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Young philanthropists pay it forward

By Rebecca Reid

An awareness of a need in your community is sometimes all it takes to inspire your desire to help. Such is the case with several young residents who have chosen to support Markham Stouffville Hospital in its mission of excellence in care.

Patrick and Karen Petersen wanted their sons, Brayden and Matthew, to understand how fortunate they were to spend Christmas at home with their family when so many people are in hospital over the holiday season. “We wanted our boys to know that happiness can be gained simply by helping other people” Ms Petersen says. “We chose to help Markham Stouffville Hospital because each of us have had to pay a visit there before and the staff have always been amazing. We feel very fortunate to have such a top-notch facility in our neighbourhood.”

In 2013, an extended family Christmas Eve gathering at their home included a piano recital where the boys showcased their talent. They asked for a $5 donation from each person and raised $100. The total increased to $160 in 2014 and they hope to raise even more money with this year’s event.

The boys enjoyed being given the “hero” treatment at the Markham Stouffville Hospital Foundation, where they presented a giant cheque with their donation. “I feel great knowing the money we raised can help buy new equipment for the doctors to use and more patients, especially the kids, can get better faster and go home sooner,” says Brayden, 11. Matthew, 7, who aspires to be a doctor when he grows up, hopes the money can help doctors like Dr. Larry Pancer (their pediatrician and specialist at MSH) buy new tools so he can help more kids who are sick. “The fact that Brayden and Matthew know their donation has helped fund the hospital’s recent expansion and they can actually witness the transformation themselves definitely motivates them to continue their piano recital fundraiser each year,” Mr. Petersen explains.

The hospital has also benefited from the efforts of the teens who sit on Markham Youth Council.

The council, explains Jhanahan Sriranjan, a member from 2011 to 2014 and mentor to the current council, provides fun and safe recreational activities for residents of Markham, combining athletics and arts in community events for children, teenagers and families. “The council focuses on helping local organizations as part of its goal to give back to the community,” he adds. “We are proud that one of the organizations we support is Markham Stouffville Hospital.” Markham Youth Council raises between $2,000 and $4,000 annually for their hospital by hosting a number of events, including a “Youth Games” competition, coffeehouses and “Spooktacular” event.

Members also assist with Markham Stouffville Hospital-led projects such as holiday gift-wrapping at the mall. “It is a great way for myself and other youth to be involved in doing something to better ourselves and better our community. As teenagers, it is often hard to express ourselves and being a part of something like Markham Youth Council, that helps improve things, feels great,” Mr. Sriranjan says. “Knowing we are helping Markham Stouffville Hospital offer the best in health care makes us feel good and we are very grateful for the opportunity,” he says. Young people are proving you don’t have to be an adult to make a difference. You just need a big heart and the courage to turn a dream into a reality.

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This past June, Markham Stouffville Hospital welcomed its new president and CEO, Jo-anne Marr. Healthy.Together. sat down with Ms Marr to talk about her passion for health care and her views on team building and leadership.

Can you share some of the highlights of your career to date?

I’ve had a real diversity of experiences over the last 30 years. I’ve worked in the community, in hospitals, acute as well as academic, and in the private sector. It has given me a good understanding of how the health sector works and just how complex it is. I have a strong clinical background and I’m a neurosurgical nurse by training. Coming up through the ranks, I had a lot of different frontline roles, so I understand very well the challenges as well as the joys that caregivers experience.

I’ve also been responsible for what I would describe as the business side of how a hospital runs—things like the physical plant and parking, including the parts that generate needed revenues for the clinical operations—all of which has given me a broad perspective and appreciation. I’ve been involved in leading many change initiatives over my career and those, too, have been diverse in nature. I’ve led change initiatives involving code of conduct, financial and budget turnarounds and clinical transformations such as improving patient experience and patient care redesign. I would say the latter, the clinical change projects, are closest to my heart because they require an understanding and knowledge of many health care issues and they’re focused on improving patient care and this is really the focus of what we do.

What keeps you engaged in health care? Why are you passionate about it?

I love that everyone is focused on caring for patients regardless of what we do in health care, whether we’re direct providers or not, we’re all caregivers.
Health care is all about people at the end of the day. How do we create the best possible experience for patients and how do we work with people to make this happen? I get energized every day when I connect with the people who make this work.

Health care is complex. I’ve found that in order to make improvements and to facilitate meaningful change, that no one piece of the system is the problem, nor is it the solution. To solve problems and challenges, we have to work together and across sectors and many times outside of health care.
I very much enjoy working to solve problems and discover solutions. I’m always looking for ways of doing things differently. In fact, there’s probably nothing that energizes me more than when somebody tells me, “Well, this is a problem you won’t be able to solve.”

What do you think makes a good leader?

Health care is a people business, so I think, ultimately, you have to, as a leader, be able to create and sustain really great relationships. It’s the secret sauce that makes everything else possible. Good leaders spend a lot of time listening, asking questions, inquiring and really getting to know people, what they’re about, what drives them, what they truly care about and then supporting and coaching them to do what they do best.

I think that leaders have to create a vision—where is an organization or team going—and they have to be build a strategy, a plan to get there. A leader has to have his or her finger on the pulse of the organization: the finances, the people, the strategy. The best way to do that, I believe, is to build and leverage a very strong leadership team. That means finding the right people, leveraging their best strengths and talents and aligning them around that plan. I believe that we’re all successful standing on the shoulders of those around us and we have to remember that. Keeping on top of operations is really a bit of a balance: jumping into the weeds when you need to support people or when there’s risk, but, at the same time, letting go and leveraging others to do what they do best.

What do you think makes a great health care team?

It doesn’t just happen by accident. Teams have to be nurtured, grown and developed. A great team will have people who are diverse in their strengths but with similar values and principles, allowing them to be aligned in terms of their approach. They should solve tough problems together by leveraging the strengths of one another and be able to speak with one voice when supporting a priority or decision. They will challenge one another vigorously yet respectfully.  When all of this comes together, you will have a really successful team that truly like each other and enjoy spending time together.

What are your first impressions of Markham Stouffville Hospital?

Markham Stouffville Hospital is an organization at a very exciting time in its history. It has a new physical structure, a new strategic plan, an engaged board, a great team and a supportive community. It’s a very friendly culture so I’m very much looking forward to starting this journey. It’s an organization that’s well positioned for continued future success.

Tell us a bit about your life outside of work?

I moved to York Region in the late fall because I’d been working in the area for some time and I thought it was important to live in the region where I was working. Living in the area and having a young daughter allows me to better understand what families are looking for and need in and from their community.
We have a cottage in the Bancroft area; I like spending time there all year round, but particularly in the summer and fall. I like music, all kinds of it, but jazz is a really big love of mine. I enjoy boating, cycling and swimming, photography and art. Relationships are very important to me, so I really work hard to try to make time for all those I care about.

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Dr. Sundeep Toor comes home to make a difference

By Bill Hodgins

As a mother of two, Elaine Lee was fairly familiar with the birthing experience. She knew — at least to a point — what she could expect with her third delivery last September. Her second child had been born healthy after some complications and, as it turned out, she was about to experience that same bit of trauma. This time, however, it was a bit more serious. But thanks to Markham Stouffville Hospital’s new interventional radiology program, she and the family’s newest member are doing well today.

As with her second child, Ms Lee was unable to deliver her placenta. When an initial procedure to address the problem was unsuccessful, physicians suggested a hysterectomy. Understanding Ms Lee’s reluctance to agree to the surgery, her health care team presented another option: bringing in Dr. Sundeep Toor to do an embolization procedure.

Dr. Toor is the head of the hospital’s new interventional radiology program, created just for situations like Ms Lee’s. “I was the first patient at the hospital to have this procedure,” Ms Lee says. “They were just preparing the room for this emergency procedure when I asked him if he had ever done this before. He said he had, just not at this hospital.”

Ms Lee was able to watch the whole procedure and was impressed by the team’s work. “I was really lucky they were able to do that. It was pretty scary thinking I would need the hysterectomy. It’s just so permanent.” Today, she says, everything with her is back to normal. Her children are healthy and she’s just so appreciative of the care she received at Markham Stouffville Hospital.

It was a progressive move for the hospital to introduce the IR program last fall. Interventional radiologists are board-certified physicians who specialize in minimally invasive, targeted treatments. They offer in-depth knowledge of the least invasive treatments available, coupled with diagnostic and clinical experience across all specialties. In 2014, Dr. Toor was hired by Markham Stouffville Hospital to lead the new interventional radiology program, joining MSH from the University Health Network where he was completing a fellowship in vascular and interventional radiology. It was a bit of a homecoming for the physician. “I grew up in the north Scarborough and Markham area so this is sort of my background,” he says. “I’ve a lot of friends and family here still. Markham is very dear and close to my heart.”

Dr. Toor attended medical school in the GTA before leaving for a residency in Ottawa. He chose to return to Toronto to finish his specialty training. When he learned of the interventional radiology plans for MSH, he didn’t hesitate in making contact. “I was looking for an IR position and they were looking to bring in someone who specializes in this,” he says. “I saw it was an amazing opportunity.” He chose MSH over other opportunities because of his familiarity with the region and the hospital’s vision to provide innovative and leading edge care. “It was a good opportunity to come back to the community I was very familiar with… one where I still had a lot of close connections.”

He says the program has come a long way since Ms Lee’s procedure in September. It started slowly with a deliberate step-by-step process focusing mainly on what he considers basic procedures. As it moves forward, the team will be taking on more advanced interventions. “Being the only specialist in IR, it’s taking a bit of time to build the program. We’re still getting people on board, making them aware of what we are doing, getting them to refer more patients.” He says there are many different types of surgeries where an IR can help shorten a person’s stay—procedures that, in the past, would have been more invasive and require a longer period for healing. He says many patients will benefit from MSH’s foresight in bringing the program to the community. These procedures were available before, he says, but not at Markham Stouffville Hospital. In the past, these same patients had to travel to other medical centres.

Now, he says, MSH can treat everything from cancerous tumours in the uterus to bleeding stomachs with just a small nick of an incision instead of more invasive surgeries resulting in large scars and longer recovery times. And he sees it only getting better. Five years from now, he envisions the unit with more space and more staff. “I can see us providing a lot more than what we’re doing right now.” And that, he says, will continue to benefit the whole community.

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In honour of Markham Stouffville Hospital’s 25th anniversary, here are 25 interesting facts about your hospital!

1. Markham Stouffville Hospital opened its doors on March 5, 1990 to a community of about 77,000 people
2. In January 2004 - Uxbridge Cottage Hospital welcomed as a partner site
3. Over 15,000 diabetes clinic visits each year
4. Number of surgeons: 28
5. 1,000 people give back to their community by volunteering here
6. Markham is the fastest growing and most ethnically diverse city in Canada
7. December 2010 - new building breaks ground thanks in large part to community support
8. There are 1,411 doors in the new building
9. Almost 268,000 patients are treated every year
10. Close to 70% of the hospital’s surgical patients are able to return home the same day
11. Newly expanded Neonatal Intensive Care Unit is now four times the size of the original
12. In a single year our Emergency Department sees almost 68,000 visits
13. Donor support helped the hospital purchase a new MRI and CT scanner
14. 400,000 bricks went into the construction of the new building
15. Over 1.36 million diagnostic tests and lab exams performed annually
16. Approximately 3,000 babies are welcomed each year
17. Over 18,000 surgical procedures are performed each year
18. Home to the second largest community hospital based paediatric diabetes clinic in Ontario
19. 8 new operating rooms have been added through the expansion
20. Over 13,000 MRI examinations performed yearly
21. Our expansion has tripled the size of our emergency department
22. MSH was awarded a silver designation for leadership in Energy and Environmental Design
23. Expansion project was completed on time and on budget
24. Donors helped purchase 27,500 new pieces of hospital equipment through the expansion
25. August 24, 2014 - celebrated the final move-in day with all renovated areas complete

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Third time's the charm

Family honours life-saving care with MSHeroes gift

“Markham Stouffville Hospital saved our family three times,” says Tammy and Mike Czestochowski, who recently made a gift in honour of the care their family has received at the hospital over the years. First in 1999, Cole, the couple’s son, was born premature and needed specialized care in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. “I’ll never forget the day we walked in to find one of the nurses had propped Cole up on her knee and was giving him a kiss,” recalls Tammy. “It was such a stressful time and to see how much the doctors and nurses genuinely cared for our baby boy meant a lot.”

Then, Mike received life-saving treatment for a rare case of Legionnaires disease in 2008. “There were a number of occasions during my treatment when Tammy felt the nurses and doctors were responsible for saving my life,” explains Mike. “Up until then I had been very healthy. When you have something like this happen to you, having Markham Stouffville Hospital so close to home makes a world of difference.”

The family turned to the hospital again last year when Tammy was diagnosed with breast cancer. “When you’re told you have cancer you think you’re going to die,” says Tammy. “But my oncologist, Dr. Mateya Trinkaus, gave me the feeling that everything was going to be alright.” Given her family history of breast cancer, Tammy chose to treat the cancer aggressively with a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. “I knew I was in good hands,” says Tammy. “It was wonderful to have the comfort of knowing you don’t have to travel to Toronto or the States for the best treatment.”

“This was the third time we needed Markham Stouffville Hospital. Third time’s the charm, that’s why we made the MSHeroes gift in honour of Dr. Trinkaus,” says Tammy. “The entire staff of the chemotherapy clinic took such good care of my wife,” adds Mike. “I couldn’t live without Tammy.”

Mike and Tammy encourage others to join them in supporting the hospital. “MSH is the heart of our community and is always there when you need it,” says Mike. “If you can help the hospital, whether it’s $25 or thousands of dollars, you should. I can’t help as a doctor or nurse but I can write a cheque. That’s the least I can do.”

[PDF] Spring 2015 Healthy.Together. Markham.Stouffville. Newsletter MSHF Blog Home

Thank you to everyone for making this year's Gala - the 25th Anniversary Ball - our most successful ever! To the sponsors, guests, donors, volunteers, and staff - we couldn't have done it without you!

By Sue Kanhai

Longtime Markham resident Meg Stokes is what you might call a dynamo. Active in the community, she was president of the Angus Glen Ratepayers Association and is a volunteer and advisor for a number of local groups and organizations. She’s outgoing, talks fast and has a ready laugh. The marketing consultant specializes in the not-for-profit sector. She is married and has two daughters who were both born at Markham Stouffville Hospital.

In 2010, Allan Bell, director of community relations and corporate partnerships at the hospital foundation, contacted her to say they were thinking about starting up a young leaders group.