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Historic $100-million donation given to Peter Munk Cardiac Centre

Peter Munk is shown in Toronto, December 4, 2013. The Peter and Melanie Munk Charitable Foundation has donated another $100 million to the Toronto cardiac centre bearing the Barrick Gold founder's name - the largest single charitable contribution ever to a Canadian hospital. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch

The colourful philanthropist and mining magnate Peter Munk gave another $100-million to the Toronto cardiac-care centre that bears his name, making it the single largest donation ever made to a Canadian hospital and paving the way for the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre (PMCC) to become a world leader in using artificial intelligence to revolutionize cardiovascular health care.

Since 1993, the 89-year-old Mr. Munk and his wife, Melanie, have given the world-renowned PMCC more than $175-million, which the still-fiery entrepreneur characterized Tuesday as "one more building block – one more testament to the world – that Canada is, indeed, a country to follow."

Walking on stage, Mr. Munk, who was not wearing his trademark, jaunty fedora, appeared frail. But taking the microphone, he was his usual firebrand, speaking with passion about why giving back means so much to him and his family. "The ability to give is a rare privilege," said Mr. Munk, who has been treated for heart disease at his namesake centre and has worn a pacemaker since his mid-70s. "It is an obligation to put your money where your mouth is, and to put your money where your heart is.

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"This [gift] doesn't begin to express my immense gratitude for what this country has done for me and my family," said the founder of one of the world's biggest gold miners, Barrick Gold. "We're not talking about charity. We're talking about repaying a debt that comes from 14 people – me and my relatives who came from Hungary in the forties with zero to offer, no skills, no money – just asking … please help us, please take us in.

"It is this very hospital, in this very building, where my 87-year-old grandfather was looked after. What you have done as a country – and as an institution – is you opened the door. You gave us everything … and for that I have a burning desire, and tremendous obligation to try to repay it," said Mr. Munk, who was born in Budapest in November, 1927.

The funds will go a long way to help PMCC – which is part of the University Health Network – to reach its goal of developing a world-class platform for digital cardiovascular care. It will partner with the independent, not-for-profit Vector Institute, which researches and drives the application of artificial intelligence technologies in order to provide patients with more cost-effective, more thorough and timely health-care. AI technologies can be used for countless applications, including to monitor a patient's heart beat – every second, every hour of the day – to determine if they're in distress or require medical attention, said Dr. Barry Rubin, PMCC's medical director. It can also help physicians determine when it's prudent for a patient to be discharged, and then be used to remotely monitor them and notify specialists if they need treatment.

PMCC will also partner with the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management to commercialize AI procedures and protocols in a bid to provide new revenue streams for the hospital.

The Peter and Melanie Munk Charitable Foundation has also given $12-million to sponsor global debates through the Munk Debates, as well as more than $40-million to the Munk School of Global Affairs at U of T, his alma mater. But Tuesday, the near-nonagenarian said nothing gives him more satisfaction than giving to medicine. "If you give to art, education, religion … any one of a million causes … they're all important, but does anything compare to human need? The human quest for health? And a hospital is the only way we can deliver it.

"So if given a choice of where I express my gratitude to Canada, it is here, where I can put my shoulders to the wheel and help turn it into a centre of excellence. Not for the sake of making more money. Not for the sake of temporary glory. But to help Canada to lay one more cornerstone in its quest to be accepted by the world as a moral leader. In today's world, we need more countries like ours that do not ask where you've come from, only where are you going?

"If my contribution helps show Canada as an example of a country to follow, then in my 90s, I will have finally achieved my dreams. It's been one helluva trip."

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