Treat the untreatable. Stop the unstoppable. See the invisible.
At Sunnybrook, the future of health care is now. It is in imaging techniques that find diseases earlier, so they do less damage. It is in maintaining healthy bodies and minds. It is in treatments that are more precise, that hurt less, that are less expensive and that are safer than in the past. It is in teaching cutting-edge techniques to others in Ontario and the world.
These aren't "pie-in-the-sky" goals; many elements of this extraordinary future are already partially realized. "We have a vision that we are delivering right now," says Dr. Barry McLellan, president and CEO of Sunnybrook. "We're excited about it, and appropriately so. We know we can do it. There is evidence we are changing the outcome right now."
Right now, Sunnybrook is using high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) technology to zap a tiny spot in the brain responsible for debilitating tremors that are resistant to medical treatment and make everyday tasks – like feeding oneself – impossible.
Right now, Sunnybrook is replacing heart valves without having to do open-heart surgery. This is saving the lives of people who are told they aren't able to withstand such an invasive procedure.
Right now, Sunnybrook is implanting radioactive seeds in breast cancer tumours, to save as much healthy tissue as possible and spare women the life upheaval of frequent, in some cases daily, radiation treatments.
Based on the proof of these successes, it is Dr. McLellan's goal to see Sunnybrook discover and then offer to patients non-invasive and minimally invasive diagnosis and treatments as a matter of course.
There are a number of innovations on the health-care horizon.
• Radiation aimed at tumours with pin-point accuracy using advanced imaging technologies
• Using ultrasound to kill disease that can't be reached by a scalpel
• Managing stroke treatments in real-time as they work to heal the brain
• One-of-a-kind treatments based on the unique biology of an individual patient.
Because Sunnybrook treats the most critically ill patients in Ontario, the community counts on the hospital for
leading-edge discovery. "It's about changing lives," says Dr. McLellan.
Private philanthropy is a very important source of Sunnybrook's lifeblood. It helps to ignite brand-new, visionary solutions. "Sunnybrook relies on private donations to accelerate the pace at which it finds innovative solutions to life-threatening health-care challenges," says Dr. McLellan.
About 75 per cent of Sunnybrook's operating expenses come from government, mostly the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MHLTC). Approximately
10 per cent comes from granting agencies to support research, and 15 per cent comes from non-governmental resources. Donations made to Sunnybrook Foundation act as a catalyst to inspire new research – often in areas not yet funded or approved by government – that will later benefit many people.
For instance, a private donation to Sunnybrook Foundation in 2009 provided seed funding for a new procedure that has since saved the lives of 150 frail, elderly people. Called transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI), the procedure widens a crucial valve in the heart, and can be performed on those who wouldn't survive the other option: open-heart surgery.
Early in 2013, Sunnybrook's Schulich Heart Centre's TAVI program received approval by the MHLTC to proceed with 75 procedures funded by government. Sunnybrook is also taking a leadership role in training personnel at other TAVI centres across Canada.
Essentially, government funds and money from granting agencies combine with donor money to make innovations possible. It is a grand partnership, with the altruism of donors being a critical step in moving these projects forward.
"What do you care deeply about?" asks Dr. Jon Dellandrea, president and CEO of Sunnybrook Foundation. "Your health. Your family's health. We all have a deep, visceral concern about health care and how we're going to be treated.
"Private philanthropy can make a huge difference in institutions with high aspirations such as Sunnybrook in order to realize objectives and make a profound difference. Acts of vision and ambition are made possible by generosity."
This content was produced by The Globe and Mail's advertising department, in consultation with Sunnybrook. The Globe's editorial department was not involved in its creation.