Montrealer Johanne Sternthal is a philanthropist with a deep love of the arts. In recent years, she’s directed that passion to help support an institution she cherishes: the Jewish General Hospital (JGH). It’s both her preferred hospital and place of birth.
Since 2019, she has helped to raise millions of dollars for the JGH, having been a volunteer artistic director for two successful fundraising events. For her, the cause of supporting the JGH is worth the time and effort of developing her high-octane concepts.
“The JGH is beyond,” she said emphatically. “It has the most incredible doctors and the best service.”
Her start in fundraising for the Hospital came when Dr. Walter Gotlieb, Chief of the JGH Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, approached the Foundation to ask about creating a fundraiser for the department. The Foundation approached Johanne, whose past fashion shows with their creative visions and choreographies had gotten her noticed.
THE BEAT OF THE STREET
Johanne gladly accepted the challenge and came up with the concept for The Beat of the Street, which was held at Place des Arts in 2019. It was billed as “a non-stop musical production benefiting women’s health services at the JGH’s Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Gyn-Oncology”. With over 50 artists, a live band and the inspired sounds of a gospel choir, the performances included classic Motown, R&B and Soul tunes.
“Everything had to be perfect,” Johanne said. “Every little detail in the songs, the dancing, the backdrops. I was going down to rehearsals all the time to make sure I liked the choreography.”
Johanne’s careful attention paid off: the sold-out show enthralled the crowd, who danced in their seats to the music.
The event proceeds were to support advancements in obstetrical care at the Hospital, including world-renowned robotic surgery. Through The Beat of the Street, Johanne helped raise an impressive $1.7 million for the JGH.
LATIN N’ SOUL TAKE MANHATTAN
Her next fundraising event for the JGH, Latin N’ Soul Take Manhattan, had a different musical flavour. It started with a catchy title, which came to Johanne spontaneously as she was walking the halls of the JGH.
“Everything I do has to tell a story,” she explained. “From the name, I get all the ideas of how I’m going to start the show and what songs I’m going to use.”
The concept for Latin N’ Soul Take Manhattan, for example, was a tribute to New York. Since it was being planned and held during the COVID-19 pandemic, the actual experience of this event had to be very different from The Beat of the Street. It was filmed at Place des Arts sans audience in August 2021 and screened to a small, socially distanced live audience, at Cinemas Guzzo a few weeks later. It was also streamed online, allowing it to be viewed from home anywhere in the world, and by JGH patients from their rooms.
More than 20 talented performers came to work their magic, rehearsing for five weeks until the day the cameras rolled. The event was a success, helping to raise close to $2 million towards its wide-ranging cause: women’s health in the JGH’s Departments of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Gyn-Oncology, Cardiology and Psychiatry.
A DEDICATED PHILANTHROPIST
Even as she was leading the concepts for these shows pro bono, Johanne and her husband, Norman, have themselves been outstanding supporters of the JGH. They were lead donors to Mindstrong, a fitness-based fundraising event in support of the JGH’s Department of Psychiatry. They have also supported other departments at the Hospital, including Cardiology, with millions of dollars in donations.
An imaginative visionary, an uninhibited creator, and a dedicated philanthropist – Johanne’s gifts have ultimately supported thousands of patients at the JGH and beyond.
Last Updated May 2023
In September 2016, Marvin Carsley was shaving when he felt a lump on the side of his throat.
He asked his wife, Philippa, to have a look. When they went to a doctor the next day, their fears were confirmed: a biopsy revealed anaplastic thyroid cancer.
“I looked it up on the internet,” Marvin recalled. “What I discovered was shocking: I was told that only 1% or 2% of people with anaplastic thyroid cancer survive up to six months.”
He knew that if he wanted to survive, he would need to be treated quickly. He was faced with an extremely aggressive, fast-moving cancer and every moment was critical.
He and Philippa searched for a surgeon in Hong Kong, where they were based, but they could not find one who would operate on him.
“They sat me down and told me that there was no real treatment they could offer,” Marvin said.
Something had to be done, because Marvin’s prognosis did not look bright.
Journey to the JGH
A viable treatment was not available in Hong Kong, so Philippa promptly got in touch with the JGH’s Dr. Richard Payne. They knew the JGH well from their ties to Montreal, which is home to much of Marvin’s family.
“I think we can do something,” Dr. Payne told them both after looking at Marvin’s scans. “I’ve studied the images you sent. Dr. Michael Hier can do the lymph nodes, and I will do the thyroid.”
Not only is the JGH close to Marvin’s heart, it’s also a world-class hospital. The JGH’s Segal Cancer Centre offers groundbreaking cancer treatments that raise the bar for patient care. That’s why, after hearing Dr. Payne’s response, the Carsleys were convinced to fly back to Montreal, the city where Marvin was born.
A post-surgery reoccurence
Staff at the JGH knew that Marvin’s situation was mortally urgent, and he was scheduled for the earliest surgery available. Eight hours after going under, Marvin woke up to some of the best news of his life: they had gotten all of the cancer out.
“I had my doubts, after what I heard from other clinics and doctors,” Marvin acknowledged. “But of course, there’s always hope.”
But not long after Marvin’s surgery, his doctors saw evidence of a reoccurrence. He underwent many weeks of radiation therapy combined with chemotherapy. By the end of it, he was utterly exhausted.
“Truthfully, I was very concerned that within three or four months, there would be another reoccurrence,” he said.
Paying it forward
“That’s six years ago now,” he said. “It hasn’t come back.”
Once he had been successfully treated, Marvin donated to the Otolaryngology (ENT) and Head and Neck Surgery department, where he sponsors an incoming medical student every year.
“Philippa and I have been able to do quite a few things for the JGH, but it’s never been enough and it never will be enough,” said Marvin. Gratitude drives his philanthropy.
His wife is the namesake for Philippa’s Garden of Life, a picturesque work of art in the outdoor space next to the Family Waiting Room of the Perioperative Unit, which is named for Marvin and his son Robert. The structure was installed as a fundraising project in support of the JGH’s Digital Health Initiative.
Marvin continues to give generously of his wealth, and not only to the JGH. He never loses sight of his gratitude for life.
“Now here I am, telling you my story,” he said. “I survived, and I’m 86 years old. It’s a miracle.”
Last Updated January 2023
“Because of this equipment, we as radiologists are able to see different types of cancers that we would just not have been able to see had it not been for the equipment.” — Dr. Federico Discepola, Interim Chief, Breast Imaging component of the CRID.
On September 20, 2022 a reception was held at the JGH for the generous donors who supported the acquisition of the Tomosynthesis/Barco equipment at the Marlene & Joel King Breast Referral and Investigation Centre (CRID). This fundraising project was initiated in honour of Dr. André Lisbona, former JGH Chief of Radiology and Director and Founder of the CRID.
Speakers at the event acknowledged what a game-changer the equipment has been for the CRID.
“The technology has led to fewer recalls during breast imaging, therefore decreasing the level of anxiety women felt related to those recalls, and improving their experience of the Breast Centre,” said Dr. Federico Discepola.
Raising funds for the new crid equipment
“Fundraising is not so simple,” Larry Sidel, former JGH Foundation Executive Vice-President who led the fundraising project for the CRID. “But it wasn’t hard to get anybody to come in when it involved Dr. Lisbona. The esteem in which he is held and the love that the community has for him is really remarkable.”
The JGH Foundation’s fundraising team for the CRID ultimately raised over $1 million for the project.
Building one of the best breast centres in Quebec
At the reception, Dr. Lisbona spoke to how grateful he is for the recognition. He also acknowledged the elevated status of the CRID in Quebec.
“The Breast Centre at the JGH is today considered one of the best in Quebec,” he said. “This has not always been the case. We had very humble beginnings. Our equipment was barely adequate. With the help of Marlene and Joel King, Simone and Robert Blatt, the Molson Foundation, and several other supporters and donors, we were able to acquire adequate equipment, and this helped the Breast Centre gain the reputation it has today.”
Our generous donors made it possible!
Last Updated October 2022
“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.”
“I’ve often been to the Jewish General Hospital,” said Richard Schanck in an interview with his wife, Harriet. “Every time I walked in, I’ve seen this fundraising incubator where people leave their spare change. At one point, I said to Harriet that we should bring our change and put it in.”
Richard, a kind-hearted musician, had more coins than he knew what to do with. For years he would empty his pockets of change and store it away in a safe place. Some nights he would come home from his music gigs with as much as $20 or $30 in coins. As time went by, the amount grew dramatically.
The fundraising incubator that he saw in the lobby was placed to support the JGH’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Part of what made Richard want to give to the NICU was spending Christmas at the JGH and seeing children spending their holidays in the hospital. Richard and Harriet never had children, and the cause tugged at their heartstrings.
They checked with Nadine Saumure, the JGH Foundation’s Principal Director of Primary Gifts, who they knew through their past donations to the JGH Foundation. As it happened, Nadine explained, a $6,300 training program for NICU nurses had only been partially funded: the Neonatal Orientation and Education Program (NOEP).
The NOEP provides clinical education to neonatal nurses. It helps to reduce neonatal risk, increase the efficiency of staff, and promote improved neonatal outcomes. Nurses learn to provide high-risk and vulnerable newborns with consistent, high-quality care. Modules include everything from the respiratory system to lactation support.
There was just one problem: after years and years of accumulation, Richard’s loose change filled up three cloth shopping bags. It was a big task to sort them. Richard gathered some of the coins into plastic rolls, and Nadine took over.
After an impressive five-hour marathon of rolling coins, the total amounted to $1,992. Richard opted to top up his pledge to $2,410 to complete the needed funding for the nurses’ training program.
The donation is much appreciated in the NICU, as government funding does not cover these specialized trainings.
“We need to make sure we are up to date on best practices,” said Chloé Décarie-Drolet, Head Nurse of Neonatology. “We do training and the documents are often expensive, so sometimes it’s difficult to enter everything into our budget.”
“When we value education, it also helps with the retention of staff. Our nurses feel their work makes a difference and they want to stay in a stimulating environment,” she continued.
Putting out a helping hand
As for Richard and Harriet, both experienced adversity in their youth, which is part of what inspires them to give to the JGH Foundation and volunteer at organizations like Dans La Rue.
“There’s something about giving other people a chance. Both Richard and I made bad decisions when we were young and learned how difficult life really is – but we had some help from other people to bring ourselves back up. It’s not easy to do when you don’t have somebody putting out a helping hand, especially when it comes to health,” Harriet said.
To Richard and Harriet, every little bit counts. Thanks to Richard’s generous spare change donation, NICU nurses benefit from the latest training.
“We just wanted to put in our two cents’ worth,” Harriet said with a laugh.
Last Updated January 2022
“There’s something about giving other people a chance. Both Richard and I made bad decisions when we were young and learned how difficult life really is – but we had some help from other people to bring ourselves back up. It’s not easy to do when you don’t have somebody putting out a helping hand, especially when it comes to health,”
Former grateful Jewish General Hospital patient leaves a lasting legacy for future exceptional care
For Lyette Soucy, the Jewish General Hospital (JGH) is synonymous with cutting-edge, innovative medicine. That is what inspired her to become a legacy donor.
In 2019, after undergoing routine breast cancer screening, her doctor referred her to the JGH to undergo more extensive testing.
“I had three biopsies with no pain at all. I was very pleased with the medical care I received from Dr. Francesca Proulx and her team at the JGH Radiology Department. I experienced right away the medical excellence of this Montreal healthcare facility, home to some of the world’s leading experts in a variety of medical specialities. In the time I spent in the departments where I was treated, I saw that they were equipped with the latest in medical technology.”
Lyette then learned that the hospital was able to purchase this highly sophisticated medical equipment thanks to donations to the JGH Foundation. “Most Quebecers believe that the government pays the full cost of our healthcare system, which is far from the case. Many are unaware of the admirable and enormous amount of work done by the foundations of major hospitals, including the JGH, which makes a big difference in the lives of the patients it treats.”
Wanting to learn more about the needs of the JGH, she visited three departments: Neurology, Oncology and Neonatology. “I was very impressed by the organization of these departments, their state-of-the-art medical equipment and the major advances they make every day in the field of medical research. During my visit, I had the privilege of meeting with senior members of these departments, including Dr. Té Vuong, a leading expert in colorectal cancer. They explained to me clearly the respective missions of their departments and the challenges they face on a daily basis.”
After the visit, which made a deep impression on her, Lyette seriously explored the possibility of making a legacy gift to the JGH Foundation. “I could clearly see the positive impact on the JGH by becoming a legacy donor to the Foundation.”
For Lyette, it is imperative that her legacy gift reflect her personal beliefs. “I want to ensure that the money I worked hard for and managed carefully during my lifetime will be put toward the collective well-being of our society, and used wisely by my heirs. This legacy gift will allow me to make a significant difference in the lives of many patients. It will also give me the tremendous satisfaction of having accomplished something extraordinary during my lifetime.”
She has full confidence in the JGH Foundation to manage her legacy. “The Foundation has a solid and well established reputation. I have opted for an endowment, with the annual income used to fund specific projects. The Foundation will also serve as my executor.”
In the meantime, Lyette has made a donation to the JGH, which she describes as “modest,” of which she is very proud. It was used to buy a new medical device for breast cancer screening. “The device will make it possible to screen 600 women a year for five years. These small technological tools can make a world of difference. They certainly help to reinforce the excellent reputation of the JGH.”
To find out more about Legacy Giving click here.
Last updated May 2021
“I was very impressed by the organization of these departments, their state-of-the-art medical equipment and the major advances they make every day in the field of medical research…I could clearly see the positive impact on the JGH by becoming a legacy donor to the Foundation.”
Son of former JGH patients leaves a Legacy of excellence in care for future generations
The power of a planned gift is undeniable. To each person, leaving a legacy means something different and uniquely personal, to put a stamp on the future. To Yoav Ifergan it means honouring his parents who both underwent treatment at the Jewish General Hospital.
“The greatest person who influenced me and I tried to emulate the most was my mother. She inspired me to give back,” Yoav shared. “Sadly, my mother succumbed to her illness many years ago, but her loving and caring generosity of spirit remains with me.”
In addition to his mother’s on-and-off treatment at the JGH, his father was also admitted to the hospital for three separate, equally concerning health issues.
“The first visit, he went in for bypass heart surgery,” Yoav explained. “The second visit was much more critical. He had suffered a stroke.”
While recovering in the Intensive Care Unit for over a month, the doctors made it clear to Yoav that his father had a 50 per cent chance of survival. He had developed an infection as a result of the stroke.
“Miraculously, he overcame both ailments at the same time and had no side effects as a result of the stroke or the infection,” Yoav said happily. “The doctors and nurses that attended to him were just amazing. You don’t really realize when you’re going through something traumatic like that, it’s only many years down the line when you reflect back that you realize how amazing the doctors and nurses were.”
“To this day, my father claims that the staff at the Jewish General saved his life. The way my parents were treated at the hospital was part of why I made a planned gift to the JGH. It was an opportunity for me to pass on some of my mother’s values and virtues to future generations of patients.”
There are many ways to support the JGH Foundation through a planned gift, with the most common being a bequest in your will. This type of donation represents about 90% of all planned gifts in Canada. A bequest is essentially a gift made through your will or trust; it can be a piece of property, a percentage of your estate, securities or cash. The funds will be distributed based on your predetermined instructions—to support or endow specific departments or programs, or to be used at the Hospital’s discretion.
Yoav’s gifts reflect two priorities at the Hospital. One is a general gift, providing undesignated funds to the area of greatest need at the JGH. The other was designated for the Intensive Care Unit.
“I see the ICU as a place where there’s sophisticated equipment. It’s a nurse being by your side 24/7. It is space that’s a combination of technology mixed with human care and tenderness,” said Yoav.
“The bottom line: my gift will provide funding that will serve the community in a meaningful and purposeful way and save human lives. You can’t put a price on that.”
To find out more about Legacy Giving click here.
Last updated April 2021
“The way my parents were treated at the hospital was part of why I made a planned gift to the JGH. It was an opportunity for me to pass on some of my mother’s values and virtues to future generations of patients.”