I have seen her and others I love fall into that black hole and watched helplessly as they fought their way out. I want to be part of an effort to remove the inevitability of slipping into the hole, both for my generation and those who follow."
"Many women have experienced low self-esteem and possess limited knowledge of the demanding roles it can impose on us. We need help to break out of the holds made by gender inequality, poverty and low self-esteem, and find strength to become our own works of freedom and imagination. Let's help each other."
"Women, anger, depression, suicide, hope, renewal. Working toward a common goal with women is always satisfying and to do it in a creative way even more so. It felt like such a positive action to take. I hope our combined efforts lead to a greater understanding of the way women function in our society."
"I hope, there will be a greater understanding of this disease. Maybe this Research Chair will lead us through the darkness to the light for which we are all striving."
Donate today and transform the future of mental healthcare for women and their families for generations to come.
Vartouhi Jazmaji 's Story
"I wish more people would realize how easy it is to have an impact on this hospital and our medical system.”
Vartouhi Jazmaji clearly remembers the moment she realized that Women’s College Hospital is a special place. It was the late 1970s, not long after she had moved to Canada from Lebanon, and her sister-in-law was undergoing an emergency C-section. Vartouhi, holding her sister-in-law’s hand throughout the procedure, recalls the pure joy of the doctors and nurses in the room when the baby was born.
“It was unbelievable – like they had never delivered a baby before,” she says, knowing that the care team was delivering hundreds of babies each year at that time. “I was so moved. I said to myself, ‘This is an environment where people really care.’”
A long-time patient of WCH herself, Vartouhi says that the care she received over the years never ceased to be exceptional – including the day, on her 60th
birthday, when she was rushed to WCH and diagnosed with uterine cancer. That day, she took comfort in knowing that her doctors and nurses truly cared – and that they would ensure she received the very best care. Today, Vartouhi is cancer-free.
Vartouhi says that her decision to become a monthly donor in 1992 was an easy one. Having received such excellent care at Women’s College Hospital and knowing the importance of giving – she and her husband are deeply involved with their community and support numerous causes – she wanted to give back to the place that made such a difference for her and her family.
“It’s so easy to make a big difference over time by making manageable monthly donations,” she says. “And I know my donations are being used properly. I wish more people would realize how easy it is to have an impact on this hospital and our medical system.”
Vartouhi is proud that her donations helped build the new home of Women’s College Hospital, but she knows that it’s what’s inside that counts – and the reason why she has been a donor for 24 years and counting.
“The people make Women’s College Hospital what it is,” she says. “A big house doesn’t make a home – it’s the people that matter.”
Become a monthly donor today and help change the lives of more women like Vartouhi.
Yolande Hirdaramani's Story
Yolande credits WCH with connecting her to Canada as a new immigrant. And now, she's giving back.
Yolande Hirdaramani vividly remembers the first time she walked into Women’s College Hospital. She had been in Canada for less than a year, having left her home country of Ceylon – now Sri Lanka – with her husband and four-year-old daughter. Pregnant with her second daughter, Yolande was referred to Women’s College Hospital by her family doctor, the late Dr. Elizabeth Harrison.
“Elizabeth said to me, ‘I’m not just referring you to a hospital… I’m referring you to the hospital – the hospital of the future,’” Yolande recalls.
Her first experience at a Canadian hospital, Yolande says that she felt a sense of calm when she arrived at WCH for her first appointment.
“New immigrants can feel so lost – everything is so strange in a new country,” she reflects. “But I felt so confident coming to Women’s College Hospital. The hospital means a lot to me because it connected me to Canada.”
Wanting to give back to the hospital that helped her feel at home in her new country, eight years ago Yolande set up a regular monthly donation. Since then, her contributions – just like yours – have helped WCH provide a refuge of calm and healing for countless other women and their families from around the world through our Crossroads Clinic
, Toronto’s first and only hospital-based health clinic exclusively serving refugees. Established in 2011, the clinic serves 400 to 500 new patients each year and provides vital services.
To Yolande, and to you, we give our deepest thanks for your generosity. It’s only with the support of our donor family that Women’s College Hospital is more than just a hospital – it’s the hospital.
Learn more about becoming a monthly donor and set up your monthly donation today. Your generosity will help more women like Yolande receive the support they need to get back to their health and their lives.
Kirby Silverberg's Story
"I lost my sister, Krista, to breast cancer last December. If there’s any ray of hope, it’s this: losing my sister saved my own life."
Krista was a bright and shining light in this world and I miss her very much. When she died, I saw just how devastated her husband and three young daughters were. How her loss left such a huge gaping hole in all of our hearts. Seeing my nieces’ pain and anguish gave me the push I needed to make one of the most important decisions I’ve ever made: the decision to stop my cancer before it could even begin.
Let me explain. When Krista was first diagnosed with breast cancer several years ago, I decided to get tested for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic mutations. Like Krista, I tested positive. But I thought it was something I could deal with at a later time. When Krista lost her battle with this terrible disease, I realized I needed to take some kind of action; I just didn’t know where to begin.
I was put in touch with Kelly Metcalfe, who conducts research on the prevention and treatment of hereditary breast cancer at Women’s College Hospital. She became the driving force that helped me make the decision to move forward.
Kelly asked me one very simple question that put everything into perspective. She asked, “What is the most important thing to you?” I cried and answered, “My family: my children, my husband, my parents, my siblings, and my nieces and nephews.”
Even though I already knew what I needed to do to survive, coming from someone else, someone who didn’t have a vested interest in my life or health – it sealed the deal for me. At that point I knew that I would do everything in my power to prevent what happened to my sister, from happening to me.
I wouldn’t let my husband bury his wife. I wouldn’t let my children grow up without their mother. I wouldn’t let my parents suffer the loss of another child. I wouldn’t leave my surviving sister sisterless. I wouldn’t leave my nieces and nephews down another auntie.
It was at that moment that I decided to take my health into my own hands. One simple question that no one had asked me before changed the course of my future.
After meeting with the surgical team at WCH, I made the decision to have a preventative double mastectomy. It was a difficult procedure, with several weeks of discomfort and recovery. But it was nothing compared to watching my sister fight and ultimately lose her battle with breast cancer and now watching her children grow up without her.
Today, as I write this, I can look at my four-year-old son James and almost two-year-old daughter Abigail and know with almost full certainty that I am safe from breast cancer.
I have to tell you that my experience at WCH was nothing short of amazing.
From the moment I decided to investigate my options, everyone at WCH was extraordinarily helpful. They provided me with all the information I could possibly need and took the time to really explain things to me. I felt like I was being taken care of every step of the way.
Dr. Semple, my plastic surgeon, is just the warmest, nicest man. Dr. Cil, my breast surgeon, was so supportive and caring. Their staff is incredible too. The day of my surgery, one of the residents came to walk me into the operating room. I was so overwhelmed with everything that I just started crying!
That’s when Dr. Semple actually came over and held my hand to comfort me
. At one point I had Dr. Cil, several nurses and other staff rubbing my forehead, massaging my legs, and telling me everything was going to be okay. I felt so safe and looked after, which was exactly what I needed.
Throughout my journey, my niece Brianna
– Krista’s oldest daughter – took a keen interest in WCH and their work to save the lives of women just like her mom. At just ten years old, Brianna decided to host a “Spa Day” fundraiser in support of WCH. Can you believe that amazing girl – who is still struggling with the loss of her mom – raised over $2,500 in just one day? She gives me so much hope for the future.
In fact, it’s my sincere hope that by the time Brianna and her sisters, and my own daughter, get to an age where they can even begin thinking about genetic testing, this type of breast cancer will be a thing of the past. That a preventative mastectomy won’t even be necessary.
I believe it is possible – when we all join together and support Women’s College Hospital.
Donate today to advance world-leading hereditary breast and ovarian cancer research and clinical care at Women's College Hospital. Your gift will help save the lives of countless other women like Kirby.
Marianne Fedunkiw's Story
"With each week in the cardiac gym, I regained strength, stamina and confidence in my body with the goal of living a full life."
Marianne Fedunkiw recently graduated from Women’s College Hospital's Cardiac Rehabilitation Program, the first and only heart health program in Canada exclusively designed for women. Here, Marianne shares her experiences in the program and the impact it’s had on her life – an impact made possible by the generosity of our extraordinary donor community.
I recently completed my second six month ‘term’ in WCH’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Program. Although I was saddened to bid goodbye to my workout friends and the staff, I look forward to a healthier future using tools I’ve learned from the rehab team.
It is bewildering and frightening to go from playing ice hockey and tennis to facing serious cardiovascular issues. No risk factors. No poor lifestyle choices. And chest pain only a few times a year. The only potential explanation is genetics: my maternal grandmother, my Baba, died in 1960 at 56, having suffered strokes and a heart attack.
Between ages 34 and 51, I had racked up my own disturbing tally of events: four strokes and one quadruple bypass. I felt like Humpty Dumpty being pushed off the wall again and again. With each setback, I was gutted. But the rehab team were there to help me pick up the pieces, patch me up, and encourage me to get back up on that wall.
The program reaffirmed that regular exercise was not only safe but also a way to protect myself against potential future health ‘surprises’; it also provided me with a community of supportive and inspiring women. With each week in the cardiac gym, I regained strength, stamina and confidence in my body with the goal of living a full life.
I was fortunate to benefit from Canada’s oldest women-only cardiac rehab program. I can never adequately express my gratitude to Drs. Jennifer Price and Len Sternberg for having the foresight to set up this program more than 20 years ago. The staff – Debbie Childerhose, Faith Delos-Reyes, Miriam Fong and Mireille Landry – are first-rate professionals, always patient with my queries about physiology and developments in cutting-edge cardiac care.
Doctors still cannot explain what’s wrong with me. But I celebrate what is working well and am coming to terms with being an interesting medical mystery.
I never got to meet my Baba. She died five years before I was born. Surgeons were not yet performing cardiac bypasses and the benefits of cardiac rehab programs were not yet fully understood.
I owe my life to advancements in medical research. I owe my quality of life to WCH’s cardiac rehab program. Thank you from every functioning chamber of my Humpty Dumpty heart!
Your donation today will help more women like Marianne receive the support they need to get back to their health and their lives. Donate online and transform the future of healthcare for women everywhere.
Bill Thomas's Story
“Women’s College Hospital’s model is a piece of the future.”
Growing up with a mother, three sisters and an obstetrician father, Bill Thomas says women’s health was at the forefront of everything he knew as a boy. Little has changed for the married father of two daughters and one son, which is why the CEO of national audit, tax and advisory firm KPMG LLP stood up and took notice when his colleagues introduced him to Women’s College Hospital.
“I’m surrounded by incredible women and the fact that someone is focused on providing them with tailored, innovative healthcare is a pretty impressive thing.”
Bill was won over by Women College Hospital’s ambulatory care mission during a KPMG lunch and learn event hosted by company partners Ann Davis and Marlene Cepparo. Last year the KPMG Foundation offered to match partner contributions in support of the Campaign for Women’s College Hospital. Bill and his wife Bronwen were generous contributors to the campaign.
“What really resonated for us is that this is a hospital with a mandate to keep people out of hospital,” explains Bill. “If we don’t find a way to be more innovative, to provide top quality healthcare to our population in a way that reduces hospital time, I think we’re going to struggle to meet our growing health care needs.”
“Women’s College Hospital’s model is a piece of the future.”
Learn more about becoming a Corporate Partner of WCH and leading in the movement to invest in the future of healthcare for women and for all. To discuss how your company can help change the world by partnering with WCH, please contact Leigh Naturkach at 416-323-6323 x 2936, email@example.com.
Suzanne Lima's Story
Suzanne credits WCH with catching her breast cancer early - and ultimately, saving her life.
Suzanne Lima says the hardest part of her journey with breast cancer was telling her parents about her diagnosis. As a single woman and an only child, she knew they would be devastated. But sharing her news with them had another side effect: for Suzanne, it drove home the severity of her diagnosis.
Although she was terrified, Suzanne says she found incredible comfort in the warmth and expertise of her care team at Women’s College Hospital. She also credits them with catching her breast cancer early – and saving her life.
Suzanne’s journey to becoming a breast cancer survivor began with a routine physical at WCH’s Family Practice Health Centre
in 2008. Her family doctor, Dr. Ruth Heisey, was reviewing the results of Suzanne’s annual mammogram and suspected that something wasn’t quite right. Dr. Heisey recommended a right breast ultrasound.
Following a number of screening tests, an MRI and a biopsy, Suzanne’s care team found that she had developed stage 1 breast cancer in her right breast. Shocked, Suzanne began preparing herself for a lumpectomy and radiation – but was soon confronted with more bad news. The MRI had detected two spots on her left breast as well, and a second biopsy confirmed cancer.
Leaning on her friends and her WCH care team for advice and support, Suzanne elected to ultimately have both breasts removed, followed by an oophorectomy to eliminate her risk of developing ovarian cancer.
“What struck me throughout my cancer journey was the people that helped me, and the information and resources available to me,” says Suzanne.
“From Dr. Heisey to Dr. Tulin Cil, who performed by mastectomies, and Dr. John Semple, who performed my breast reconstruction surgery, at each step I had a wonderful team of healthcare professionals who are truly blessed with the gift of healing.”
Suzanne’s journey did not end with her surgeries. Finding herself struggling with negative body image after her mastectomies, she sought counselling at WCH and participated in an exercise program at Wellspring, a community-based centre providing support for people facing cancer.
As she began healing, Suzanne realized that she wanted to help others through their journey. She now volunteers at WCH in the surgical unit and occasionally at the Henrietta Banting Breast Centre
, and sits on a special advisory panel committed to further improving care pathways at WCH for women at risk of or facing a cancer diagnosis through the Peter Gilgan Centre for Women’s Cancers at Women’s College Hospital
, a ground breaking partnership with the Canadian Cancer Society.
She also has advice to share with other women who may be at the start of their own journey: “Listen to and trust your doctor, but while you’re waiting – for test results or surgeries, sometimes weeks at a time – surround yourself with positive distractions. Go for walks, attend classes or support groups.”
Today, Suzanne is cancer-free and getting back to her life. And she’s grateful to WCH, every step of the way.
Donate today and you can help save the lives of more women like Suzanne by supporting excellence in care for women’s cancers at WCH!
Robyn Mercado's Story
Robyn knew she'd do whatever it took to be there for her young daughter.
After watching her mother pass away from breast cancer, Robyn Mercado knew she’d do whatever it took to reduce her own risk so she could be there for her young daughter.
Both her mom and sister had been diagnosed with melanoma and breast cancer, and Robyn herself had been diagnosed with melanoma; she knew she could be the next one to receive a breast cancer diagnosis.
Working with her care team at Women’s College Hospital, Robyn made the decision to undergo a double mastectomy – virtually eliminating her risk of developing the disease.
Grateful to her care team for their incredible support throughout her journey, Robyn decided to make a special gift in their honour. She also shared a moving letter expressing her gratitude for the care she received at Women’s College Hospital during one of the most overwhelming times of her life.
How does one begin to thank and express gratitude to the most exceptional human beings on earth? From my scary first visit to the 5th floor of WCH in July 2015 up until now, there has never been a moment where I haven’t received anything but the best care imaginable.
I have been treated with empathy, compassion, kindness and professionalism by each and every one of my care team members, and I would not have reached this point without them all.
I am reminded how lucky I am to have made this decision with such great guidance and input, before it could have become a life or death situation.
The exemplary care you provide, your long, gruelling hours, your dedication to saving lives and giving people their lives back… You are committed to the greatest cause.
With my utmost respect and gratitude, Robyn Mercado
Has a Women’s College Hospital care provider made a difference in your life? Join Robyn by saying thanks with a special donation in their honour. Visit www.givewiththanks.ca or call us at 416-323-6323.
Sometimes all it takes to save a life is one simple question. Here, Zohrain shares her Women’s College Hospital story.
After being diagnosed with a severe thyroid disorder and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and being unsuccessfully treated by three separate endocrinologists, I was referred to Dr. Sheila Laredo at Women’s College Hospital. The moment I met her, I knew I was in good hands. She was patient and kind but also direct. After years of failed tries and fertility treatments, she helped me finally get pregnant.
But most importantly, she saved my life.
After I had my second son, at my eight-week postpartum visit, Dr. Laredo asked me the one question that changed everything. She asked simply: “How are you doing?”
The truth was, I wasn’t doing well. I was completely destroyed internally. I was struggling with severe postpartum depression but didn’t know what was wrong at the time. When Dr. Laredo asked me that question, I broke down. Everything I had been hiding came out. She immediately jumped to action and referred me to Dr. Simone Vigod, chief of WCH’s department of psychiatry and founder of the hospital’s Reproductive Life Stages mental health program, and my recovery started that day.
Meeting Dr. Vigod changed my life. She just knew. And it felt so good to finally feel like I wasn’t alone, or pathetic or dramatic. We came up with a plan and I’ve been seeing her ever since. I’m nowhere near 100% but I’m better and that’s a huge victory.
Dr. Vigod has always been there for me. Whenever I’m in a really dark place, she’s there with calming words and a plan to see me through that darkness.
I don’t think both Dr. Laredo and Dr. Vigod will ever actually know just how much they’ve impacted my life for the better. I’m still here, fighting every day thanks to them. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it over and over again but those two phenomenal, compassionate, amazing women have literally saved my life. I’m so thankful to have a healthcare team that’s always on my side. I will forever be indebted to them.
To learn more about Women’s College Hospital’s Women’s Mental Health Program, please click here. If you would like to make a donation to help advance the work that saved Zohrain’s life, click here.
Thelma Bacchus's Story
"Throughout the years, no matter what our healthcare concerns were, we have received nothing but exceptional care."
For over 40 years, Thelma Bacchus and her family have been coming to WCH Family Practice for their healthcare needs. The many years of dedicated support and professional care provided by WCH doctors and staff has inspired Thelma’s generosity. Since 2007, she has been a monthly donor to WCHF, supporting the greatest priority needs of the hospital and giving back to the community she considers family.
Here is her story:
“From the time we arrived in Canada, in 1976, Women’s College Hospital has been a member of my family. As far back as I can remember, it has been a welcome place to turn for all of my family’s medical and healthcare needs. Our first family doctor, who we saw for 10 years until his retirement, was Dr. Frank Adderley. He and his team (Norma, Sonia and the other medical staff) were always there for us. When Dr. Adderley retired, Dr. Stephen Holzapfel and his team (Jane, June, Julie and the other medical staff) took over the practice and has been our family doctor ever since. Over the last 30 years, Dr. Holzapfel’s commitment to providing excellent service and care to our family has always been a constant for us.
Throughout the years, no matter what our healthcare concerns were, we have received nothing but exceptional care. Most recently, the excellent service and professionalism of the WCH medical team saved my son-in-law’s life. In 2010, he experienced a cardiac event which left him feeling uncomfortable and unwell. He immediately went to the Acute Ambulatory Care Unit (AACU) at WCH where the team quickly diagnosed his condition – atrial fibrillation – and were able to administer treatment. This was a very traumatic experience for our family but the medical team’s professionalism and responsiveness gave us comfort and support.
Our forty-one plus year relationship with WCH has been a journey of care and support that we are truly grateful for. In fact, it inspired our family to give back to the hospital, beginning with my daughter volunteering at the hospital during her high school years and carried on with my eldest son volunteering during his high school years, as well. More recently, when the hospital engaged in the building campaign to construct the new facility, I became a sustaining donor. I saw it as an opportunity to help a valued member of our family modernize and extend its ability to provide excellent medical and healthcare service to our family and many more families.
Thank you WCH for your ongoing commitment to providing excellent service and care for my family’s medical and healthcare needs.
“Being part of Women’s College Hospital has really changed my attitude and my approach to my own healthcare and I feel like I can move forward.”
After experiencing an unexpected heart attack that threatened her health and shook her confidence, Vincenza was searching for a way to feel empowered in her recovery. Following the advice of a friend, she asked to be referred to the Cardiac Rehabilitation Program at Women’s College Hospital – the first and only program of its kind in Canada focused exclusively on women’s heart health.
“[The program] really focuses on ‘you are well and we are going to try to give you the tools to continue to be well and to continue to get stronger’,” reflected Vincenza.
The WCH Cardiac Rehabilitation Program incorporates evidence-based research specific to women in order to address the important nuances of their care – such as the physiological differences between men and women that are often overlooked. But the gender-specific care isn’t the only benefit Vincenza was grateful to receive, “I was able to meet a whole network of women, both care providers and colleagues. Being part of this program really turned around my attitude. I felt a little bit more empowered, like I could do something for my health,” she says.
The hospital’s commitment to understanding the unique needs of women and their care really resonated with Vincenza, and had an important impact on her recovery, “I was just so committed to being part of the program,” she says. “I’m very inspired by the potential – being part of Women’s College Hospital has really changed my attitude and my approach to my own healthcare and I feel like I can move forward.”
Today, Vincenza volunteers at the Cardiac Rehabilitation Program and continues to share her story to help empower other women to take charge of their health and advocate for their wellbeing.
Listen to more of Vincenza’s story
Rosalind Gill's Story
“I no longer feel stuck with the pain. Now, I have the confidence to know that I can manage my pain on my own.”
Rosalind Gill struggled with chronic hip pain for years and even feared she would need a hip replacement before finally receiving a diagnosis – fibromyalgia. A complex chronic condition, fibromyalgia causes musculoskeletal pain that can be difficult to manage. Treatment often involves medication but Rosalind was hoping to find a more holistic approach.
“After receiving my diagnosis, I began looking for alternatives to drug therapy,” she says. “I wanted to find a clinic that supported my desire to manage my pain without medication. That’s when I was referred to Women’s College Hospital’s Toronto Academic Pain Management Institute.”
Rosalind enrolled in the Institute’s Pain University program – a nine-week course designed to help patients with chronic pain conditions like fibromyalgia understand where their pain comes from and how it can be managed using a combination of approaches including exercise, cognitive behavioural therapy, and lifestyle changes. A revolutionary component of the course is its focus on educating patients about their pain – an aspect of treatment that is often overlooked.
Research shows that for people who are dealing with complex chronic pain conditions, medication alone may not have the best results. Dealing with chronic pain can cause feelings of depression, anxiety and despair – feelings that only further aggravate occurrences of pain. Through TAPMI’s multidisciplinary approach to pain management, patients are educated on a variety of tools they can use to manage their pain.
“The TAPMI team works diligently and seamlessly to enhance the patient experience, incorporating evidence-based knowledge with pragmatic life solutions to educate patients on how to manage their pain at multiple levels using a variety of tools and techniques,” says Hari Gopalakrishnan Nair, a physiotherapist at TAPMI.
“With these tools, patients begin to realize that their pain is actually something they have control over.”
This was a realization that was particularly helpful to Rosalind. “After going through the Pain U program, my outlook on my pain really changed. I’ve developed a new relationship to it and the program has really helped to reduce the despair I was feeling about my pain,” she says. “I feel empowered by the education and tools I received.” When asked what impact the program has had on her life, Rosalind shared that it has given her hope. “I no longer feel stuck with the pain. Now, I have the confidence to know that I can manage my pain on my own.”
Listen to more of Rosalind’s story here
Kaori Noguchi's Story
“For the last several years, I was doing everything with pain. Now, I’m back to work and life and feeling so much better.”
Born with congenital hip dysplasia, Kaori was always aware that she may face painful mobility issues later in life. She remained active in an attempt to keep herself mobile and manage her condition until she experienced a pain in her hip that she had never felt before.
“I’ll never forget the sound my hip made that day while I was on a run. It was a huge crack!” says Kaori. “I immediately knew I had done something wrong.”
Following her injury, Kaori visited a number of specialists and attempted various treatment options before finally receiving a referral for a total hip replacement.
In Canada, the average length of a hospital stay following a hip replacement is several days. Women’s College Hospital is changing that: thanks to a combination of state-of-the-art surgical and anesthetic techniques and an innovative new virtual care app, patients undergoing joint replacement surgeries at WCH are able to return home just hours after surgery while remaining fully connected to their care teams.
As an active individual with a strong support network, Kaori was the ideal candidate for the same-day surgery at Women’s College Hospital. Revolutionary anesthesia techniques that reduce nausea commonly associated with surgery and an innovative, take-home virtual care application allowed her to leave the hospital just hours after surgery, while remaining fully connected to her care team from the comfort of home.
“Being able to recover from surgery in the comfort of home, being able to be with my young son, and still feeling confident that I could connect with my care team at any time was so helpful to my recovery,” explains Kaori.
For Kaori, finally undergoing surgery to correct her hip has meant a dramatic improvement in her quality of life. “For the last several years, I was doing everything with pain. Now, I’m back to work and life and feeling so much better.”
Listen to more of Kaori’s story here.
Greg Nemez's Story
Greg had suffered years of debilitating arthritis in his knees, until he received a knee replacement through WCH’s state of the art same-day surgery.
Greg Nemez had suffered years of debilitating arthritis in his knees. A lifelong athlete, Greg’s pain not only limited his mobility, but was also negatively affecting his quality of life.
“The pain was affecting me on a daily basis – physically and mentally,” he reflected in frustration. “I knew I needed a new knee.”
When he was told he was eligible for the outpatient joint replacement program at Women’s College Hospital, he was shocked. “The fact that I could be home from the hospital in less than one day was fabulous,” marveled Greg.
In Canada, the average length of stay for a knee replacement surgery is 3 to 4 days. But, with a combination of state-of the- art surgical and anesthetic techniques and an innovative new virtual care app, the outpatient program at WCH is transforming joint replacement – and allowing patients to recover from the comfort of home.
Spearheaded by Dr. David Urbach, surgeon-in-chief and medical director of perioperative services at the hospital, the program was driven by a mandate to develop system solutions to improve health services country-wide. By reducing the length of stay in hospital, the program is freeing up much needed hospital beds and has the potential to save the healthcare system over $31 million each year.
With the right supports, patients can avoid hospitalization after joint replacement. The program at WCH has revolutionized the way anesthesia and pain management is delivered, therefore reducing the nausea and dizziness that often keeps patients in hospital post-surgery. To monitor their recovery from home, patients are equipped with a tablet that replicates the care they would receive while in hospital – reminders to take their medication, monitoring of pain levels and, most importantly, a direct connection to their healthcare team.
Before undergoing surgery, Greg was introduced to his post-operative care team and he saw them again on the day of his procedure. They became familiar faces and once he returned home with his new knee, he felt comfortable and fully connected to them.
“We’re not using technology to replace human contact. In fact, we’re using technology to enhance human contact,” says Dr. Dan Cornejo Palma, the surgical resident who was involved in developing the mobile technology. “We’ve learned the new skill of how to delivery care virtually; how to reassure patients that they’re ok and how to provide a level of high-touch care that hadn’t existed before.”
Greg agrees that he always knew his care team was available, “They were so attentive both while I was in the hospital and once I’d returned home. I could tell they really cared and that was important.”
He also has advice to share with other patients who are suffering from similar immobility and joint pain: “Don’t wait. There are programs out there that can get you back to your life faster. Talk to your healthcare provider to see what your options are and whether you qualify for something like this. I feel like I got my life back!”
Jenny Bird's Story
“As women, it’s important that we are proactive about our own health and advocate for what we need”
For two years, Toronto-based jewelry designer Jenny Bird and her husband tried without success to have a baby. After seeing a fertility specialist, they discovered that Jenny had undiagnosed endometriosis – a disorder that can make it difficult or impossible to conceive.
Told that she would require a laparoscopy procedure to treat her endometriosis, Jenny was referred to Women’s College Hospital for the laser-based surgery. The following year, she gave birth to her first child – a boy named August. Several years later, she underwent another laparoscopy at WCH and, this past March, welcomed daughter Georgie Love.
“Women’s College Hospital made both of my pregnancies possible,” she says. “This is a place that’s advocating for women’s health and helping women become mothers and grandmothers.”
Jenny’s personal experiences receiving care at WCH made the decision to support the hospital’s work through her fashion jewelry brand, JENNY BIRD
, an easy one. In the fall of 2018, Jenny designed a special jewelry item – a gold-dipped, solid sterling silver piece that can be purchased as a necklace or a brooch – for guests of Women for Women’s, Women’s College Hospital Foundation’s flagship annual fundraising luncheon. The piece sold out quickly.
Featuring stones that represent four key virtues of Women’s College Hospital and its community – courage, resilience, compassion and innovation – Jenny’s design reflected her personal passion for the work of WCH.
“Women’s College Hospital is all about women lifting each other up, and that’s in total alignment with my own personal commitment and the mandate of the JENNY BIRD brand,” she says. “The more we can advocate for our own health, and the more we can support places like Women’s College Hospital that are working hard to deliver research and care that improve healthcare for women, the healthier and stronger we’ll all be.”
Jenny encourages more women to be proactive about their health by staying on top of women’s health news and research through resources like Women’s Health Matters
, an online portal of women’s health information from the experts at WCH. She also hopes to inspire others to support the hospital by giving back.
“As women, it’s important that we are proactive about our own health and advocate for what we need,” she says. “I am proud to support Women’s College Hospital – a place that is committed to advancing women’s health through research and innovation, and to helping women look after themselves.”
Francis Ddembe's Story
“I’m so grateful for the care I received. Giving back is my way of saying ‘thank you.’”
For Francis Ddembe, becoming a monthly donor to Women’s College Hospital is a meaningful way to give back to the place that helped him regain his health after arriving in Canada as a refugee.
Searching for a safe and secure future for himself and his family, Francis left his home country of Uganda in 2018 to start a new life in Canada. After arriving as a refugee, Francis was connected with Sojourn House in Toronto—a community shelter and transitional housing program that assists newcomers with their integration into Canadian society.
Refugees arriving in Canada must deal with the stressors of their refugee status, the immediacy of finding housing and employment, cultural and language barriers to be overcome, and the journey of resettlement in new communities. As a result, healthcare can easily slip down the priority list—a reality Francis experienced first-hand during his transition. Knowing he had an underlying heart condition, but preoccupied with settling in Toronto, it was six months before he could turn his attention to his health.
After meeting with a resident physician at the shelter, Francis was connected to Women’s College Hospital’s Crossroads Clinic
—Toronto’s first hospital-based refugee health clinic—to begin addressing his health concerns. “When I first arrived, I didn’t know what would lie ahead of me,” he says. “Not until I came to Women’s College Hospital. Before that, I was worried about finding care but the hospital has been so helpful.”
Through community partnerships with Sojourn House and other refugee support programs in the city, the Crossroads Clinic is helping to improve access to healthcare for newcomers to Canada by providing comprehensive care and support for those who need it most.
Dr. Praseedha Janakiram, Francis’ physician at the Crossroads Clinic, says that offering a dedicated clinic specific to the needs of refugees is an important part of helping them settle in Canada. “Our patients are arriving from countries and regions of conflict and persecution. Many have spent months or years without healthcare access,” she says. “Others may have experienced stigma during previous healthcare experiences in their home settings. Having a sensitive, dedicated clinic that serves the refugee community and is compassionate to their unique needs is essential to supporting our patients as they rebuild their lives.”
Francis says the care he receives is helping get his health back on track. “They’ve made it so easy for me to attend my appointments and keep on top of my heart condition,” he says. “My health is really improving since I’ve been coming to the hospital and the doctors have taken such good care of me.”
Grateful for the care he received at the Crossroads Clinic, Francis was inspired to give back by becoming a monthly donor to Women’s College Hospital Foundation.
“I feel like I need to give back to Women’s College Hospital for what they have done for me,” he says. “I am in much better shape and I am so grateful for the care I received. This is my way of saying ‘thank you.’”
Janet Macbeth 's Story
“The fact that so many people care so deeply about this issue has been so inspiring.”
The first thing Janet Macbeth wants people to know about her is that she is a loving and dedicated wife and mother. She and her family care deeply for their Southwestern Ontario community. She is passionate about her career. And she is trans.
For Janet, being trans hasn’t always been an aspect of her identity that she has been open about. For many years, shame, fear and anger prevented her from coming out to those around her. “I was dealing with a lot of dysphoria and unhealthy coping tendencies,” says Janet. “Eventually, it got to the point where I just couldn’t take it anymore. I realized I wasn’t living my healthiest life.”
In 2017, with her health and well-being at stake, and with the support of her immediate family, Janet decided to begin the long and often onerous process of openly transitioning. Due to a lack of accessible, timely and compassionate care, Janet had to drive nearly two hours to attend medical appointments with the nearest doctor capable of guiding her transition—just one example of the glaring gaps that exist in healthcare for many trans Canadians.
After coming out to family, friends and the community around her, as well as over a year of hormonal therapy mandated by the Ontario government, Janet finally received approval for the life-changing vaginoplasty—a surgery that constructs a vagina for trans patients—she had long been awaiting.
At the time of her approval in spring 2018, a private clinic in Montreal was the only place performing these complex surgeries in Canada, requiring expensive and time-consuming travel. Hoping to find a surgeon closer to home—where she could be closer to her support network of friends and family and have easier access to the follow-up care she would need—Janet began searching for other options.
Soon she heard that Women’s College Hospital had recently launched its Transition-Related Surgery (TRS) Program—the first at a Canadian public hospital. Janet reached out for more information and while the program was still in development, the team kept her up-to-date when they could.
Finally, at the end of 2018, after months of patiently waiting, Janet received the news she had been waiting for: she was being scheduled for surgery. “When I finally received a date, it was magical,” she says. “I had been waiting with this hope of something on the horizon for so long because it was so important to me and all of sudden it became a reality.”
In June, the TRS team, working alongside Dr. Marci Bowers, world-renowned transition-related surgeon, performed Janet’s vaginoplasty—the first in Ontario in more than two decades.
“This surgery has been such a gift. It’s inspired me to start thinking ‘How can I be healthier? How can I be a better mother and wife?’” says Janet. “I’m so grateful for the level of care I received. The fact that so many people care so deeply about this issue and then, in turn, cared for me has been so inspiring.”
Your generosity is making it possible for Women’s College Hospital to provide equitable access to healthcare for all Canadians. Thank you!
How technology is revolutionizing mental healthcare for new moms
These days, when Patricia sits down at her kitchen table and connects with her Women’s College Hospital psychiatrist on her laptop, she thinks back to the days when seeing a doctor would have been next to impossible. Those were the days when she could hardly get out of bed – unable to even shower, let alone get in her car, drive to the hospital, find parking and wait for her appointment.
After giving birth to her daughter in 2007, Patricia was overcome by a sense of hopelessness and despair. Sleepless for days on end, refusing to see visitors and even feeling she couldn’t look after her newborn daughter, she quickly realized something was terribly wrong.
“I couldn’t do anything except stay upstairs crying,” she says. “I didn’t even want to hold my baby. I finally said to my husband, ‘I’m not good. Something’s wrong.’”
Patricia’s husband took her to see her physician at Women’s College Hospital’s Family Practice Health Centre, who quickly referred her to the hospital’s Reproductive Life Stages (RLS) Program – a unique clinical and research program focused on women’s mental health during the time of pregnancy and the postpartum period. It’s the largest of its kind in Canada.
Patricia was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a condition that may affect up to half of women who experience severe postpartum depression. Her care team helped her to stabilize, and Patricia continues to be an active patient of the RLS Program to maintain her mental health.
But over the past couple of months, the majority of her appointments have taken the form of video chats with her psychiatrist, Dr. Alicja Fishell, from the comfort of home. The move to virtual care for eligible patients of the Reproductive Life Stages Program is a major milestone in Women’s College Hospital’s bold vision to become Canada’s first virtual hospital.
Offering care virtually where appropriate for patients and their providers is the solution that’s urgently needed to take the strain off Canada’s overburdened health system, says Dr. Danielle Martin, Women’s College Hospital’s Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Executive.
“The idea is that patients should ultimately only be coming into the hospital when they and their provider have determined that a physical visit is what’s best for their unique needs,” says Dr. Martin. “Otherwise, virtual visits are ideal for a significant portion of the patient population. Not only are virtual visits more convenient for patients, but they also help to reduce wait times to see specialists and alleviate pressure on emergency departments.”
Patricia, who lives in Vaughan, says her virtual visits with Dr. Fishell have significantly reduced her stress levels by eliminating the need to drive into the city every time she has an appointment. And because she’s able to see Dr. Fishell more frequently – each video visit is 20 minutes long and the two meet about once a week – she says the quality of care she’s receiving has improved too.
“If you’re trying to get an in-person appointment, it’s rare for any hospital to be able to schedule more than one visit a month unless there are cancellations,” she says. “But this way, we can see each other regularly and there’s no additional time impact for either of us. I’m also more present for each appointment because I’m not worrying about whether my parking is about to expire or if I have somewhere else to be.”
Dr. Fishell says that the option to receive care virtually is particularly impactful for new moms, who often face a myriad of barriers to attending in-person appointments – from the negative effects of depression, anxiety and insomnia to difficulty scheduling appointments around their babies’ nap schedules or their older children’s activities.
“It’s often harder for new moms to get out of the house,” says Dr. Fishell. “So virtual care has been an extremely useful tool for making sure we’re able to access women at a time when they may really need care but just aren’t able to leave home to access it.”
With the escalation of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Fishell says virtual care has become even more valuable for physicians and patients. “I’ve had multiple patients tell me that they wouldn’t even consider leaving the house for an in-patient appointment because of physical distancing requirements, so the ability to still provide them with care while they stay at home has been fantastic,” she says.
“Whether virtual care is needed because of a pandemic, bad weather or a patient’s preference, it’s all about enhancing access to care and getting patients the help they need – when, where and how they need it.”
Thinking back on those days in 2007 when the simple act of getting out of bed seemed impossible, Patricia says that virtual care is revolutionary for patients like her. “With virtual care, you don’t even have to get out of your pyjamas,” she says. “It’s easy, it’s flexible, it’s simple to use and it’s private. You’re able to get the therapy you need, get your prescriptions filled and get back to your day. It’s been amazing.”
For Julie, taking care of her mental health wasn’t only necessary for her own well-being, it was also vitally important to the health of her entire family.
When Julie’s second son Oliver was born, despite not having a prenatal diagnosis, she immediately knew he had Down Syndrome. What she didn’t know when he was rushed to the NICU hours after his birth was that he also had two holes in his heart that would require open heart surgery nine months later. For the first few months of Oliver’s life, Julie was terrified of what his future would look like and was devastated for her family.
That first night, between frequent trips to the NICU from her labour and delivery room, Julie frantically searched the internet for information about the medical complications from Down Syndrome that she knew nothing about – learning about decreased life expectancy and the challenges her son would face, wondering what the impact would be on her eldest child, and her young family’s future.
“I spent hours speaking with doctors and specialists, and then scouring Google for answers, trying to figure out what this would mean for my son and for my family,” she says. “It was a very scary time and I could feel myself falling deeper into a very dark hole. I knew pretty quickly that I needed help for me, too, if I was going to be able to help Oliver.”
Having been a patient of the Women’s Mental Health Program at Women’s College Hospital before the birth of her first son three years prior, Julie reached out to the Reproductive Life Stages Program for help. She quickly received an appointment with a psychiatrist who diagnosed her with postpartum depression.
Over the next year, Oliver experienced many health complications and was in and out of hospital with countless appointments with physicians, specialists and therapists. During that time, Julie received regular counselling and support from her care team, where she found the resources and tools she needed to keep moving forward with strength and resilience for herself and her son.
“There were times where I felt so overwhelmed and alone, and like it was all too much to handle,” she says. “I remember after one particularly emotional session, throwing a balled up tissue soaked with tears into the trash bin. When I looked down into the bin, it was overflowing with tissues from other women who had been there, too. As strange as it sounds, it was one of those moments that helped me realize I wasn’t alone.”
The Women’s Mental Health Program provides over 20,000 patient visits per year for patients like Julie who are in need of support and care for a wide range of specialty mental health conditions including trauma and abuse; reproductive life stages (including an online patient decision
tool to help pregnant and pregnancy planning women with depression make decsions about the best treatment for them during pregnancy); medical psychiatry; refugee mental health, and more.
Dr Simone Vigod, chief of psychiatry at Women’s College Hospital, says that reaching women who are suffering from postpartum depression, anxiety and other mental health issues is vitally important to not only their own health, but the health of their entire families.
“Postpartum depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress, obsessive compulsive disorder and other psychiatric illnesses are medical problems that need professional treatment, just like any other medical condition,” says Dr. Vigod. “Research shows that when moms receive the care and support they need to keep themselves healthy and well, their children experience better health outcomes, too. By focusing on a mother’s mental health during the vitally important transition period into motherhood, we are helping to create a strong and healthy foundation for the entire family.”
Julie continued to access care and services throughout the first 18 months of Oliver’s life and was very grateful to have the ongoing support. “My team helped me navigate everything from feelings of grief and loss, to developing coping mechanisms for when Oliver’s medical challenges were particularly scary and they were there for me as I transitioned back to work, too. With their support, I was able to regain my sense of self, and my self-esteem.”
Julie says one of the biggest impacts her care and treatment has had on her life was helping her regain the courage and confidence to get pregnant again. “A huge part of going through postpartum depression for me was feeling like everything was out of control. But, thanks to the incredible support I received, I now have the strength and confidence to know that I do have power and control over my life and decisions,” she says.
“With our next little one due in January, I couldn’t be more excited and hopeful for what the future holds for our family.”
Photo credit: Snugabye Canada.
Mrs. Choy's Story
How Mrs. Choy regained her health after recovering from COVID-19.
After coming down with a high fever in March 2020, Mrs. Choy, an 82 year old resident at Kensington Gardens Long Term Care home, was tested and diagnosed with COVID-19. She was immediately moved to a nearby hospital to stabilize her condition and, four days later, returned home to Kensington Gardens to recover in strict isolation.
“It was awful,” she says. “I was so sick; I could barely move. I couldn’t sit up. I just wanted to feel better.” During that time, Mrs. Choy says she mostly slept and prayed, leaning on her Christian faith to get her through and relying on daily phone calls from her daughter, who encouraged her to stay strong.
After two weeks of intense illness and quarantine, Mrs. Choy’s fever finally broke and she was on her way to recovery. She remembers the day when her quarantine was finally lifted, “Everyone was coming by my door to say congratulations! They were so happy for me.”
“My family came to visit me, and they called me on the phone from the parking lot. I was able to go to the window to see them. I was so happy, I cried,” she says. “My son told me that I just needed to focus on getting better and that I still had things to do! So that’s what I did.”
But, having been bed-ridden and immobile for months, Mrs. Choy could barely sit, let alone stand or walk – things that she had been able to do with ease before getting sick. Luckily for Mrs. Choy, staff from Women’s College Hospital had been redeployed to Kensington Gardens to help support the facility during their COVID-19 outbreak, and to help staff care for residents during the height of the pandemic.
Hari Nair was one of the Women’s College Hospital staff members who was redeployed as a physiotherapy assistant to Kensington Gardens as part of the hospital’s redeployment efforts and unique role as the facility’s hospital resources partner. A Registered Physiotherapist at Women’s College Hospital’s Toronto Academic Pain Management Institute (TAPMI), Hari quickly went to work supporting residents, including Mrs. Choy, with regaining their mobility following the intense isolation and weeks of immobility.
“There were patients like Mrs. Choy who had been quite active and mobile before being quarantined due to the pandemic,” says Hari. “So, I was determined to help them regain that mobility and sense of independence once they had recovered. Together, we would work to improve range of motion and strengthen the lower limbs, slowly over time. Eventually, we would begin to see results and the residents would start to feel like themselves again.”
Mrs. Choy says working with Hari, as well as the wonderful and caring staff at Kensington Gardens, was instrumental in her recovery. “Hari was so kind and patient. We started with a little peddle machine and I could only do two minutes with his help. Then, slowly, we worked up to longer and longer, until I could walk all the way down the hall to the dining room without a break!”
Hari says Mrs. Choy’s recovery was celebrated by many of her neighbors and the staff at Kensington Gardens, “She brought so much positivity and cheer to the dining room when she was finally able to return,” he says. “She transformed the atmosphere there and her resilience is such a testament to what one can achieve in the face of crisis. And, there are many other patients who overcame dire and abjectly hopeless situations – patients I had the privilege of supporting throughout the pandemic.”
As the ongoing hospital resource partner, Women’s College Hospital continues to work closely with Kensington Gardens LTC staff to review the ever-changing needs of the facility and to support staff and management where appropriate.
You can support Women’s College Hospital’s ongoing redeployment efforts in response to COVID-19 by making a donation to the COVID-19 Response Fund, or calling 416-323-6323.