The healing power of philanthropy

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By Suzette Strong

It is said that extraordinary patient care is both an art and a science. At Markham Stouffville Hospital (MSH) we see examples of that each and every day. While some visits are straightforward, others can be much more complicated. The primary goal always remains the same—getting our patients healthy and keeping them healthy.

The relationship between the patient and their clinician is the ‘art’ and of the utmost importance when it comes to an extraordinary patient experience.  Health care is an industry focused on people; similarly, fundraising is a high-touch business about human interaction rooted in trust and respect. People give to people. Bringing these themes together is the primary purpose of MSH Foundation’s recently launched Grateful Patient Program because we know that a positive experience drives a person’s decision to give. When people feel gratitude, they often feel the need to reciprocate.

As its name suggests, our Grateful Patient Program is an initiative that provides our patients with a meaningful way to express their gratitude to their caregivers including physicians, midwives and nurses.  It gives our patients and their families the opportunity to express their appreciation and give back to support other patients through the course of their healthcare journey.

John Gibson is a grateful patient who feels passionate about giving back.

“I had a stroke and lost my eyesight. I woke up totally blind one morning. My wife drove me to Markham Stouffville Hospital where I met Dr. Jeff Martow, an ophthalmologist.  He worked very closely with me and thankfully helped recover most of my eyesight,” said Gibson. “ We believe in the fabulous care we get from the doctors at MSH. Giving back to our hospital is the most enriching and fulfilling investment a person can make—I truly believe that.”

At the MSH Foundation, we believe that expressing gratitude by making donations is a very tangible and meaningful way for patients and their families to give back. We also know that expressions of gratitude, such as those made by John Gibson, are linked to an increased ability to cope with stress, a stronger immune function, quicker recovery from illness, lower blood pressure, increased feelings of connectedness which improves relationships and well-being, greater joy, optimism and increased generosity and compassion. It has been said that gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.

The fundamental principle behind this program is that compassionate care inspires generous giving.  The Foundation is teaming up with MSH medical leaders, department chiefs, surgeons, cardiologists and oncologists to raise awareness about the importance of building a culture of gratitude across the entire organization. Where patients show an interest in expressing their appreciation and demonstrating their gratitude to their caregiver and the MSH Foundation team works closely with the family to support their philanthropic needs by facilitating a donation – it’s a very direct and concrete way to show caregivers you appreciate them. We expect that this program will elevate the relationship between patient and caregiver to new heights, and help to extend the happiness of our grateful patients beyond their recovery.

According to Dr. Mateya Trinkaus, Oncologist at MSH, It is a privilege for me to be part of a patient’s care journey. I am humbled when my patients and their families want to give back and acknowledge the high-quality and compassionate care we provide in our cancer clinic during what is often the most difficult, and vulnerable times in their lives. For me, as a physician, it is an honour to accept this expression of gratitude and help bring closure to a challenging situation, or make something good out of something bad, particularly when a family member passes away.”

Giving back makes people happy and happiness is linked to good health.  There is no question that working together we are stronger, and ultimately more successful. As fundraisers, we owe it to patients and donors to make their giving as personal and meaningful to them as possible.

Healthcare philanthropy represents the second largest source of funding for Ontario hospitals.  More than ever before, hospitals rely on their foundation partners to raise funds to support life-saving equipment, cutting-edge medical technologies and strategic priorities that enable the growth and innovation at their hospitals.

Suzette Strong is the CEO of the Markham Stouffville Hospital Foundation.