May 31, 2024

Meet the donors

Just as a single spark can ignite a roaring flame, philanthropy is the catalyst that starts something special at the University of Calgary. Meet the donors who are sparking positive change by empowering students, advancing research, driving innovation and more.

From honouring a beloved late classmate to paying it forward after a life-saving procedure, these donors have deeply personal reasons for supporting the Cumming School of Medicine.

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Dr. Carolyn Graham and Dr. Amanda Forsyth-Greig

Cumming School of Medicine Class of 2016

As a tribute to an unforgettable schoolmate, the Cumming School of Medicine’s Class of 2016 — dubbed the Narwhals by the class ahead of them in their first year, as per school tradition — established the Dr. Sean Davis Memorial Fund.

The legacy of Davis, who died in December 2023, is one of generosity and compassion, topped by a wonderful sense of humour. “He was the heartbeat of our class,” says Dr. Carolyn Graham, BSc’10, MBT’12, MD’16. “He was always there with a joke, something to make you smile. Just so pleasant.”

The fund will support students coming to medicine as a second career, preferably after being a first responder. Davis himself had been a paramedic before getting accepted into CSM in his early 40s. “He handled (the transition) with such grace,” says classmate Dr. Amanda Forsyth-Greig, BSc’10, MSc’17, MD’17. “He really made himself a big part of our community. He had a lot of heart. He gave a lot of his time. We want to make sure he is recognized.”


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Dr. Cecilia Baxter, MD’80

Dr. Cecilia Baxter

Dr. Cecilia Baxter, as a UCalgary med school student, relied on bursaries — twice — to get through the three-year program. “I was really in a tough situation.” So, after graduating, she made herself a promise. “That I would always give money to the University of Calgary,” says Baxter, MD’80. “They helped me tremendously and I wanted to be able to do the same for some other student who was challenged.”

True to her word, she has been giving to UCalgary since 1986. And, not surprisingly, she likes to direct her donations to support based on a financial need rather than academic merit. For Giving Day 2024, Baxter chose the Cumming School of Medicine MD Alumni Bursary.

“People should be given the opportunity to get an education or pursue their dream. It’s scary to think you’re not going to have enough money to get through your education.”


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Kate Hughson and Arden Duncan Bonokoski

Kate Hughson and Arden Duncan Bonokoski

Despite remarkable advocacy work in the fields of intellectual disability, inclusion and social justice, Dr. Anne Hughson, BA'69, MSc'73, PhD'97, was very humble, says her daughter, and certainly wouldn’t have expected the creation of a memorial fund in her name.

“She did this work because she had a passion for it, not because she wanted accolades,” says Kate Hughson, whose mother died June 12, 2022. “But she was such a trailblazer that I think it was needed. The disability field needs her still, even if it’s just in name.”

Anne’s career at UCalgary began in the 1980s in the Faculty of Education (now the Werklund School of Education). Named director of the Community Rehabilitation and Disability Studies program within the Cumming School of Medicine in 2008, she retired 13 years later.

Arden Duncan Bonokoski, who is Anne’s niece, says the fund’s beneficiaries should be UCalgary graduate students who are “eager to use their academics to support the movement for inclusion and to help children and adults with disabilities lead ordinary lives.”


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Allan Herchek

Allan Herchek

Recently celebrating the sixth anniversary of life-saving heart surgery at the Foothills Medical Centre, Allan Herchek has reason to be grateful. “Without that procedure I probably wouldn’t be talking to you.”

Following that experience, Herchek began to donate to the Greatest Needs Fund at the Libin Cardiovascular Institute at the Cumming School of Medicine. “All of the Libin people, all of their staff, it’s truly commendable what they do in Calgary and all of southern Alberta, actually,” he says. “I commend my cardiac surgeon Dr. William Kent, my cardiologist Dr. Nakul Sharma and my family doctor Dr. Ana-Maria Oelschig for their skill, knowledge and dedication to cardiac medicine.”

Because of his and wife Rose Ann’s background — he taught biology as a school teacher, while she was a laboratory technician in the medical field — they appreciate the role of science in advancing health care.

“We believe in supporting research and development. Heart research has been going for a long time. It’s an absolute miracle how far they’ve come. A marvel, really.”


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Dr. Satish Raj

Dr. Satish Raj

It’s not only grateful patients who have thrown their support behind the Libin Cardiovascular Institute (LCI) — each member of the institute’s leadership group is a donor themselves, giving to the LCI greatest needs fund.

“What that reflects is the leadership team believes strongly in the importance of the work we’re doing,” says Dr. Satish Raj, MD, LCI director of education — and donor — for the past three years. “It really helps fundraising if the people involved more closely — faculty leadership as well as our strategic advisory board — if the people leading the charge are also showing their commitment by making a donation.”

A joint entity of UCalgary and Alberta Health Services, LCI depends on philanthropic support of every level, according to Raj. With the aim of creating “the future researchers and leaders of tomorrow,” the institute, as part of the Cumming School of Medicine, provides critical equipment and organizes opportunities for graduate students such as enhanced training sessions and peer education.

“Donating is a way of showing support for that mission,” says Raj.

Just as a single spark can ignite a roaring flame, philanthropy is the catalyst that starts something special at the University of Calgary. Explore more stories about the difference we’re making in the community and around the world with the support of donors like you.