On schedule to open in 2023, the Calgary Cancer Centre will be the largest standalone comprehensive cancer centre in Canada.
“It will be right up there with the leading cancer centres in North America,” says John Osler, one of three co-chairs for the centre’s capital campaign. Led by the Alberta Cancer Foundation, Alberta Health Services and the University of Calgary, the campaign aims to raise $250 million to fund programs and equipment, enhance patient care and advance new and innovative ways to detect and treat cancer.
Osler, a former chairman of the Alberta Cancer Foundation and cancer survivor, has teamed up with fellow co-chairs Heather Culbert and Deborah Yedlin to fulfill the vision of turning Calgary into the gold standard for cancer research, prevention and care.
“Cancer touches all of us,” says Yedlin, a community leader and journalist whose mother survived breast cancer. “What’s interesting is that my mom’s treatment in 1962 was not that different from a friend’s treatment 20 years ago. And we’re still looking at the same type of protocol. That really struck me. Surely we can do better in terms of evolving treatment. That’s part of what a great promise this new cancer centre will have.”
Culbert, an active volunteer and philanthropist, agrees. She saw first-hand the strain on resources during her mother’s cancer journey and advocated for a new cancer centre for years. Of all the community work she does, she sees this project as her “lifetime calling” and wants more Albertans to get involved.
“We finally have the bricks and mortar piece committed by the government, but it doesn’t give us everything we need to fulfill our vision,” Culbert explains. “The only way to get there is for the community to step up and be part of the solution. Everybody needs to own this, either in a small way or by really stepping up big.”
The new centre will set Calgary up to become a thriving hub for health care and science, taking advantage of the existing research excellence happening through the centre’s partner, the University of Calgary.
“We need to harness the brains here that are our renewable resource and use them to support an economic renaissance that’s substantial,” says Yedlin.
“This centre of excellence will attract the best and brightest minds, which will reflect exceptionally well on broader health care and research,” adds Osler. “It’s a great story for our city and will help Calgary diversify.”
The centre won’t just mean great health-care returns, but also economic benefits. Yedlin points to how other cities have similarly transformed themselves.
“Consider Pittsburgh,” she says. “As the market changed, a collective, concerted effort was made to focus on ‘eds and meds.’ Now it’s a world-leading health centre. Calgary could do the same.”
Collaboration has made the centre a reality and will continue to be key to ensuring the best in cancer care and research.
“It’s really important that Albertans know we have this collaborative model, ensuring representation of all groups at the table,” says Culbert. “We need to own cancer, and the centre will make that possible.”
“It is visionary,” says Osler. “But most importantly, it will save lives.”