Medical explorers honoured for their work

Picture 1 of 16

From left, Dr. Vahab Soleimani, Dr. David Picketts and Dr. Philip Wells were honoured with research awards at The Ottawa Hospital Gala held Saturday, November 17, 2012 at the Westin. (Photo: Caroline Phillips)

They’re referred to as our modern-day explorers but instead of searching for distant lands or planets they’re looking for solutions, procedures, drugs and cures that’ll help us all live longer and healthier lives.

On Saturday, three exceptional researchers from the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute were honoured before a sold-out crowd of 560 at The Ottawa Hospital Gala, held at the Westin.

Dr. Phil Wells, head of the hospital’s department of medicine, landed the Dr. J. David Grimes Research Career Achievement Award. It recognizes his improvements in patient care through clinical research and his establishment of a world-class thrombosis unit.

Back in 2004, Wells received the Dr. Michel Chrétien Researcher of the Year Award, which this year went to Dr. David Picketts for work that could eventually help people with brain damage or strokes.

Dr. Vahab Soleimani, a hard-working junior scientist in Dr. Michael Rudnicki’s regenerative medicine lab, won the Dr. Ronald G. Worton Researcher in Training Award. Soleimani was only 21 when he arrived to Ottawa as a refugee, making his way to Turkey from Iran. He reacquired his high school qualifications and went on to earn his science degrees from the University of Ottawa, including his PhD in molecular biology. He worked as a baker at Tim Horton’s to put himself through school.

CEO Steve West, from presenting sponsor Nordion, was particularly happy to attend after missing the gala last year to be treated for cancer. He co-chaired the event with Whitney Fox.

Also seen were Dr. Duncan Stewart, CEO and scientific director of the OHRI; the hospital’s CEO, Dr. Jack Kitts, as well its foundation’s CEO, Tim Kluke, and board chair, Greg Kane. The community invested $6.2 million in research at the OHRI in 2012.

‘INSPIRED BY WATCHING OTHERS’

What would Maimonides say about an event that celebrates public philanthropy, considering the 12th-century Jewish philosopher believed anonymous giving to be ideal?

Maimonides’ road-guide to righteousness wasn’t lost on businessman Stephen Greenberg as he accepted his Outstanding Individual Philanthropist award at the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Ottawa awards dinner, held Wednesday at the Westin.

Greenberg, president of Osgoode Properties, was honoured for his generous donation and tremendous leadership in bringing the latest in surgical technology to The Ottawa Hospital.

Much has changed in the 900 years since Maimonides came up with his Eight Levels of Giving. As such, visible philanthropy has a role to play by setting an example, Greenberg told the 400-person crowd.

“I would … hope that our gifts, in addition to addressing the community need, might in some way inspire others to give more or to expand the boundaries of their charitable activity in much the same way that I have been inspired by watching others,” he said.

“That way, the public nature of our gifts would have an impact that far exceeded the services and equipment that we funded and, hopefully, Maimonides would understand.”

Greenberg learned the philanthropic ropes from his folks. So did Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser Arnie Vered, whose causes include the Telus Ottawa Community Board, Carleton University, United Way, Soloway JCC, Royal Ottawa and NAC Gala.

The father of six credited his parents (Zev and Sara Vered, winners of a 1999 philanthropy award) for “instilling upon me at an early age the importance of giving to the community. I share my parents’ belief that a vibrant, healthy community creates opportunities for everyone,” said Vered, president of Arnon Corp.

The most heroic winner was Greg Hébert, 37, a terminally ill cancer fighter and leader of the Team Greggybear movement that’s raised a combined $175,000 for cancer treatment and research. The former radio host attended, despite the ill-effects of chemo, and addressed the crowd before having his wife, Lauren, read aloud his humble, inspiring and courageous speech.

Other winners included St. Laurent Shopping Centre, NAV Canada and Canterbury High student Nelly Letourneau.

Double-lung transplant recipient Hélène Campbell was an energetic guest speaker while Michael Sangster from main sponsor Telus drew big laughs after thanking the female attendees for choosing the AFP event over dinner served by “half-naked firefighters” at the nearby What a Girl Wants soirée.

GIRLS JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN

Sangster wasn’t exaggerating. Around Town arrived to the Château Laurier to find bare-chested firefighters driving up auction bidding at the female-dominated fundraiser for the Canadian Liver Foundation.

It worked: a backyard BBQ to be hosted by Ottawa firefighters went for $2,500. Also popular was a champagne and oyster dinner catered by The Whalesbone bought for $4,400.

M.I.A. this year was Justin Trudeau but his offer to host a lunch sold for $700 to Kettleman’s Bagels owner Craig Buckley (he wants to see what the hype’s all about) and MBM Intellectual Property Law partner Randy Marusyk.

Vanessa von Finckenstein was back to chair the event, which raised $120,000. Seen were the foundation’s regional manager, Annette Martin, and her journalist husband, Don Martin, who won the grand raffle prize featuring two Air Canada tickets.

CHEERFUL ART FOR GOOD CAUSE

The recurrent theme of children in Ottawa artist Katerina Mertikas’ paintings has made her artwork the perfect choice for Koyman Galleries’ fundraising initiative for CHEO, launched Thursday at their St. Laurent Boulevard location.

The gallery has created a series of limited-edition prints by Mertikas that will see a good chunk of each sale go to the children’s hospital. They intend to release a different image every Christmas and Mother’s Day to eventually bring their donation up to $150,000.

Making the announcement was Robert Koyman, who was present with his brother and business partner, Terry, and their sister, Arlie.

Koyman presented CHEO’s chief executive, Alex Munter, with a $5,000 cheque to kickstart things. Proceeds from the first released print, Snow Day, will bring the hospital over the fundraising finish line on a new piece of monitoring equipment that’ll have a “huge impact” on the lives of children, said CHEO neurosurgeon Dr. Michael Vassilyadi.

The good doctor owns several works by Mertikas, known for her cheerful scenes of kids playing outdoors. Vassilyadi was quick to buy one of the limited-edition prints, as were Fr. Alex Michalopulos from Ottawa’s Hellenic community and commercial real estate broker Aik Aliferis.

Carolyn001@sympatico.ca

Connect with Caroline Phillips |carolyn001@sympatico.ca