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A transformational gift

 

TORONTO, Dec. 10, 2015 – Almost six years to the day of the passing of the legendary Canadian businessman and entrepreneur Ted Rogers, his family made history by announcing a $130 million gift – the largest philanthropic contribution ever to a Canadian health care initiative – to create the Ted Rogers Centre for Heart Research.

Bringing together the combined expertise of the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre at UHN, Sick Kids, and University of Toronto, the primary goal and bold target of the newly created Centre is to reduce re-hospitalizations for heart failure by 50 per cent over the next decade.

The name Ted Rogers is synonymous with innovation and an entrepreneurial spirit. Whether it was pioneering the use of FM radio in 1960, establishing Rogers Communications in 1967, or the countless philanthropic contributions Mr. Rogers made to a wide spectrum of causes over the course of his life, his motivation always had a singular purpose: to improve the everyday lives of Canadians.

“The size and scope of this contribution is unprecedented,” said Health Minister Hoskins at the launch. “Medical research of this kind asks us to imagine a better future. It is the bridge between life-threatening and life-changing treatments – or even a cure. In other words, it gives us hope.”

The Peter Munk Cardiac Centre will focus on delivery of patient care, with work in new databases, biomarkers for cardiac disease and home-monitoring technologies. The Ted Rogers Centre of Excellence in Heart Function, created through a prior gift from the Rogers Foundation and Loretta Rogers in 2012, is the ideal institution to advance research in this area. The largest of its kind in Canada, the Centre specializes in replacement strategies for advanced heart failure, including mechanical circulatory support and heart transplantation, and acts as a national referral centre for complex heart conditions.

As it provides care for the most complex patients, the number of national and international Fellows who wish to train and learn at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre is growing. The Fellowship Program in Advanced Heart Failure is widely regarded as among the largest and best in the world.

Getting things done

“We’ve been dealing with some challenges with shrinking funding from traditional sources and that can really compromise the world-class research that we can do and the resources that we have available,” noted Dr. Heather Ross, Director of the Ted Rogers Centre of Excellence in Heart Function and holder of the Ted Rogers and Family Chair in Heart Function. “A gift of this enormity really allows us to get on and get it done.”

In completing the gift’s stated objectives, the Hospital for Sick Children will take the lead in the Centre’s genomic research, seeking ways to prevent the development of cardiac disease, while the University of Toronto will take the lead on stem-cell technology, with new approaches in cellular and tissue engineering to regenerate various regions of the heart. University of Toronto researchers also hope to increase understanding of how the heart develops, which could aid in finding more effective therapies.

Upon Ted Rogers’ passing in December, 2008, family members recognized the importance of realizing their patriarch’s vision for advancing cardiac care. “Our father died almost six years ago, we wanted to make a gift in his honour,”said his son, Edward Rogers.

Initial conversations with the partnering institutions commenced three years ago, establishing a framework that would ensure advances could be made with the right expertise, passion and tools in place. With a gift of such potential magnitude, conversations occurred and ideas were passed back and forth on how best to ensure Ted’s vision was fulfilled.

“I’m not aware that there is an equivalent Centre in the world to this, where you have such a well-defined and amazingly well-resourced collaboration between a University and two hospitals that deal with the full spectrum of a patient’s life,” said Dr. Rubin. “The improvements in technology and genomic understanding of heart disease brought on by this gift will bring new options for improving patient care.”

Ted Rogers believed that advances in heart failure could be made with the right expertise, passion and tools. “Our children and I wanted to do something very meaningful in Ted’s memory,” said Loretta Rogers. “Heart failure took Ted from us when he was 75 years old. In the future, we want fewer Canadians to experience heart failure and to have those who do, live much longer.”