“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.”

— Ricky Black

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.

Young woman sitting near a post by the Portuguese seaside
Catherine Marquis Harvey

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

“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.”

— Ricky Black

“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

“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.”

— Ricky Black

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

“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.”

— Ricky Black

Newly published book brings hope and healing to JGH esophageal cancer patients

Self-published book, all proceeds will go to the Jewish General Hospital

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

“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.”

— Ricky Black