Chair's Column: Some really, really good news to cheer you up

Oct 5, 2020
Dr. Gillian Hawker

Celebrating a $250-million transformational gift

Gillian HawkerGillian Hawker Perhaps the best word to describe us all these days is “dispirited.” We are not our joyful, optimistic energetic selves; we have become disheartened by the COVID slog. The pandemic has taken a lot of pleasure from our lives – our ability to be with one another, and our friends and family outside our bubbles. We have had to give up much of our in-person opportunities to share our work, to teach, to brainstorm and to learn. That’s the stuff that makes academic medicine different, intellectually stimulating and fun!

Thus, what a joy it is to learn that the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Medicine is the recipient of the biggest gift in Canadian history: $250-million to enable our collective vision of equity, collaboration and discovery!

Thank you to the Temerty family!

In recognition of this historic and truly transformative gift, the Faculty will now be known as the Temerty Faculty of Medicine. New swag presentation templates and letterhead are coming your way soon.

While I am sure you are all delighted with the news, the question I bet you are asking is undoubtedly, “What’s in it for the DoM (me)?” In this Chair’s Column, I thought I would elucidate.

Fortunately, our departmental strategic priorities, highlighted below, are closely aligned with those of the newly renamed Temerty Faculty of Medicine. As a result, all efforts to achieve the Faculty’s goals will help us achieve our goals too as they say, all boats rise with this gift.

Some examples of what it will do:

Create a clinical and academic environment that promotes mutual respect, compassion, integrity and inclusion and thus fosters wellbeing of our faculty and learners.

To enhance the diversity of our physician pipeline, awards and bursaries will be established and outreach programs and the Community of Support Program will be expanded to support MD hopefuls who may not have the financial resources to enter medical school, in addition to those from under-represented minority groups. Furthermore, physician training will be enhanced to emphasize development and sustainability of skills to deliver high quality care to Indigenous and other under-represented populations.

Importantly, funds will be directed to establish an endowed fund for an Elder-in-Residence and a Circle of Elders in support of Elders working with the Temerty Faculty of Medicine. This will ensure Indigenous health education and leadership is supported in perpetuity. Lisa Richardson, DoM Vice-Chair, Culture and Inclusion, has been integral to this work and we are thrilled about this development!

Innovate in models of learning and care to promote a sustainable, person-centered health care system that meets current and future population needs.

Aligned with our goal, the Temerty gift will help “…train and retrain …doctors of the future with the skills required for 21st-century challenges, arming them with critical abilities in technology, personalized medicine, wellness, nutrition and clinical care…”

Funds have already been designated for CPD-related projects geared at faculty development related to delivering care in the COVID-19 era. Many of you are working on projects to validate virtual tools for patient assessment and to develop and evaluate models of care and education within the virtual care environment. It is likely that additional funding will be allocated for these projects!

Promote, sustain and amplify our international status as scholars in basic and clinical research, education, quality improvement and health care provision, ensuring that discoveries and new knowledge gets to the patients and providers who need them.

The funds will enable the creation of a Dean’s Strategic Initiatives and Innovation Fund to facilitate flexible and nimble funding for investments in star researchers, equipment and new initiatives as opportunities arise. Such funding is key to our department with respect to recruitment and retention of faculty. For example, we have many, many clinician-scientists who hold prestigious Canada Research Chairs or other salary awards. When these individuals complete the terms of these awards, the hospitals and University often struggle to cobble together funds to sustain these outstanding researchers and their teams. We also want to be able to recruit the best and the brightest and the kindest to our department, but this takes resources. This new fund will help.

A new Centre for AI Research and Education in Medicine has already been established and the Director, Muhammad Mamdani, professor of pharmacy and medicine, has been appointed. This centre is capitalizing on U of T’s internationally recognized strengths in artificial intelligence, machine learning and deep learning-technologies that are revolutionizing diagnostics, drug discovery, surgery and patient care. We, too, are leaders in this field. The new centre will provide invaluable opportunities for interested department members and learners to get involved and advance this important work.

Considerable investments will be made to support collaborations across the hospitals, to accelerate research in all research disciplines and to “…amplify Toronto’s growing reputation as a global hotspot for health innovation.” This includes a dedicated Toronto Academic Health Science Network (TAHSN) Fund. Our department is already home to numerous interdisciplinary, multi-site, multi-division/department research networks — there will be enhanced opportunities for funding of existing and new networks — perhaps a network of excellence focused on the intersection of climate change and health?  MSB_BuildingMedical Sciences Building

Investments will also be made to enhance innovation and entrepreneurship activities. This has always been a challenging area for us at U of T, not because we lack the talent but often because of bureaucratic barriers to collaboration and innovation. Given the depth and breadth of the department’s engagement in such activities, there will undoubtedly be opportunities for leadership and enhanced funding and collaboration.

Finally, the donation will enable the creation of a new state-of-the-art Temerty Faculty of Medicine building for education and research, situated at the corner of King’s College Road and King’s College Circle. Yes, right opposite Convocation Hall and on the circle for all to see and admire. New digs are sorely needed for some of our MSB researchers and their teams and for our UGME and PGME teachers and educators to gather and collaborate.

My plan is to fight tooth and nail for the funds that are needed to support this exceptional department our track record as clinicians, scholars and teachers is outstanding and speaks for the value of investing in us.


Has this helped to cheer you up…even if just a little?

You are probably thinking, how will you ever find the time and wherewithal to compete for these resources with so many other pressures upon you? I am worried about that too. Unlike many Canadians, we are fortunate to have a roof over our heads, food in our bellies, no shortage of paid work and the resources to ensure we can make the best of any lockdown that may still come. The Temerty gift is enormous and timely. But, in and of itself, it will not get us through the COVID pandemic unscathed.

We must act now to take care of ourselves and one another to prioritize the things that really matter and shed the responsibilities that don’t. Our departmental leadership will be reviewing our strategic priorities through the COVID lens and adapt them as needed. For some of you, the pressures of academia on top of patient care, family responsibilities and other personal commitments may be proving too much taking a toll on your wellbeing. If so, I urge you to speak with your mentor(s) and leaders. You may need to step back or step out for a bit until things quiet down, or you are able to put the necessary support in place for you to come back. That is OK! Please don’t wait until it isn’t a choice. For the rest of you, please be aware of those who are struggling. Show care and compassion. Be kind.

How we look after each other is ultimately more important in determining not if, but how, we will get through this unprecedented period in our lives.

More about James and Louise Temerty

The Temertys are noted philanthropists and volunteers, and are both recipients of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for service to their community. Between them, James and Louise have five honorary doctorates and through the Temerty Foundation they have supported a number of endowments and scholarships in Canada and abroad. In addition to the health-care initiatives described earlier, they have established the Temerty Chair in Focused Ultrasound Research, and the Surgical Training Partnership with Ukraine at Sunnybrook Research Institute; the Temerty Foundation RGNEF Research Fund for ALS at Western University; and the Ukrainian Paediatric Fellowship Program at The Hospital for Sick Children. They are also donors to the Royal Ontario Museum, the Royal Conservatory of Music, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, and Help Us Help. In 2008, James, with Louise’s encouragement, founded the Ukrainian Jewish Encounter (UJE), a multinational project that aims to build a sound foundation for future interaction among Ukrainians and Jews.

In 2008, James was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada; in 2010, he was named Canada’s Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young; and in 2015, he was honoured with Ukraine’s Order of Prince Yaroslav the Wise, which is the highest tribute Ukraine can confer to a foreign citizen who has not been a head of state.