“We don’t believe the status quo is in the best interests of patients,” says Bram Freedman, President and CEO of the Jewish General Hospital (JGH) Foundation. He’s sitting in his office on the first floor of Pavilion A of the hospital, the pavilion where over 40 staff members of the JGH Foundation work to raise money in support of the hospital’s priorities. 

Freedman’s claim isn’t hard to support. The JGH defies the business-as-usual approach. From acquiring the latest robotic surgery equipment, to innovating with cutting-edge technology, to pursuing high-impact cancer research, the operations at the hospital are designed to anticipate the future – and build it.

Take one example: a clinical trial with the potential for developing a revolutionary cancer-fighting treatment is soon set to start at the Lady Davis Institute (LDI), which is the research arm of the JGH. The lab will make testing possible with technology that attacks the interior of cancerous tumours with magnetic fields.

There’s also the Command Centre, unique in Quebec, which uses real-time data and predictive software to provide a panoramic view of what’s happening throughout the JGH’s healthcare network (the CIUSSS West-Central Montreal) all with the aim of improving patient care and flow.

These are just two of many examples. Both were recent transformational projects funded by donors. The impact the JGH Foundation has had on the hospital since its founding in 1969 has been impressive. In the last fiscal year alone, the JGH Foundation raised over $52.7M in funding for the hospital from almost 26,000 donors.

“We are so grateful that, thanks to our generous supporters, the JGH has the opportunity to be bold and innovative,” Freedman says.

Tracing the roots of the JGH

The JGH has a long-running history of innovating and defying the odds. Well before the JGH Foundation was formed, the hospital served a diverse community in Montreal. It all began over 90 years ago, just before the start of the Great Depression.

In October 1929, more than 3,000 members of the Jewish community gathered at the Mount Royal Hotel to launch the $1 million campaign to build the hospital. It was certainly not an auspicious time to build a hospital, but the need for a new healthcare institution was urgent.

“The hospital was created because of the difficulty that Jewish physicians had in finding positions in other hospitals,” Freedman explains. “Even some Jewish patients had difficulty getting treatment in healthcare facilities.”

What strikes me is that, in the midst of the Great Depression, the community got together and said, ‘We need to do something’,” Freedman continues.

It is remarkable that, under the circumstances, dedicated donors and volunteers succeeded in raising the amount required for the hospital to open. When the JGH opened in October 1934, it welcomed all patients regardless of their religion or ethnicity.

“From the beginning, it was a hospital that was open to all,” Freedman says. “To me, that’s what permeates down through the generations. When the JGH started, it was a small community hospital. Now it’s a large, internationally-renowned top hospital in Quebec, with a very diverse patient population.”

What’s on the horizon

As the JGH prepares to enter 2023, the JGH Foundation is on the cusp of publicly launching a major multi-year fundraising campaign with an unprecedented fundraising goal. The centrepiece of this campaign is a transformational digital health initiative inspired by the notion of “Care Everywhere”.

That means that eligible JGH patients will increasingly be treated at home using remote monitoring technology. It means that health records across the CIUSSS West-Central Montreal will soon be consolidated so that healthcare providers get a global view of a patient’s treatment history. It means that the Command Centre will continue to be optimized to manage patient flow across the healthcare network.

In short, it means that the most cutting-edge technology will be used to revolutionize how and where healthcare is accessed, all the while with the patient’s interests at the centre.

The JGH Foundation continues to raise tens of millions of dollars every year. This campaign promises to raise the bar even higher for patient-centred care at the hospital. It will give many patients the flexibility to be treated where it is most convenient for them, and minimize problematic bottlenecks throughout the healthcare system.

At the JGH, from the very beginning, it’s been anything but the status quo.