Q&A: UHN Impact Collective co-chairs on advancing the future of health care

Q&A: UHN Impact Collective co-chairs on advancing the future of health care

The UHN Impact Collective (UIC) is a group of next-generation leaders who volunteer their time and talents to advance the future of health care. By way of fundraising initiatives, informative events and community partnerships, the UIC supports the imperative work of Toronto’s University Health Network through Toronto General & Western Hospital Foundation. Stronger than ever in the face of COVID-19, the UIC is working hard to raise awareness and urgent funds to support frontline health care workers and their families. 

UIC Co-Chairs Patrick Himmelheber and Kay Schonberger, both working in the financial investment sector, are passionate about driving innovation and entrepreneurship in Canadian health care. Here, they speak about their personal experience as founding members and some of their favourite Serving Knowledge Supper Club events and UHN initiatives that inspire them. 

What drew your interest in University Health Network?

Patrick: I have a very personal connection to UHN. A life-changing visit in July of 2016 revealed bi-lateral pulmonary embolisms (blood clots in both my lungs). I was referred from the Toronto Western Hospital Family Health Unit over to the Thrombosis Clinic at Toronto General and then further moved to my surgeon, Dr. Marc De Perrot, at the Thoracic Surgery clinic at Toronto General. I underwent life-saving Pulmonary Thromboendarterectomy (PTE) surgery in December 2016. I have been a grateful patient and outspoken supporter for many years.

Kay: We all have someone we love who has been touched by the healthcare system. I was looking for a way to give back and getting involved with UHN Impact Collective felt like a really meaningful opportunity to help create awareness. 

Is there anything Co-Chairing UIC has taught you about the state of health care in Canada? 

Patrick: I’ve learned that there is so much research and advancement happening that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. At the same time, we need to make it known that donations and any type of support is vital to keep this momentum going. 

Kay: What’s special about Canadian health care is that we continue to attract extraordinary talent from around the world. Without a doubt, support from the community – through volunteering or fundraising – is really impactful and essential to Canada’s continued leadership.

What does advancing the future of health care mean to you—and where does UHN fit in? 

Kay: To me, advancing the future of health care is about sharing knowledge: What do we know now? What can we learn more about to make lives better tomorrow? The UIC’s goal is to create events where these conversations get to happen, and to raise awareness about the role of philanthropy in health care innovation. 

Patrick: The future of health care has many facets, and I think the shared passions of UIC members reflect that. By volunteering their talents and networks, UIC raises awareness and financial support for the highest priorities of treatment and research. Events like the Serving Knowledge Supper Club expand on this by inviting supporters to hear directly from researchers, doctors, surgeons and scientists and speak with them about their work.

Is there a past Serving Knowledge Supper Club you’d consider a favourite? 

Patrick: That’s easy: the first and only one in person! Last February, the inaugural Serving Knowledge Supper Club, in partnership with TL Insider, was held at Xango. Kay actually hosted the event, which featured Dr. Phyllis Billia, cardiologist, heart failure specialist and Director of Research at Peter Munk Cardiac Centre.

Kay: I really enjoyed the Supper Club event hosted by fellow UIC member Jack Harding in December. Held virtually, the focus was on health care inequities in Canada. What was so great about this event was how many guests followed up with UHN afterwards wanting to keep the conversation going to learn more.

What can TL Insiders look forward to in 2021?

Kay: We look forward to showcasing innovations happening at UHN from Emergency Medicine to STEM to Virtual Care. The Serving Knowledge Supper Club series will continue virtually and carry on the vital conversations around health care. As a community, we hope to learn more about the role health care plays in our everyday lives and do so in a way that supports our health care heroes.

Is there a UHN initiative or event you’re especially excited about? 

Patrick: There is a fascinating initiative spear-headed by Dr. Andrew Boozary, Executive Director of the Gattuso Centre for Social Medicine Innovation, which was showcased via a Virtual Serving Knowledge Supper Club event last May. It is all about the importance of addressing the social determinants of health outcomes in Canada.

Kay: I am really excited about our Riders for Frontliners fundraiser! Two of our UIC members, Pouya Fattahi and Tommy Sorbara, who love cycling, came up with the idea of doing a virtual ride. This event is about supporting and fundraising for our health care heroes who are working harder than ever to keep our community safe and healthy.