Pierrette Wong has come a long way since growing up in Mauritius. Although she no longer calls the tiny island home, the values and traditions from her native country as well as her Chinese roots have followed her throughout her extensive travels. Immigrating to Montreal in 1969, this mother, grandmother, and successful business woman continues to lead by example, and her spirit can be captured in one simple word – perseverance.

She left Mauritius at the tender age of 20 for Europe and then Hong Kong, where she began her career in the luxury watch industry. With keen business acumen, Pierrette subsequently worked in the hospitality and real estate industries before making the leap into entrepreneurship. In the 1990s, she launched ItalWong Fashions Inc., a distributor of Italian apparel. “Growing up, my parents were entrepreneurs and I learned a tremendous amount from them,” Pierrette explains. “They inspired me to carve my own path, regardless of the obstacles that I was certain to encounter.”

Pierrette’s road to success has certainly not come without its own challenges. “Experiencing, understanding, and analyzing failure has helped me get to where I am today,” she says. “No matter how hard I got hit, I got up and kept moving forward because every day was a new day to thrive.” Her grit and determination are values that have been passed onto her two daughters, Jennifer and Tanya. Both Ivy League graduates, Jennifer is a seasoned investment banker based in New York City, and Tanya works in hotel real estate investment management in Dallas.

Running a flourishing business is only one of what Pierrette considers her two jobs. A dedicated community volunteer for over 25 years, she affectionately calls herself a “social worker”, and has been involved in a number of healthcare related causes and Montreal’s Chinese community, among others. “I have always had a big place in my heart for healthcare, and my late husband Jamson did as well,” Pierrette explains. “It was important for us to do our part and set the right example for our daughters to do the same,” she says.

After hearing through a friend about McGill University’s Faculty of Dentistry Outreach Clinic, Pierrette knew she wanted be involved. “At the time when I was growing up in Mauritius, there weren’t many dentists and they were very expensive,” she states. “We had mobile dental care that went from school to school in the village, and you were lucky if you saw a dentist once a year. In fact, I had one of my own teeth pulled out without an anaesthetic, and I still remember to this day how loud I screamed.  I’m sure the whole village heard me.”

Pierrette led several fundraising initiatives for the Faculty of Dentistry, and the family made a very significant donation to create the Jamson T.N. Wong Laboratories in Bone and Periodontal Research, in memory of her husband. Continuing on her mission to give back to her community, Pierrette got involved with the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) and the Foundation on one of the biggest healthcare projects the city had ever seen – the construction of the Glen site.

She joined the Best Care for Life campaign cabinet, a volunteer group of Montreal business and community leaders who were helping to raise $300 million in support of the new hospital. Pierrette’s extensive career experience made an immediate impact, and she helped raise substantial funds, in particular for the hospital’s Women’s Health Initiative. She was also elected by the population of Montreal to serve as a member of the hospital’s Board of Directors and was appointed Treasurer. Although Pierrette resigned from the Board several years ago, she has continued to be engaged and involved with the healthcare community. She recently joined the MUHC Foundation’s Board of Directors, and teamed up with the Foundation to launch the Gala of the Three Stars, a fundraising event held in collaboration with Montreal’s Chinese community.

“It’s very important for today’s younger generation to give back to the community in which they live in,” Pierrette explains. “When Julie Quenneville, President of the MUHC Foundation, approached me with the idea of hosting a gala with the Chinese community, I agreed to help on the condition that the committee was going to be made up of young professionals.  We achieved that objective and not only was the Gala of the Three Stars a tremendous success, we have inspired a new generation of supporters who understand the value that the MUHC brings to the community,” she states.

Looking ahead, Pierrette is slowly beginning to wind down her business and philanthropic activities, and she looks forward to spending even more time with her daughters and three granddaughters. “Next year, the entire family will be travelling to Mauritius together, and we are already very excited!” she says. As this business and community role model reflects on the impact that she has made, she does so with great humility. “It’s not about getting a medal or any recognition, it’s about persevering to make a difference,” Pierrette states.

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