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$12-million boost for University of Calgary Institute for Public Health

Donation from Gail and David O’Brien enhances research and education objectives of newly named institute
September 24, 2014
Gail and David O'Brien pose with their symbolic letter 'O' after their $12-million donation to the newly named O’Brien Institute for Public Health was announced on Tuesday at the University of Calgary. Photo by Jae Im

Gail and David O'Brien pose with their symbolic letter 'O' after their $12-million donation to the newly named O’Brien Institute for Public Health was announced on Tuesday at the University of Calgary. Photos by Jae Im 

Dr. Jon Meddings, left, dean of the Cumming School of Medicine, and Bonnie DuPont, right, chair of the University of Calgary Board of Governors, join the audience in applauding the O'Briens for their generous gift Tuesday.

Dr. Jon Meddings, left, dean of the Cumming School of Medicine, and Bonnie DuPont, right, chair of the University of Calgary Board of Governors, join the audience in applauding the O'Briens for their generous gift Tuesday. 

The University of Calgary will continue to study ways of improving the health-care system and new ways to prevent disease, thanks to a $12-million donation from Gail and David O’Brien. The gift will support research and education objectives of the newly named O’Brien Institute for Public Health.

“This gift is an important investment in better health and health care in our local, national and global communities, coming from highly respected community leaders and tremendous friends of the University of Calgary, David and Gail O’Brien,” said Elizabeth Cannon, president of the University of Calgary. “Our researchers have a critical role in corroborating potential improvements for Canada’s public health system. The goal of the O’Brien Institute is to enhance health policy and to ensure that health research knowledge is translated into new models of care. ”

As longstanding, generous and engaged supporters of the University of Calgary, the O’Briens committed this gift in recognition of the importance of an institute that supports the mandate of offering better health and better health care.

“We are excited and proud to support the Institute for Public Health at the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine, impacting the future of health and health care for Albertans,” says Gail O’Brien. “As the hub bringing together the best and most innovative minds across the health sciences spectrum, producing critically important evidenced-based research will lead to new knowledge and public policy. We are hopeful the institute’s work will lead to huge strides in reducing the numbers of chronically ill as well as the challenges around health advocacy and prevention in Alberta – we see tremendous hope for the future of health and health care.”

The funds will be used to attract additional senior level investigators, graduate students and post-doctoral fellows as future leaders who will contribute to the mission of the institute. It will also be used as catalyst funding to secure additional support through national and international grants. One-third of the gift will be allocated to an endowment intended to support the institute for the life of its mandate.

The O’Brien Institute for Public Health will partner extensively with government to advance health and health care of Canadians.

“David and Gail O’Brien are making a very significant contribution not only to the University of Calgary, but to all the citizens of Alberta, and also to many beyond our provincial borders. This places the institute in an ideal position as we can maintain independence while also serving at arm’s length for governments and the health system for evaluative work,” says Dr. Bill Ghali, scientific director of the O’Brien Institute for Public Health.

About the work of the O’Brien Institute for Public Health

The work of the institute touches the lives of Canadians every day and focuses on two main areas — improving health-care systems, and preventing chronic disease. Researchers work on projects such as injury prevention in sport, national food and vaccine policies, government decisions affecting drug prices, and developing tools to care for patients from hospitals to community health providers.

The Institute for Public Health was launched in 2010 and has attracted more than 370 members dedicated to improving public health policy and practice. It is a unique collection of expertise from a variety of academic and professional backgrounds — from research scientists and clinicians to health system decision-makers and other health-care professionals. The O’Brien Institute is interdisciplinary and includes members from the Cumming School of Medicine and faculties of Nursing, Social Work, Arts, Business, Education, Veterinary Medicine, Kinesiology, Environmental Design, in addition to Alberta Health Services and the City of Calgary.

The O’Brien Institute for Public Health Strategic Advisory Board includes members at the University of Calgary and several community members such as:

  • Chair Derek Evans, Pengrowth
  • Lauchlan Currie, ARC Financial Corp.
  • Jack Davis, CEO Mobile Inc.
  • Chris Eagle, Cumming School of Medicine
  • Kevin Hall, AltoPartners/Bluestone Leadership Services Inc.
  • Linda Mattern, Alberta Health
  • Gail O’Brien, philanthropist 
  • Bob Sartor, Big Rock Brewery
  • John Sproule, Institute of Health Economics 
  • Verna Yiu, Alberta Health Services