A passion for saving lives: A tribute to Joseph Lebovic, O.C., C.M., PhD

Joseph Lebovic expressed a desire to help save lives through his philanthropy. (Photo by Cavouk).

“I want my donation to save lives,” Joseph Lebovic said about his decision to support transplant research at UHN. His recent passing will be marked by the many people and organizations who were touched by his philanthropic spirit.

Along with his brother, Wolf, Joe Lebovic built a successful building and development company and became known for their charitable giving in support of health care, social services and community enrichment in the Greater Toronto Area.

UHN became a major beneficiary of Mr. Lebovic’s philanthropy, having made donations in excess of $8 million to support complex cancer surgery and organ transplant research. In 2013, Mr. Lebovic made a $5-million donation in support of the Hepato-Pancreatico-Biliary Surgery Program at UHN. The donation was made to recognize the efforts of Dr. Steven Gallinger and his team who provide comprehensive care for patients with liver, pancreatic and/or biliary disorders – among the most challenging forms of cancer to treat. The Joseph and Wolf Lebovic Chair in Hepato-Pancreatico-Biliary Surgery, held by Dr. Gallinger, is helping to revolutionize treatments for liver and bile duct cancers, transforming the lives of patients and their families.

He was an active and engaged donor. After attending an event in support of the Ajmera Transplant Centre at UHN, he was deeply troubled when he learned that one in three people who need a transplant will die while they await a suitable donor organ. He also learned how UHN is often the place of last resort for people suffering from end-stage organ failure. He wanted to help transplant recipients live longer, fuller lives by pledging $1 million to support the innovative work of Dr. Atul Humar, Medical Director of the Ajmera Transplant Centre, and his team.

As Mr. Lebovic became more involved in the Ajmera Transplant Centre’s Live On fundraising campaign, he learned about the dramatic increase in kidney transplants as a result of chronic conditions such as diabetes, liver disease, hypertension and lupus. He was so impressed with the scope of research that he donated $2 million to establish the Joseph and Wolf Lebovic Chair in Kidney Transplant Research. “I wanted to help the team expand the cadre of researchers trying to solve these problems,” he explained.

UHN Foundation Board Member and Live On Transplant Campaign Board Champion George Eaton expressed that “Joe’s desire to save lives will be his legacy to the many people awaiting organ transplants. His friendship, compassion and generosity will be deeply missed.”

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