IN HONOUR OF AN EXCEPTIONAL VOLUNTEER, SHEILA KUSSNER
In June 2022, we inaugurated a beautiful recognition installation at the JGH in honour of an exceptional volunteer, Sheila Kussner. We are pleased to acknowledge her awe-inspiring contribution to the field of cancer support with an installation that embodies the hope and support she brought to so many.
In 1981, Kussner founded Hope & Cope, a support centre located at the JGH’s Segal Cancer Centre that is dedicated to the welfare of cancer patients. The Centre’s innovative psychosocial support program is designed to meet the complex emotional and practical needs of cancer patients and their caregivers at every stage -- from diagnosis through treatment, wellness, recovery, recurrence, and when necessary, palliative care and bereavement.
Kussner, who is herself a cancer survivor, passionately believes that, under the guidance of professionals, volunteers with experience of cancer can provide credible support to fellow cancer patients. Her vision for Hope & Cope has been emulated in similar centres across Canada and around the world due to its innovative psychosocial support program.
RECOGNIZING A PIONEER OF CANCER SUPPORT
She has been recognized time and time again for her pioneering work, including being named an Officer of the Order of Canada, an Officer of the Order of Quebec, and Governor Emerita of McGill University, which also awarded her an LL.D. degree (honora causa).
In 1995, the JGH presented her with its highest honour, the Distinguished Service Award, while in November 2010, she received an honourary doctorate from the Faculty of Nursing at the University of Montreal, which attests to her broad influence in healthcare. In 2013, the JGH Foundation appointed Kussner as Director Emeritus in honour of her unique contribtuion to the Foundation and its mission.
She has received many other honours and tributes. These include, to name a few, the Robert Fisher Fellowship Award (Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City), the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal and the Outstanding Volunteer of the Year Award (Association of Fundraising Professionals – Québec section).
A second chance: Rebecca’s Story
I was 43 years old and five months pregnant when I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer.
I was terrified. The doctors now faced the challenge of saving two lives: my life and the life of my unborn child.
My team of medical experts included an oncologist, a gynecologist, a surgeon, and a radiologist. They frequently met to determine which treatment path would give us the best chance to have the family we had always dreamed of. I was confident that I was in the best hands.
So, when the decision was made to deliver the baby at 27 weeks by C-Section, I knew it was the best option to give my baby and myself a fighting chance. The plan was clear: once I recovered from the surgery, radiation would begin to shrink my tumour so they could operate to remove it.
William was born weighing under 2 pounds. He was cared for by the fantastic NICU team for three months as I began treatment and eventually underwent surgery.
The JGH made two of our dreams come true! William grew healthier by the day, and my surgery was successful. The JGH doctors were able to remove the cancer.
I am just one example of the incredible life-saving miracles that happen every day at the JGH. I owe it to my dedicated medical team, who cared for my family like we were their own.
I’ve learned that this is largely possible because of generous donors like YOU.
Your donations help families like mine have a second chance. Your donations fund scientific breakthroughs and innovation. They also ensure the best medical experts are available when we need them most.
Today, my son William is two years old. He is a bubbly little kid with a great personality!
I feel so much gratitude for the team at the JGH and the countless donors like you who support the Hospital.
Please give generously to the JGH annual Fund, so they can continue to perform miracles. Donations are invested in the Hospital’s most urgent priorities, like cancer research, the Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit, surgical equipment, and world-class medical experts.
You have the power to save lives. I am proof of that! Please give today.
With my family’s heartfelt gratitude,
Rebecca, JGH Patient
“Working at the hospital, it's an honour. That's what I feel. I feel really proud.” - Larry Sidel, Executive Vice-President of the JGH Foundation
On December 31, 2021, the JGH’s beloved Larry Sidel will mark exactly 50 years since he began his work in the healthcare sector. On that day, he will hang up his hat and retire. His long-running career has been filled with many warm relationships, fond memories and the attainment of lofty goals.
Larry accomplished wonderful things in his five decades of work. As an Administrator at the Montreal General Hospital, he was recognized with the prestigious Award of Merit for his work that went above and beyond his responsibilities. At the JGH Foundation, he was pivotal in raising money for many projects: the Clinical Research Unit, the Molecular Pathology Centre, the Microbiology Lab, the Nephrology Centre, the Psychiatric Department, and many others.
“When I started working at the Montreal General Hospital, they had a reception honouring people who worked in the institution for 25 years or more. I remember watching people get their certificate and saying to someone I was with, 'How could anybody stay in a place 25 years? Who wants to keep a person who has been working for 25 years?"
Larry started his career at the Montreal General Hospital. When he was hired, they were setting up a new system for managing non-nursing functions on each floor. Larry’s organizational and leadership skills were deeply valued, and not just at work. He used to organize an annual Christmas party for the children of staff at the Montreal General, and over 500 children would come. Every year, he would help to put up a big Christmas tree in the lobby.
Larry started doing some projects at the Royal Victoria Hospital in the mid-90s. He began working with Mona Kravitz, who was the Director of Nursing there. Not long after Mona was hired as Director of Nursing at the JGH, she recommended Larry to Myer Bick, then President of the JGH Foundation.
At first, Larry was doubtful, but Mona convinced him to apply.
“Come home to the Jewish,” she told him.
For Myer, hiring Larry was an easy decision.
“We wanted someone to be the chief administrator of the Foundation,” Myer recalled. “Well, Mona was a very strong lady and was very definite about everything she did. That’s how Larry came to join us. Personally, we hit it off really well.”
Larry's first projects were varied. He oversaw the rebuild and redesign of the office after a storm flooded the premises. He created an employee manual, put in place a Human Resources department, and took care of other administrative projects.
At first, the culture of the JGH took him by surprise. Here, everyone called him “Larry”, whereas he was used to being called “Mr. Sidel” at the MGH.
A FEW PARTING WORDS ...
"Larry is a special kind of guy. He's just a person that has the hospital in his heart. He knows almost everything and everybody at the hospital. He has a great reputation with the doctors and with everybody else at the hospital. Nobody can see a bad word about Larry. "
Edward Wiltzer, Past Chair of the Board of the JGH Foundation
"Larry has a way of making his donor feel like a king or queen. You can’t be any more impactful on your donor than Larry is. He not only looks at people as donors to the hospital, but he really becomes attached to them, and quite frankly, they become attached to him. Larry’s one of a kind, and a phenomenal man to work with."
Harvey Levenson, Chair of the Board of the JGH Foundation
"I hired Larry because we wanted a chief administrator of the Foundation, so that's how he came to join us. Larry loves his wife, he loves his kids, he loves his grandkids. And his fourth Love is the hospital.
He pretty much single-handedly went after donations, and worked with the doctors and the leaders of certain departments very closely and raised significant dollars. These are multi-million dollar projects, and he had a lot to do with that."
Myer Bick, past President and CEO of the JGH Foundation
"Larry is probably the most passionate and committed person to the hospital in the Foundation that I know. And I know a lot of passionate and committed people, but he has lived and breathed this place for 20 years. It's really been his main focus."
Bram Freedman, President and CEO of the JGH Foundation
In one of his first big meetings, he raised a hand tentatively as people spoke over each other. The chair of the meeting looked at Larry and said, “What are you raising your hand for? Speak!”
With time, Larry came to love the new environment at the JGH.
“Then he sort of transformed into a super fundraiser. After a number of years, he fell totally in love with the hospital,” Myer said.
“Fundraising is about friend-raising, you have to raise friends first. So I became friends with people as they came in the door.” – Larry
The job was a perfect fit for Larry. Donors, doctors, and other administrators at the JGH simply related to him and his easygoing personality. He had and continues to have a tremendous rapport with everyone he encounters.
In multiple departments across the hospital, Larry has had a remarkable impact. One example is the Sandra & Steven Mintz Nephrology Centre, which was renovated in 2016. The Centre is in a whole new league since it was redone. It has spacious hemodialysis stations with more privacy, up-to-date isolation areas, an upgraded water filtration system, a dedicated pick-up and drop-off area, offices for staff, and meeting rooms.
The new Nephrology Centre was possible, in large part, because of Larry’s fundraising work.
Another of Larry’s major projects at the JGH was Mindstrong, an annual fundraising initiative for the Psychiatry department that has been running for 7 years. When it first launched, mental health was widely neglected, and the stigma surrounding it was a big problem. Still, Larry persisted in taking on the cause.
“I went on a tour of the old Psychiatry unit, and I said to myself, I can't let it stay like this,” Larry said.
Not only did Larry raise his goal of $5 million for Mindstrong, he went above and beyond, raising $9 million. Combined with other fundraisers, a remarkable total of $16 million was raised for the Psychiatry Department.
While the old ward averaged one bathroom for every nine patients, each bathroom in the new unit is shared by only two patients, with showers in almost every bathroom. It spans 1000 square metres larger than the previous ward. The atmosphere has completely turned around, thanks in large part to Larry’s work.
“In 50 years of working, I never felt like I was going to work. So many people say, 'I can't wait till I retire'. And I say the opposite. I'm nervous about retirement.” – Larry
Larry has put in countless hours at the JGH, including many weeknights and weekends, working tirelessly in service of the hospital and the Foundation. When he retires, he will continue to volunteer with the JGH and elsewhere, devoting his energy to many causes. He plans to help out at a school for autistic children and to volunteer with MADA, which helps give food to hungry families. He plans to spend time with his family, and he even has plans to learn to play the piano.
Focus on Oncology
Renowned oncologist and Director, Dr. Gerald Batist, shares his unique perspective on the JGH’s Segal Cancer Centre, and how this state-of-the-art facility and incomparable interdisciplinary team are leading the way to provide patients with the most comprehensive approach to care, at each step of their journey—including cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment, psychosocial support and nutritional support.
Donor Spotlight Template
Vicki’s Glioblastoma Story
When Vicki was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) nearly nine-years ago, very little research existed on this aggressive cancer of the brain. Doctors gave her 12-14 months to live, which is common for patients with GBM. Since being diagnosed, Vicki’s read up on all available GBM information that she can get her hands on and spoken with as many people as possible. It’s how she came to find out that no further research would be conducted in New Zealand.
That’s why in 2016, she was overjoyed to see that a research team thousands of miles away was making breakthroughs at the JGH’s Lady Davis Institute (LDI). A research team led by Dr. Arezu Jahani-Asl made a world-renowned discovery by identifying a protein responsible for the growth of brain tumours. It found that the tumors, known as glioblastomas, can only form if a particular protein is present.
For terminally-ill people like Vicki, research is much for than scientific knowledge. It provides hope to patients and their families.
“I cried for hours, knowing that someone cared. Someone did believe. Someone saw me as more than a statistic. Thank you, Dr. Jahani-Asl, for not giving up on us. Thank you for giving us hope.”
Despite the initial prognosis, she’s very much alive today. Vicki herself is a figure of hope, defying the odds and creating a support group for terminally-ill people. Her plan this year? To to continue being awesome!
Dr. Jahani-Asl is now developing antibodies and small molecules to inhibit the OSMR protein or its interaction with EGFRvIII—a step toward the ultimate goal of finding ways to treat these tumors
Like Vicki, the JGH Foundation is grateful for donors, who make breakthroughs possible. Donors like you play an essential role in the progress of research. You help create resources, facilitate access to equipment, and give access to more screenings. You, too, are a source of hope for patients!
Focus on Community Partner Events
Dr. Tsafrir Vanounou and patients highlight the importance of partnership in the fight against cancer, and how the act of rallying your community through local events can make a significant difference in the lives of patients now and in the future. This is a must-watch for anyone whose experience at the JGH can act as a driving force to increase awareness and funds for an important cause.
Focus on Mental Health
Join Florence K and Chief of Psychiatry, Dr. Karl Looper, in this eye-opening and heartfelt look at mental health, and the importance of driving change in this area—something which has been central to the growth of this department at the Hospital. These vital services, offered to a broad range of Quebecers from youth to the elderly, are largely made possible thanks to your donor dollars.
Focus on Infectious Diseases
With COVID-19 upon us, we are reminded that the last century been marked by infectious diseases and new, virulent pathogens that have endangered us all. The Jewish General Hospital’s Chief of Infectious Diseases, Dr. Karl Weiss, shares how the Hospital is at the forefront of research, testing, treatment and discovery in Quebec and around the world—now, more important than ever.
Focus on Connected Care
The Jewish General Hospital is leading the way in digital health, transforming patient-centred care by connecting all data points in one centralized source. Hear from Hospital CEO Dr. Lawrence Rosenberg and his team about the scope of this bold initiative that is fueling new innovations and collaborations with industry—and how you can help make history.
COVID-19: THANK YOU TO OUR DONORS
Thousands of you answered our call for help with an overwhelming show of support, raising over $5.6 million in the fight against the coronavirus. Because of you, our Hospital staff was able to focus on treating patients and saving lives. You have the power to heal!