Heroes walk the halls of Markham Stouffville Hospital every single day. Whether a physician, nurse, volunteer or hospital staff member, someone who provides excellent care or goes above and beyond can be a hero. The MSHeroes program gives patients and their families an opportunity to express their gratitude by honouring their hero with a donation to Markham Stouffville Hospital.
Read about some of the most recently honoured MSH Heroes below, as showcased in various editions of our Healthy. Together. Markham. Stouffville.™ magazine.
Fall 2017 -Maybe singing isn’t what you’d expect to hear echoing through a palliative care unit, but nurse Andrea Forrest starts each day with, “Oh, What A Beautiful Morning,” as she walks down the hall at MSH. She is known as the singing nurse, and many patients have asked for a bedside recital from her over the years. And she is always happy to oblige.
Andrea became a nurse in 2009, having always dreamed of the job. She comes from a family of caregivers — her mother is a nurse, and two aunts are midwives in Jamaica. She grew up listening to their stories, and seeing her mother care for complete strangers in their home. She knew her life’s work was, “a quest to alleviate suffering.”
Her quest has been recognized along the way. Andrea was nominated for, fittingly, the Toronto Star Nightingale Award in 2015, and this year won MSH’s Robert J. Gall Award of Excellence in Nursing. She is flattered by the recognition, but unfailingly modest. “I am just going about my job and always reflecting on my practice as a nurse.”
Garnering awards, she says, won’t change who she is. “Palliative care can be a sad unit, but I am there to serve, and deliver solace.”
Andrea characterizes her unit as “a cohesive team, with lots of communication. The team is always cheering each other on, and helping each other with patients.”
It’s her unwavering belief that she should stop and show kindness wherever possible — whether that’s “just holding a hand, making eye contact, or showing empathy.” In return, she is seldom forgotten. In fact, family members of her former patients are invariably checking in with her, either bringing flowers or sometimes just coming to say ‘hi.’
Fall 2017 - Dr. David Austin has an ear for his work. He realized he wanted to become a physician because he was, “fascinated by the prospect of listening to heart sounds.” Turns out that Dr. Austin, one of the first physicians at Markham Stouffville Hospital when it opened in 1990, has a pretty big heart himself.
Dr. Austin spent his early career at Toronto General Hospital, but then became interested in community medicine, which led him to MSH. He describes the group of young doctors who started together at the then new hospital as, “having grown up together,” and quickly adds that most of them are still there. That distinct lack of staff turnover is one of his favourite things about working at MSH. He finds the work environment “very collegial.” The team, “all work together on patient care and there is a lot of consultation.”
Chief of Staff since 2006, Dr. Austin also sits on the hospital and foundation boards. On the MSH Foundation Board, he offers a physician’s perspective on fundraising initiatives, while on the hospital board he’s involved in long-term strategic planning for the hospital.
The highlight of his long career at MSH is the completion of the expansion and renovation project in 2014. The expansion project involved, “advocacy by the hospital board to get approval, and a huge amount of work and fundraising.” Dr. Austin says community members worked hard to get a hospital, and the rightful sense of ownership is palpable.
And that, he says, keeps him motivated to continue working hard for them.
Fall 2017 - Brad Morris says he would climb a mountain in support of Markham Stouville Hospital. And this April he’ll prove it. He and number of other supporters from the hospital will head to Kathmandu, Nepal, and then to base camp at Mount Everest on a trek to raise funds for MSH.
Brad, who has been on the MSH Foundation Board for six years, was appointed its chair in June, and is a passionate supporter of the hospital. He is a long-time community member and the list of reasons he got involved at MSH is long, bookended by the birth of his daughters, and the “compassionate end-of-life care” his mother-in-law and grandfather received.
Those experiences are so valued by Brad that he, “couldn’t help but want to help.” And help he has. He has chaired the annual Signature Golf Tournament Committee for the last six years, and proudly shares that last August they netted $230,000 for the hospital. He is also eager to mention that the tournament’s renewal rate is 80-90 per cent each year, which is rare — another special sign of support from the community.
He attributes this specific interest in fundraising to his mom, who was a nurse. From her, Brad learned, “what is and isn’t funded by the government, and that the healthcare system will always need more support.”
Now, he is passing those same lessons on. In recent years his young daughters have donated their birthday money to MSH, making their dad very proud.
It is “worth all the time,” he says, “because more will always be needed.”
Brad says he is even more driven to stay involved now than when he got started because of, “the quality of individuals and care at MSH.”
Summer 2015 - “The fact that I’ve been here for 25 years probably speaks to how I feel,” says Dr. Alan Ing. “Obviously I’m happy in the job. I derive great personal satisfaction from it.”
The general surgeon does surgical oncology and endoscopy, as well as hernia and thoracic surgery. He has always been extremely happy at MSH, largely because of the work environment. The doctors and nurses are talented and skilled, he says; they’re also caring and friendly.
Dr. Ing hopes to expand general surgical coverage in Markham so the hospital can care for a diverse population and remain on the cutting edge of cancer care. His job satisfaction comes from knowing he’s made a difference to the patients he has been asked to care for. “You help people and they appreciate it. You go home satisfied, appreciating the time you’ve spent at work.”
Summer 2015 - Stouffville resident Cathy Sutherland first got involved with the hospital in 1983, as a member of the board’s volunteer advisory committee.
When the hospital opened in 1990, she was one of 700 volunteers. Assigned to the intensive care unit, she can still be found there today, stocking supply carts for the nurses.
The 77-year-old still looks forward to coming in. “I work with a wonderful group of people,” she says. “All the nurses, everyone in the critical care unit are great people and they’re appreciative of what we do as volunteers.”
Markham Stouffville is a wonderful hospital that serves the community well, she says. The large number of volunteers is part of what makes the hospital so great, that people give their time to help. “I get great satisfaction out of coming here and hopefully making a difference.”
Summer 2015 - In 1990, Sue Pereira helped with the actual set-up of the hospital’s first emergency department. The registered nurse’s duties now include triage and prioritizing walk-in patients, as well as those brought in by ambulance. She conducts physical and emotional assessments and does blood work, IV insertions and ECGs.
She likes the uncertainty each day brings. “We never know at a given moment what will come through the doors. It could be anything from a runny nose to a heart attack, stroke, trauma or pediatric emergency,” she says.
Ms Pereira is grateful to her husband and kids for their support during her training and the many years of shift work where she worked weekends and missed birthday and Christmas celebrations. She’s deeply touched by this nomination, but feels she’s just doing her job. Sue loves being part of the emergency department’s wonderful team of doctors, nurses and support staff. She says, “I can’t even think about what life will be like when I can’t be a nurse here anymore.”
Summer 2015 - Lynne Campkin started at Markham Stouffville Hospital in April 1989, a year before it opened. She was part of that initial excitement and buzz, and enjoyed being part of it all again during the hospital’s recent expansion. It’s a privilege, she says, to have been part of MSH’s journey.
A true leader, Ms Campkin has worked in a number of roles over the years, guiding different teams and developing new programs and services. She works with physicians and medical professionals of all disciplines to elevate quality of care and position the hospital as a progressive leader in medical technology and patient care.
Satisfaction comes from patients and families who say they’ve had a good experience, and physicians, surgeons and specialists who say her team supported them in delivering high-quality, responsive diagnostic care for their patients. “I love my job,” she says. “No day looks the same and the challenges and opportunities to make a difference never stop. There has never been a dull moment!”
Fall 2014 - A hero inside and outside the hospital walls, Chris Burden gained national attention this summer when he performed CPR on a man struck by lightning at a local golf course, saving his life.
As a nurse in the intensive care unit at Markham Stouffville Hospital, Mr. Burden treats critically ill patients mostly on life support. He is part of a team that can restore health to a large range of medical or surgical patients or help prepare a patient and family for end of life. Both, he says, are rewarding.
“I get the most satisfaction out of helping patients and their families during really difficult, critical times,” he says. “A big part of the job is communicating and connecting with families.”
A graduate of York University and local resident, Mr. Burden did some training at MSH during school and knew it was where he wanted to establish a career. The people, he says, are second to none and the continued growth of the community and the hospital will enable him to build his skills as a nurse.
Fall 2014 - A social worker by training, Bonnie Jean-Baptiste began working at Markham Stouffville Hospital on a casual basis as a member of the mental health crisis team.
Four years ago, she became a full-time social worker for the medicine, intensive care and surgery departments. In 2011, she moved to her current role as patient relations representative.
The focus of her job is to receive and resolve patient feedback—compliments, comments, suggestions, inquiries and complaints.
“It gives patients a voice,” Ms Jean-Baptiste says. “It’s an impartial, confidential and easily accessible process that ensures patients and their families have a mechanism to raise concerns about their experiences and provide feedback.”
The hospital also benefits.
“The hospital gains valuable insight and can use this information to capture service excellence and identify opportunities for improvement,” she says.
Ms Jean-Baptiste was surprised to learn she has been nominated as an MSHero for her work.
“I don’t really see myself as a hero,” she says. “It takes the efforts of all of us to make the best possible experience for the patient and his family. I am just one small part of that.”
Fall 2014 - Gary Edney came to Markham Stouffville Hospital seven years ago, after stints at other health care centres around the GTA. Now, he can’t imagine working anywhere else.
“It would be hard for me to find something at this point that I don’t love about being here,” he says. “This is a wonderful community to be a part of.”
As a social worker in the outpatient mental health department, Mr. Edney treats people struggling with a range of emotional and psychological problems. He sees patients for individual counselling and co-facilitates cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioural therapy and interpersonal psychotherapy groups.
Because he works with people over the course of many months, he is able to witness their improvements—and he finds it immensely satisfying to “make a depressed person smile, to help an anxious person take a deep breath and let go of something or help someone change an unhealthy to a healthy coping mechanism.”
His MSHero nomination shows his clients are benefitting from his care.
“I was quite humbled,” he says of the award. “I actually view the people we treat as heroes because these people are struggling with profound mental health issues and it’s a privilege to help them.”
Fall 2014 - As chief of rehabilitation, palliative and complex care, Dr. Andrew Patterson leads a team of family physicians caring for some 50 patients at Markham Stouffville Hospital. A family physician, Dr. Patterson began his career at MSH before it opened its doors as chief of family medicine and he has long been a champion of the role family doctors can play in the hospital setting, caring for patients with chronic health issues.
“I feel patient care is enhanced when more chronic patients are treated by family physicians whose skills are well honed in that area,” he says.
In recent years, palliative care has become an important focus of his practice.
“What we are able to achieve by working with both patients and families is helping patients deal with the symptoms of their disease and helping families come to terms with what they are going to have to cope with—and that is rewarding in itself,” he says.
Dr. Patterson says a true team approach to care that values the contributions of all has kept him at the hospital—and his MSHero award reflects on the whole team.
“It’s always pleasant to receive recognition for some of the things that you do,” he says. “I feel a great deal of pride in what we’ve achieved at Markham Stouffville Hospital over the years, so I’m more happy that patients and the community are identifying the hospital as a good place to come and receive medical care.”.
Spring 2014 - Dr. Mark Berber works with the hospital’s mental health team, which includes nurses, psychologists and social workers, to help people troubled with emotional, psychological or psychiatric problems.
“The best thing about my job,” he says, “is seeing patients recover from very disabling illnesses, helping patients get well and stay well.”
Dr. Berber is also committed to advancing his field through education; in addition to his role as assistant professor at Queen’s University, he regularly shares his knowledge with physician groups and the general public.
When asked what it means to him to have been nominated as an MSHero by patients and their families, Dr. Berber responded by saying: “While it is nice to be recognized by your peers, it is the positive feedback and appreciation from patients that really matters.”
Spring 2014 - A volunteer for more than a decade, Coleen Allum spends a day a week—more during busy times—in the foundation office.
“I’m helping the foundation with fundraising efforts in the community, which is so important,” she says, adding she feels a part of the team there.
“It gives me a sense of satisfaction to make a positive contribution to our vibrant community,” says the resident of 15 years. “I feel blessed, my family feels blessed, to be so close to such a state-of-the-art health care facility.”
Ms. Allum says it was both a surprise and an honour to be nominated as an MSHero.
“The staff in the hospital—the nurses, the doctors and all of the caregivers —they are the real heroes,” she says. “I do feel so honoured that someone also thought to include me.”
Spring 2014 - It was the opportunity to provide “proactive” health care that brought Sue Bonk, a former emergency room nurse, to Markham Stouffville Hospital’s adult diabetes clinic eight years ago.
Ms Bonk works with a team of 15 nurses and dietitians, two endocrinologists, as well as a manager and support staff. Together, they help approximately 8,000 patients with type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes, as well as prediabetes (elevated blood sugar levels indicating a risk of developing type 2 diabetes) every year.
“I like it when they realize that they can do something positive for themselves,” Ms Bonk says. “It puts them back in the driver’s seat.”
Her MSHeroes nomination indicates her clients feel the same way.
“It was so nice,” she says, “to hear someone thought I’d really helped them.”
Spring 2014 - Hired by Markham Stouffville Hospital six years ago, when plans began for the expansion of the hospital, Tom Delaney has more than 20 years of experience working in construction and facilities management at health care centres around the province.
At MSH, he acts as a liaison between the construction crews and hospital administration and staff. A large part of his role is troubleshooting, finding solutions to the challenges of expanding and renovating a hospital while providing the best care to patients—from handling noise concerns to coordinating movement of staff and visitors through the building.
“It’s interesting and challenging,” he says. “You get to see the project from a hole in the ground to completion, to see positive changes.”
Mr. Delaney says his MSHeroes nomination came as a “total shock.”
“I’m out and about so much, people see me all the time. Someone must have seen me doing something right,” he says.
Spring 2014 - On any given day in MSH’s busy diagnostics imaging department, Carolina Rotella is performing CT (computed tomography) scans to help physicians diagnose and monitor illness and injury. She cares for patients with a wide variety of symptoms and conditions; from potential collision victims with internal injuries to cancer survivors. Her patients could include a collision victim who arrives at the emergency department with possible internal injuries or a cancer survivor in for a six-month check-up.
Ms Rotella left her job at a Toronto hospital to work at MSH when it opened—and remembers looking out the office window onto farmland. Although the hospital and city have grown, she still feels that community connection.
“This is my hospital. I live in this neighbourhood. I feel like I’m helping my neighbours,” she says.
“I am honoured that someone decided to go that extra bit to thank me, but I have to say it’s a total team effort here,” she says of her nomination. “Although we are often thanked by others, it means more when it comes from a patient.”
Thank Your MSH Hero Today!
Do you have a hero at Markham Stouffville Hospital? Express your gratitude to that special doctor, nurse, volunteer or hospital staff member who made a difference in your life by nominating them as your MSHero.
Your gift will help purchase life-saving, state-of-the-art medical and diagnostic equipment to support patient care. In addition, your hero will receive a card of appreciation and a commemorative pin to wear with pride in thanks for your generosity.Thank Your MSH Hero