TORONTO — Travelling to Israel for the first time this winter with a delegation of hospital CEOs affirmed her beliefs about her own hospital, said Mary Jo Haddad, president and CEO of Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids).
“I met doctors who had trained at SickKids, and are now leaders in their field. I had always heard about them, but to meet them in person and have them reach out to me was overwhelming,” she said in an interview.
“All my life I have been hearing about and meeting people from Israel, but to see first-hand their passion to make Israel all it can be was amazing.”
Since 1997, more than 250 Israeli children have been treated at SickKids. There have also been 28 medical observers and 179 fellows from Israel at the hospital.
Haddad was honoured last week with the Meir Hospital Israel Medal of Merit by Canadian Friends of Meir Medical Center, at an awards ceremony and tribute dinner held at Beth Emeth Bais Yehuda Synagogue.
Also honoured were Bernie Farber, former CEO of Canadian Jewish Congress, Dr. Michael Dan and Dr. Amira Dan.
“It is wonderful to be recognized by this hospital, especially in how it relates to children and children’s health. We share a passion for the rights of children,” she said.
SickKids has partnered with faculty at Meir, including scientists who have conducted research on measuring cancer dugs and on biomarkers of stress in heart patients.
Haddad, who has three children, ages 21, 19 and 15, said that her interest in children’s health “came honestly. I grew up in a large family, and was surrounded by siblings and cousins. I always wanted to work with kids, and I built my career around their health care.
“I am amazed by kids. They are resilient and inspiring in the way they respond to adversity and challenges in life, whether these challenges are trauma or disabilities.
A graduate of the faculty of nursing at University of Windsor, Haddad earned her master’s degree in health science from University of Toronto, and has made numerous contributions to children’s health in Ontario and internationally.
She joined SickKids in 1984, and was appointed president and CEO in 2004, after serving as interim president and CEO.
She holds an honorary doctor of laws degree from the University of Windsor, and is a recipient of the Ontario Premier’s Award for Outstanding Achievement. She was appointed a member of the Order of Canada in June 2010.
Visiting Israeli hospitals, she said, she was impressed with the country’s health-care system. “I am particularly impressed with the way they use simulation in training medical staff and administrators. Israelis are leaders in that field.”
Not surprisingly, Israel also leads in “emergency preparedness, and how they focus on being ready for the worst possible disaster,” she said.
The two countries share the belief in a publicly funded health-care system, she said, and in ensuring that every person has access to it.