“Philanthropy is really important in our family. I felt that given my situation in life – both my age, my experience and the fact that over the last number of years, the business has grown – it has put me in a position now to do something.”
In 2021, Ricky Black and his partner, Sophie Marquis, chose to make a generous gift to the JGH. The gift reflects their desire and means to contribute more to their community, and especially the hospital that has supported them both.
Ricky, who was born at the JGH, knew about the hospital from a young age and several members of his family are strong supporters. In 1936, his grandfather started a metal recycling company in Montreal. His father and uncle started a side business manufacturing metal products called solders, which are used in electronics assembly, and Ricky went into the business 30 years ago.
“Philanthropy is really important in our family,” Ricky explained. “I felt that given my situation in life – both my age, my experience and the fact that over the last number of years, the business has grown – it has put me in a position now to do something.”
For Sophie, the JGH is a particularly obvious choice of beneficiary given recent events in her life.
A MYSTERIOUS CONDITION
Not long ago, Sophie’s now 21-year-old daughter, Catherine, struggled with symptoms of severe fatigue and pain in her neck. When she went for a vascular ultrasound that showed inflammation in her blood vessels, she was rushed to the JGH Emergency Department. Catherine was promptly seen by rheumatologist Dr. Laeora Berkson and they had a long meeting that included Sophie and Ricky.
“From the minute we were there, all the support given to us was incredible,” Sophie said. “When you deal with a situation like that, you really need to be reassured, and that’s what happened.”
She emphasizes how comforting meeting with Dr. Berkson was, particularly given how little they understood Catherine’s condition. Dr. Berkson proposed a series of tests in order to eliminate possibilities.
After a rigorous testing period, Dr. Berkson (now the Chief of the Rheumatology Division) and her team found that Catherine’s condition is within a range of maladies very similar to Takayasu’s arteritis, which is a rare group of disorders that causes blood vessel inflammation. Cases can be unique to the individual, and yet there is some commonality across cases. For Catherine, the blood vessels in her neck are inflamed, as opposed to classic Takayasu’s arteritis, which affects the blood vessels near the heart.
The challenge for a rare and complex condition like Catherine’s is finding the right medication to control the inflammation. It’s difficult as some of the medications can have serious side effects that impact the quality of life. Thankfully, since last year, Catherine has been on a new medication that has been going very well. Every month she goes for blood testing. Her quality of life has vastly improved since the time of her Emergency Department visit. She’s studying law and recently even went on an exchange program to Portugal for three months, where she was monitored remotely.
“Thanks to Dr. Berkson, Catherine was able to do that exchange and live the experience of a foreign student and be followed remotely,” Sophie said. “That really gave us peace of mind.”
“It’s a big deal in the life of a 21-year-old to be able to go and do that,” Ricky added. “It’s not just about living. It’s about how you live.”
A DONATION THAT MAKES A DIFFERENCE
The Division of Rheumatology , which primarily addresses disorders of the immune system, treats conditions that include arthritis, disorders of the joints, and osteoporosis. It often does not get as much attention as other departments, which is part of why Ricky and Sophie are giving to this overlooked cause.
“We really wanted to give a hand to the division to help them continue the magnificent work that they do and to help other patients in similar situations,” Sophie said.
One of Dr. Berkson’s plans for the gift is to fund a full-time nurse to provide hands-on care to patients. Going forward, Ricky hopes their transformative donation, which will be disbursed over a ten-year period, will fund research into new treatments for Catherine’s type of condition.
“Part of what we’re giving will hopefully go towards research that will come up with better, less invasive treatments,” Ricky said. “The hope is that, even though it’s a very narrow field and it’s not well-known, better treatments will be forthcoming.”
Both Ricky and Sophie hope to continue giving to the JGH far into the future.
“I know that it’s the right decision,” Ricky said. “I feel really good about it. I’m proud. I’m happy. I’m appreciative. I feel privileged that we’re in a position where we can do this. I hope that we can do more. This is just the beginning.”
Last Updated March 2022
“Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.” – Minor Meyers Jr.
Devoted Montreal philanthropists Alan and Roula Rossy are on a mission to make a difference. Through the Alan & Roula Rossy Family Foundation, they have made generous gifts to healthcare, the arts and education over the years.
“Philanthropy is a very important part of our life and we know it will be as important for our children. We believe strongly in leading by example,” say Alan and Roula Rossy.
A COMMITMENT BORN FROM EXPERIENCE
The Rossys long-standing commitment to the JGH was inspired by Alan’s own patient experience. In 2007 he was struck with a life-threatening infectious disease. It was the quick action of the Jewish General Hospital’s medical teams, Alan recalls, that saved his life.
As difficult as it was for the entire family, the experience solidified Alan and Roula’s commitment to supporting the healthcare services. It reminded them of the fragility of life and underscored the invaluable contributions of science and innovation in advancing global health. The Rossys could think of no better way than to give back to the institution that had given them so much.
In consulting with the hospital and the JGH Foundation, they learned how crucial a role the microbiology laboratory plays at the JGH and how direct an impact it has on defining the patient’s diagnosis and course of treatment. Understanding the impact that a fast diagnosis can have on a patient’s outcome, the Rossys committed to help fund the much-needed project of a major renovation and enlargement of the hospital’s microbiology laboratory space, as well as the renewal and upgrade of the laboratory equipment.
“I felt that if I could help someone receive a quicker diagnosis that could save their life, then I’ve done something substantial for the people of my city,” Alan said.
Thanks to Alan and Roula’s generous funding of this microbiology project, the expanded Roula & Alan Rossy Microbiology Laboratory now performs a higher volume of diagnostic evaluations of patients’ fluid and tissue samples, and at a much quicker pace. It’s also thanks to modern and sophisticated equipment sourced from Europe.
Our generous and caring donors raise the bar for the standard of patient care at the JGH, and Alan and Roula are no exception. Thanks to the Rossys’ heartfelt dedication and support, JGH patients now benefit from state-of-the-art technology and equipment that accelerates the processing time of blood and urine tests and biopsies, enabling doctors to take quicker action in defining treatment protocols for their patients. In a setting where treatment delays may mean the difference between life and death, the Rossys’ contribution is literally lifesaving.
As one of several designated clinical laboratories in Montreal that provides lab testing for other institutions as well as the JGH, the Roula & Alan Rossy Microbiology Laboratory fills a critical need in the Montreal medical community and reinforces the JGH’s reputation as a first-class hospital. The impact their gift has made on the Montreal community will be felt for years to come, and the JGH is indebted to the Rossys for their unwavering commitment to improving the health care offered to patients in Montreal, Quebec and beyond.
“We hope that when people see our name on the sign identifying the microbiology laboratory, they remember that government funding isn’t enough to maintain a hospital where excellence thrives – private donations are the distinguishing factor,” said Alan. “We can all make a difference in patient outcomes. We are proud of the improvements that our donations make.”
SUPPORTING MENTAL HEALTH THROUGH FUNDRAISING EVENTS
Alan and Roula are also strong supporters of the JGH’s mental health initiatives to enable a brighter tomorrow for thousands of individuals living with mental illness. As lead sponsors of the annual Foundation event, Mindstrong, which supports the JGH’s Department of Psychiatry, the Rossys have helped raise over $9 million since 2015.
Thanks in part to their contribution to this cause, the JGH has made significant inroads in linking physical and mental health, reducing stigma, and promoting recovery, all in beautifully upgraded facilities. The change from past to present is nothing less than transformational and these new facilities, together with expanded programs, are providing patients who are coping with mental illness with the care and treatment they require.
MOVING FORWARD WITH BUSINESS AS USUAL
For Alan, giving is just part of business as usual and he encourages others to do the same. Grateful for his professional success – Alan is one of the founders of the Canadian retail chain Dollarama – he believes that if we have been blessed with good fortune, it is necessary to pay it forward.
Alan also volunteers his time and expertise as a member of the Foundation’s Board of Directors for the past 14 years. Recently, he was appointed to the Executive Committee, a role he sees as an opportunity to assist the hospital in fundraising, resourcing and attracting and retaining the most competent physicians.
Alan and Roula Rossy are motivated by a deep desire to help the JGH sustain its excellent level of healthcare and allow people to receive the best medical services in the institution.
Last Updated February 2022
“I felt that if I could help someone receive a quicker diagnosis that could save their life, then I’ve done something substantial for the people of my city.”