A transformative vision takes shape
In a Q&A with Sunnybrook, Garry Hurvitz reflects on the power of a bold idea in brain sciences, now realized for the first time in Canada
When Garry Hurvitz was growing up, discussions about mental health were swept under the rug he says.
He recalls feelings that were overwhelming, and not knowing how to put those thoughts into words, or even where to turn for support. Even now, support for mental health is not common.
Unprecedented in the field of brain sciences, the Garry Hurvitz Brain Sciences Centre brings together experts from multiple disciplines under one roof. Sunnybrook teams accelerate discoveries for the next generation of treatments, and provide compassionate and leading-edge care.
While Garry is thrilled that his gift has encouraged others to support this important cause, he believes there is still a lot more to be done to advance care for mental health and other challenging brain disorders, and to improve access to support for patients and their families. Garry has and will continue to be unwavering in his support for this important cause.
We thank Garry for helping Sunnybrook lead the way to revolutionary solutions for the most challenging brain disorders, including stroke, dementia, ALS, mood and anxiety disorders, and more.
In conversation with Garry Hurvitz
Garry, you made your pledge nine years ago when there were few conversations about mental health and limited philanthropic giving in support of mental health research and care. You saw things differently. Why?
Garry Hurvitz (GH): From a very early age, I had my own battle with obsessive-compulsive disorder. These overwhelming feelings would come over me and I didn’t know what they were. It took a breakdown in my 20s, and 10 years to find the support that worked for me. For too long, mental illness was just something that was swept under the rug. It’s now in the forefront, and yet all we seem to do is talk. Mental health is still one of the most underfunded diseases out there. I felt compelled to do something so people who feel like I did can get the help they need.
Was there a particular moment in time that inspired you to act?
GH: It all began when my mother passed away of cancer. She was treated at Sunnybrook by a doctor who was amazing. I decided then that I wanted to do something, but I didn’t know what that was. I was invited on a tour of Sunnybrook and I remember asking, “What do you need the most?” They didn’t miss a beat. “Mental health.” Every light in my head went on and within half an hour I knew I was going to support brain sciences at Sunnybrook.
What was it about Sunnybrook’s vision of inventing the future of brain health that caught your attention?
GH: Well, I think I’m pretty good at visualizing the big picture, but I don’t think I ever imagined this picture the way it’s turning out. I thought I would be helping people struggling with their mental health. Sunnybrook has taken that ball and run with it. Over the years, the Hurvitz Brain Sciences Program has made such great strides, and now joining so many great experts under one roof will lead to even greater strides in both brain sciences research and patient care – exactly what I needed 40 years ago.
As the founding donor to the Garry Hurvitz Brain Sciences Centre, your investment inspired a groundswell of support, helping to rally thousands of people to give. What does this mean to you, this sense of community you have helped to create?
GH: Since we started this journey, a lot of very generous people have stepped forward and I thank them for that. One of the reasons I made my pledge was to inspire others to step forward and help in whatever way they can. The fact that our community and province responded with such immense support is amazing.
The Garry Hurvitz Brain Sciences Centre is nearing completion and excitement is mounting. What excites you most about this new building?
GH: The most exciting thing for me, bar none, is that we’re giving more people who are suffering and unsure of where to turn the help they need. I’m also excited by the possibility that people will see the Centre, talk about it and feel inspired by what we’ve made happen so far and what we will make happen in the future. My hope is that this is just the beginning, and that others will continue to invest in Sunnybrook and keep the momentum growing.
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