From left: Dr. Zoë Thomas, Adult Psychiatry Day Treatment Program and Trauma-Focused Therapy Program, Jewish General Hospital; Edward Wiltzer, Chair, JGH Corporation; Susan Avon, Director and Secretary, Doggone Foundation; Paul R. Marchand, Executive-Director and President, Doggone Foundation; Bill McLellan, Director (deceased); Dr. Karl Looper, Psychiatrist-In-Chief, Jewish General Hospital
Paul Marchand, a catalyst for transformative change via two family foundations
“Pay it back by doing all kinds of good things.” This enduring philosophy has guided Paul R. Marchand throughout his life in both his personal and professional actions, often enabling transformational impact—including at the Jewish General Hospital.
Now retired, he muses that his career in law—he was a partner at Byers Casgrain specializing in tax, estates and trusts—was not a given, “I sort of fell into it.” However, that career became a gateway for doing good which spanned decades, and continues today in his role as executive director for both the Doggone Foundation and the Vodstricil family estate.
“Early on at my first firm, I was fortunate to have had a wonderful, inclusive mentor, Bill Stewart, who looked after estates and trusts. He sadly died very young, and I tried my best to fill his shoes. He believed that happiness was not the result of success but by helping other people. And that would in turn give meaning to the work,” he recalls.
“Therefore, working in the area of estates, I never saw myself as someone who was doing just law. I felt I was helping people with their lives as well as their legacies—and to make a difference.”
Case in point: Elspeth McConnell, the woman behind the Doggone Foundation, which Paul Marchand established on her behalf, and administers. Widowed young, she continued to build a prolific collection of art, much of which was only discovered later in her life when Marchand personally helped her transition to a seniors’ residence. That art—including a Jackson Pollack and other notable works—combined with securities, resulted in an estate worth millions.
Strong-willed, McConnell eventually yielded to Marchand’s influence to use the funds for medical purposes. The choice to invest in the JGH stemmed from her admiration for the Hospital dating back to the 1970s, when her late husband had been treated there—and its inclusion and openness in the area of mental health.
“The Foundation at the Jewish General Hospital, with the guidance of Chief of Psychiatry, Dr. Karl Looper, has been instrumental in building The Elspeth McConnell Mental Health and Wellness Centre, one of the finest of its kind in Canada,” he states.
Stewarded by Marchand, gifts from the Doggone Foundation totalling over $4 million have established the Centre at the JGH, which opened in 2019, among other vital mental health initiatives.
“With the help of the Doggone Foundation, we have established the only publicly available comprehensive therapy program for trauma-focused therapy in Quebec,” shares Dr. Looper, “one which is facing a deluge of referrals reflecting the unmet needs in this area.”
In addition, its Mental Health Day Treatment Centre is a thriving hub for intensive outpatient mental health care—of unprecedented importance during the pandemic. The funding also supports the Centre of Excellence in Geriatric Psychiatry, enabling this JGH department to be “one of the prominent centres for geriatric psychiatry research and training in North America”, states Dr. Looper.
Paul Marchand is noticeably humble when it comes to his involvement in making these projects a reality. “When you have this kind of work, and work with these kinds of fascinating people, you have wonderful stories to tell, and important things to do.”
Another significant gift that Marchand orchestrated stems from the Vodstricil family estate, in which instructions were to leave the funds to the Jewish General Hospital, where one of their sons had been treated, but with no specific designation.
“When I met Mrs. Vodstricil, she was already a widow, and had an interesting story to tell,” he remembers. During WWII, they fortuitously decided to flee Belgrade, and their established life there, just 15 minutes before the Gestapo arrived on their doorstep.
“But I didn’t know when I helped organize her affairs initially, that this would be the result,” he states. In early 2020, when the funds became available to donate, the world was catapulted into an unprecedented time. Marchand explains that the pandemic revealed an opportunity to invest in nurses, particularly important now and for the future.
Most of the $3.5M contribution to the Jewish General Hospital has been dedicated to helping the JGH achieve ‘Magnet Hospital’ status for excellence in nursing and patient care as well as innovation in professional nursing practice—a stringent certification and coveted honour that helps hospitals attract and retain the best nurses and professional staff. It would be the only hospital in Quebec to achieve this designation.
“Nurses and people in healthcare do an extraordinary job, as we have all witnessed during this crisis. They are on the front-lines and should be better rewarded for their tireless efforts and expertise. Their future is all our future,” he shares. “Furthermore, if, through this private funding, I have indirectly helped bring greater public funds into nursing and nurse practitioners, I have done a good thing.”
Paul Marchand’s 80 years have been influenced by remarkable mentors, clients, family and a life lived by the early-learned tenet to pay it forward. And he continues to live true to the words that he learned as a boy attending Lower Canada College: Non Nobis Solum (not for ourselves alone).
“What we do for other people comes from what we give to other people, not what we amass for ourselves. If there is one thing I can suggest, it is to find something that makes use of your talents to help someone every day. You will be happier, have more success and deeper bonds. It sounds simple, but it is true.”
Last Updated August 2021
“What we do for other people comes from what we give to other people, not what we amass for ourselves. If there is one thing I can suggest, it is to find something that makes use of your talents to help someone every day. You will be happier, have more success and deeper bonds. It sounds simple, but it is true.””
Newly published book brings hope and healing to JGH esophageal cancer patients
There is no bond that we know of in the world, greater than that of a mother and her child. A mother’s love remains unconditional, devotionally extending even beyond the realm of life itself. For Florence Cohen, this hits close to home.
Florence’s daughter, Dr. Andrea Joy Cohen, M.D., O.B.M., tragically passed away in 2015 of esophageal cancer. A doctor, scientist, cancer researcher, author, poet and inspirational speaker, Dr. Cohen epitomized success in the eyes of her mother. “I think about my daughter all the time. I’m proud of her. She radiated kindness and she was a wonderful daughter,” Florence shared.
Dr. Cohen authored many poems and a book, A Blessing in Disguise: 39 Life Lessons from Today’s Greatest Teachers, published in 2008. It received much acclaim and debuted on the LA Bestseller List in its first week, as well as ranking on other lists following. Andrea had written two more manuscripts but she became ill with esophageal cancer, and did not have time to bring them to publication before she passed away.
When she died, Florence felt it was her responsibility to honour her daughter’s legacy. With two of Dr. Cohen’s unpublished manuscripts in hand, she thoughtfully began to prepare the documents for publication but didn’t know where to start.
Florence’s physiotherapist at the JGH, Natasha Grant, took her story to heart. “She spoke to her partner, Paul DuVernet, a graphic designer, who volunteered to design the book, and help get it published.” Thanks to the generous guidance offered by Paul, Florence self-published the second edition of Dr. Cohen’s book aptly named A Blessing in Disguise: 42 More Life Lessons from Today’s Greatest Teachers.
Over the years, Florence and her family were patients at the JGH. Dr. Cohen spent most of her adult life in the USA but was treated at the JGH when she was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. “All the proceeds of this book will go to the Jewish General Hospital, and more specifically to research esophageal cancer. I realize this type of cancer could benefit from some attention so, I hope it raises awareness for esophageal cancer research,” Florence shared.
The JGH’s Segal Cancer Centre is a state-of-the-art facility which provides patients with the most comprehensive approach to care, combining cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment, psychosocial support, nutritional support and clinical and fundamental research in cancer. In addition to patient care, the Segal Cancer Centre is home to thriving cancer research programs focusing on fundamental, translational, clinical, nursing, psychosocial and palliative care research.
Florence concluded, “I am so gratified to be able to fulfill Andrea’s wish, and I’m very pleased to be able to share it with you. I hope you enjoy Andrea’s book, and feel her spirit through it.”
Last Updated April 2021
“All the proceeds of this book will go to the Jewish General Hospital, and more specifically to research esophageal cancer. I realize this type of cancer could benefit from some attention so, I hope it raises awareness for esophageal cancer research,”