Giving in their blood
There’s a long legacy of giving in the Abrahamson family, and it’s a tradition that MGH Chief of Medicine John Abrahamson is happy to continue.
His late father, Roy, was an active volunteer in the health-care sector and along with his wife, Carol Kirsh, established the Canadian Donor’s Guide, a publication that continues to help donors support their communities. Carol is a dedicated hospital volunteer – a passionate musician, she leads the World of Music concert series, which brings renowned artists from around the world to the hospital.
As a long-time hospital board member at another institution, Roy understood the importance of quality health care and continuous improvement - a passion shared by his son, who has built a culture of patient safety and quality at the hospital over his tenure as Chief of Medicine. To honour Roy’s memory and John’s dedication to the hospital, Carol established the Abrahamson Family Quality Improvement Fund. This endowment supports ongoing hospital research and innovation in the area of quality to improve patient care.
The need for this research is great: currently in Canada, 1 in 10 adults contract an infection in the hospital, and 1 in 10 receive the wrong medication or an incorrect dose. Quality improvement enhances patient safety by improving protocols and practice, reducing the likelihood of physician error. But improving safety doesn’t mean pointing fingers at caregivers - it means identifying issues with systems and processes.
“Care providers are good people doing the best job they can,” says John, “but even good people make mistakes. Quality improvement is about fixing systems to make hospitals safer by reducing the likelihood of human error.”
Over the past two years, the Abrahamson Family Fund has supported students conducting research at Michael Garron Hospital to improve quality of health-care delivery. Award winners have worked on studies including an investigation into whether e-cigarettes are effective in helping smokers quit, and a project focused on “deprescribing,” which is when drugs with risks perceived to outweigh potential benefits in a patient are discontinued - and has already led to a change in deprescribing protocol at Michael Garron Hospital.
In part through its culture of quality improvement and patient safety, Michael Garron Hospital is acknowledged as a leader in quality by the medical community through designations including Exemplary Status from Accreditation Canada. And by adapting rigorous patient safety practices, Michael Garron Hospital outperforms other Toronto hospitals in reducing deaths, readmissions, length of stay, hospital-acquired infections, and the cost of care.
It’s work that John champions each day in his role at the hospital and as a philanthropist. By matching all donations made to the Abrahamson Family Fund to a maximum of $25,000 per year - and encouraging his daughters to also give back - he is following the lead of his father and stepmother.
“It’s very important to my wife and I to keep our family’s history of philanthropy alive through our daughters,” says John. “Giving is important, and if we can leave something behind - like healthier patients living longer lives because of quality care - then it’s all worth it.”