“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.