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Laura Hough is the Manager of Energy & Sustainability in Plant Operations and Maintenance. A mechanical engineer by training, Laura was one of only six women in her graduating class of 90 students at the University of Waterloo. While doing a co-op for an Alberta oil company, she saw the documentary An Inconvenient Truth and her passion for environmental sustainability was ignited.

I remember thinking, 'How can anyone not be doing anything about this?' I brought the film in to show, and no one cared. I knew right then I was in the wrong field.

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Once I had that epiphany, I started focusing on energy efficiency and sustainability. It just made sense. It's about reducing impact on the environment to be able to keep doing things indefinitely, so that our kids and future generations get the same benefits as us.

I was drawn to Sunnybrook for its reputation as one of Canada's Greenest Employers (for five years in a row).

Energy is a big need for us as a health-care organization – we depend on it. There's plenty of equipment and critical areas need good ventilation, so there's more motivation to be green.  And it all connects back to good health. By reducing air pollution and greenhouse gases, there are fewer health problems. In addition, saving energy saves costs.

I'm fairly new to this role. I'll be working with various areas of the hospital – Plant Operations, Facilities Planning,  Environmental Services, Parking & Transportation, and Purchasing , to name a few – to help identify and manage energy saving strategies, and opportunities to incorporate green.

I had a high school teacher who once said: 'If you're smart enough, you should be a doctor,' but I can't stand blood. It's interesting that I'm now in this industry, not as a health-care worker, but at the end of day, I am helping people. – As told to Nadia Radovini


Elizabeth (Liz) Donaldson-James is section leader of the Ambulatory and Diagnostic Care Unit's Colonoscopy/Endoscopy Clinic, and herself a colon cancer survivor. She began part-time at Sunnybrook in 1985 while studying at York University. Her health administration career spans 28 years, including 10 years working in intensive care. This November marks her 12th year in colonoscopy/endoscopy.

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I'm living proof you can work your way through health challenges, but only with the support of others.

The care I received here when I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2010 and with my subsequent stroke –
that journey made me prouder and even more connected to the place I call work. I experienced first-hand the tremendous dedication and expertise of our care teams and the reassurance that everything was going to be okay.

To predict the outcome … now that would be powerful. I help patients do the next best thing.

Sometimes it's the little things that mean a lot – a caring word, a warm smile. And I'm straight up with them. I tell them, 'You're in the right place and you're in good hands.'

Having been there myself, I speak from the heart. I tell patients: it's good to know someone's always got your back. – As told to Natalie Chung-Sayers


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Gary Siu, a physiotherapist at Sunnybrook's St. John's Rehab, has treated inpatients and outpatients in neurology, orthopedics and trauma. In 2008, he was the first physiotherapist to visit the district of Kpandai in Northern Ghana, where he provided treatment and education to villagers who live with the effects of disease and disability. His mission continued in 2011 and he plans to return again.

Every day, I get to celebrate victories. Building the strength to sit up, stand and then walk; gaining the energy to do household chores; enjoying leisure activities; going to work in the morning. These are tasks many of us take for granted. But to the patients I see every day, these are no small feats.

Our patients have gone through lifechanging illnesses and injuries. Many are unable to participate in the activities that were once easy, necessary or meaningful. What I get to do at St. John's Rehab stretches beyond providing the clinical functions of physiotherapy. I treat people, not just their medical conditions.

As part of an interprofessional team, I educate, motivate and provide appropriate exercises and aids to our patients to help restore their health . We give hope and strength to accomplish the goals they want to accomplish, whether it's taking one step or running a marathon.

St. John's Rehab works with unique patient populations in Ontario and across Canada. The specialized skillset and knowledge of our team allow me to learn something new all the time simply by observing others in action. The experiences I've gained at the hospital combined with the support of my colleagues have enabled me to fulfill a lifelong dream of using this expertise to help others living in a developing country.

No matter where I am, I am inspired by the common resilience of the human spirit in achieving anything despite what life may throw at it. Each patient who comes through our doors will face different challenges and milestones they want to conquer. I consider it a privilege to be part of their journey: to walk with them, both figuratively and literally, in their recovery process. Along the way there is both laughter and tears, but to me it's all part of the relationship we are blessed to share.

– As told to Katherine Nazimek


Dr. Jeff Myers is head of the Palliative Care Consult Team at Sunnybrook. He oversees a team of 15 staff and clinicians and is the academic head of University of Toronto's Division of Palliative Care. Before joining Sunnybrook in 2005, he was Associate Medical Director of the Hospice and Palliative Care Program at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Most people equate palliative care with dying. I'm often met with 'Wow, that must be so depressing and difficult; how can you take care of dying people all the time?'

We're taught in medicine to heal, to reverse injury, to fix things in people. This is in direct contrast to the reality that every person is going to die. To be involved in a person's life at such an intimate time and contribute to lessening their suffering is incredibly gratifying. It's a life-changing experience for family members when someone dies. When everything is done well, the relief and gratitude that family and loved ones express is massive.

Palliative care, though, is much more than care at the end of a person's life. It's not an alternative to 'active care' or something to be saved for the time when 'we've done everything we can.' It's about listening to people, figuring out their story, determining what's preventing them from experiencing joy no matter where they are in their illness journey.

There's a definite science to effectively managing a person's symptoms, be they physical, emotional, spiritual, existential. None of what I do is magic. I ask the questions that need to be asked, and simply listen to and act on the answers. To me, this is just providing good care.

Why do I work at Sunnybrook? There is an eagerness among the front-line staff to always do better for people who are suffering. The staff has genuine heart and maintains a real sense of humanness. Sunnybrook's leadership team has been nothing but supportive of the Quality Dying Initiative. As one of the only hospitals in the province with an organization-wide commitment to the quality of the dying experience, improving care for a dying person wouldn't be possible without support from a high level at the hospital.

My day-to-day work life? It's a privilege to be present with people who find themselves at such an unfamiliar and vulnerable time in their lives and rarely do I feel sad. It's only when I stop for a moment and think about the impact that is made – that's when it becomes emotional. – As told to
Marie Sanderson


Terrence Yuen is an occupational therapist at Sunnybrook's St. John's Rehab with more than 25 years' experience in his profession.

I've worked with many clients, including survivors of burns, traumas, spinal cord injuries and amputations. When I first meet them, they are dealing with the emotional and physical challenges of living fulfilling lives. They want to be parents, workers and friends. All these goals represent different levels of physical and functional challenges. This is where my role begins.

Often the first thing I ask clients is, "what are the top five things you want to be able to do?" Their answers are often the simple daily activities many of us take for granted. I analyze the challenge and work with them to find the solutions.

One client, whose arm was amputated, wanted to be able to play pool with his friends again. I helped tailor his prosthesis with a special device so he could hold a cue stick properly. We played pool together as part of his rehabilitation, which was a profound experience for both of us.

Even though I am able-bodied, I always put on a prosthesis when training a new client. Using the same hook or device my client is using really helps me understand their world and the challenges they face. When they see me achieve the task with my prosthesis, they know it's possible and there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It's truly a great bridge between us.

I treat a thank-you card from clients as a humbling reminder that I'm on the right track. I owe so much to them as well. Seeing people rise above adversity has taught me to overcome my own stumbling blocks, and be grateful forwhat I have. – As told to Monica Matys


Lisa Verity is a nurse navigator at the Marion C. Soloway Breast Rapid Diagnostic Unit in Sunnybrook's Odette Cancer Centre. Her career in nursing spans over three decades, with a focus on breast health and screening for the past 23 years.

In 1984, my sister-in-law Carol was diagnosed with breast cancer. I saw first-hand how she struggled not only with the disease, but with gaps in the health-care system. Carol passed away 10 years later, but she remains a huge inspiration in my life and my career to this day.

In my current role, I see hundreds of women every year who have had a suspicious finding in their breast, and don't know if they are facing cancer or not. They come here to find answers during an incredibly stressful time and need a great deal of support.

I help guide them from the time I receive their referral. I help assure them about the direction they need to take once their tests are done. The Rapid Diagnostic Unit is a leading model for care because it provides next-day diagnosis and personalized screening recommendations. I hear similar comments from nearly every woman I see in the unit. They just need to know!

While my role as a nurse navigator can be emotionally challenging at times, I know that I make a big difference in the lives of many women. This is what keeps me going. Recently, one of my patients passed away, someone very dear to my heart. As a longstanding Sunnybrook donor, the plan was to put her name on one of the rooms in the new Louise Temerty Breast Cancer Centre. I was completely shocked when I got a call from Sunnybrook Foundation, telling me she wanted a room named after me instead. It was such a moving gesture that reinforced that the work I do as a nurse does matter.

It's an unbelievable honour to make a difference in someone's life. That's the reason I do what I do.

- As told to Monica Matys


Danielle King is a registered nurse and Clinical Care Leader in Sunnybrook's emergency department where she has worked for five years. Recently, Danielle was awarded a citizen award from Durham Regional Police for saving the life of a man who had a heart attack behind the wheel of his car at an intersection in Ajax, Ont. 

I was driving home from a baby shower, and I knew something was wrong when that light turned green and the driver in front of me didn't move or respond to my honking. I jumped out of my car, followed by a few others. The driver was unconscious, but still had a pulse.

We got him out of the car and onto the ground. He lost his pulse so I started CPR. His pulse came back, but was lost again. I continued CPR with the help of a bystander I recruited until emergency responders arrived and shocked him with a defibrillator, regaining his pulse once more.

I don't feel I did anything another person wouldn't have done, but being able to rely on my experience as a nurse in the Sunnybrook emergency department definitely gives me the confidence to know I can handle any situation I encounter.

A few weeks later I got to meet the man, his wife, and their three children. We couldn't get over how fortunate it was I happened to be in the car behind him. It was definitely a 'right time, right place' moment.

I really can't see myself working anywhere else but the emergency department at Sunnybrook. I love the high energy, and the adrenaline that comes with never really knowing what my day is going to entail. The people I work with are amazing. We communicate really well as a team, and support each other. Every day I learn something new from them.

The greatest satisfaction though, comes from helping our patients. Providing comfort, catching complications before they become worse, and saving lives – these are the best rewards I can imagine. When I came to the aid of the man in Ajax, it was second nature. It's what I do every day. – As told to Laura Bristow


After completing medical school at the University of Toronto, Dr. Vikas Bansal joined the Holland Orthopaedic & Arthritic Centre at Sunnybrook in 2008 as a hospitalist – a physician focusing on caring for hospitalized patients. He enjoys helping them through research, developing new policies and guidelines – and by bringing humour onto the ward.

I've always been passionate about comedy and medicine. During medical school, I was able to combine these passions by getting involved with Daffydil, an annual musical production put on by students in the Faculty
of Medicine.

With residency, however, came long hours, and it was harder to find a work-life balance. After some time without comedy in my life, I felt as though I was starting to lose my human connection. I wanted to find a career in medicine that would allow me enough flexibility to continue participating in comedy, even in a small way.

Humour is important because it's the ultimate disarming tactic. I use it every day, whether that's with a patient, a colleague or while creating a skit for the annual Holland Centre staff holiday party. During my hospitalist fellowship, I made a  decision to take improv classes at Second City, and spent the summer performing in a show at a comedy club downtown.

Improv and practising medicine have more in common than many people realize. Most people think improv is a competition to see who is the funniest on stage, but it's really about letting your colleagues shine. Before going on stage, our comedy troupe had a tradition of putting our hands on each others' shoulders, looking each other in the eye and saying 'I will make you look good.'

The hard work of the nurses, the mobility efforts of physiotherapy, the safety assessments and disposition plans of occupational therapy and social work – there is no doubt we help each other shine.

Improv is all about working to help the other person on stage. Just like in medicine, there are many people contributing to one story, which needs to have a beginning, middle and end. Listening to those people and trusting them is so important. The risk is huge, but the payoff is worth it.
– As told to Sybil Edmonds

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.

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