On August 8, Julie Quenneville took the reins as CEO of UHN Foundation. We sat down with Julie to talk about what attracted her to UHN, the important role philanthropy plays in health care, her life outside of work and moving to Toronto from Montreal.
1. What about UHN stood out for you when you were considering this opportunity, and what were you surprised to learn through this process?
What attracted me to UHN is that we are home to the number-one research hospital in this country. Each and every day, miracles are happening in this institution. I’m so honoured to have the opportunity to contribute to the level of excellence in care at UHN.
What surprised me the most is that many people seem unaware of the incredible impact that UHN is having on the global stage. It is home to one of the top five hospitals in the world. It is an important player on the world stage, and we should all be extremely proud that it is here in Toronto.
2. Tell us a little bit about your career journey.
I started off my career in journalism. I did TV, radio, print, and then I realized something really important about my personality: I just could not sit back and just observe the world. I needed to get in there, make changes and have impact on my community.
And so, I got involved in politics and then in government, and finally took on leadership of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) Foundation.
I’ve seen health care from all of its facets. I’ve seen it from the political side, the government side, from the administration side, and also through patients, families and philanthropy. And what I have learned that is most important is when you bring absolutely everybody together towards the same common goal, you actually do advance medicine.
3. Why is health care important to you?
Health care is important to absolutely everyone. We are all affected.
And that’s why I have dedicated my career to getting involved in health care, because it has an impact on each and every one of our neighbours, our family, our friends and on the world. The medical breakthroughs that are happening here at UHN have an impact on the entire world. And that’s incredibly meaningful.
4. Why is fundraising critical at UHN?
There’s a big question! In health care, philanthropy makes the difference between quality and excellence. And we all deserve to have excellence in health care. We all want to see that for our loved ones.
Philanthropy is absolutely essential in advancing research in health care. It is the only source of funding that we have for proof of concept in research to be able to then go and secure additional research grants.
UHN has the ability to recruit some of the most brilliant minds from all around the world. And that’s really important because Team UHN never stops at status quo. They are always pushing the boundaries of medicine, discovering new treatments and cures, and improving prevention. Most healthcare teams across the country do an extraordinary job in applying our medical books. But Team UHN is constantly rewriting the medical books.
In addition to advancing research, recruiting talent and ensuring excellence in patient care, UHN is also an incredible training ground for future healthcare leaders. Donor support plays a huge role in supporting education.
There are some exciting projects underway at UHN that would not be possible without donor support. One that comes to mind is the construction of a brand-new tower at Toronto Western – to ensure patients undergoing surgery have the best possible care and outcome, and to ensure that Team UHN can continue to push for progress in surgical techniques. Philanthropy helps us see these types of major capital projects through to completion.
5. Community support is fundamental to fundraising and health care. What is your message for our community members who are considering a donation to UHN Foundation?
Each and every dollar makes a huge difference in health care and helps us to push the status quo. Whether someone is donating $25 or $1,000, that donation has a huge impact on the quality of health care in our community.
I want to say thank you to each and every person who has generously contributed to UHN Foundation.
6. You are viewed as a change agent, known for decisive action. What about this role motivates you?
I have dedicated my life to public service, and I hope that with my actions, I’ll leave the world in a better place for my children and for their children. I’m really excited about supporting the work of UHN.
7. The role of CEO is multi-faceted and demanding. How do you balance work and life?
Oh, the eternal question! I think that the most important way of balancing work and family life is to make the time for both. I work out every day. I make sure that I close my phone for a few hours a week to dedicate myself to my children and to my family. And that’s important because we need to be well balanced.
It’s also important for me to continue to be involved in my community and to continue to volunteer. I am chair of a national policy forum called the Banff Forum. I sit on the Executive Committee of the 2024 Presidents Cup.
8. Can you share one of your favourite quotes about leadership?
One of my favourite quotes is by Eleanor Roosevelt, who said, we gain strength and courage and confidence by each experience when we stop to truly look at fear in its face. And we must do that which seems impossible. In health care, that is incredibly important because our healthcare workers are standing strong with our donors to make sure that we help our patients and their families find the very best treatment possible and bring our loved ones home.
9. Outside of work, what are your hobbies?
I love golfing, downhill skiing and cross-country skiing. I am an avid reader. I read about five newspapers a day and many books. And I love history books especially.
10. Lastly, let’s talk Toronto sports. Have you and the family been to any Blue Jays games yet, and now that you are a Toronto resident, what hockey team will you be cheering for?
Well, we are already Raptors fans and Blue Jays fans, but it is an absolute sin for former Montrealers to become Leafs fans. So unfortunately, I will remain a Habs fan, but I’m really excited about all the sports in this great city.