Mohamed Ali was a well-known Environmental Services aide at Toronto General Hospital for more than 20 years before retiring in 2010. After several years with cancer, Mohamed died in 2021, leaving behind his wife Valarie Ali, who worked as a nurse at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. (Photo: Courtesy Valarie Ali)
Mohamed Ali took great pride in his work at University Health Network.
The former Environmental Services aide at Toronto General Hospital (TGH) was known for his hard and thorough work, positive attitude and unwavering support of his colleagues. He knew Support Services staff had an important role to play in making UHN a great place for patients and staff.
“When things went wrong he always had a solution, he was always willing to help out,” says Rita Soares, now-retired Manager of Support Services at TGH, who worked with Mohamed for 20 years before he retired in 2010. “He was always looking out for his colleagues – he wanted the best for them and always wanted to see if the department could do something to help in their education to get them to grow in their roles and their careers.”
“At the time, unfortunately we didn’t have anything available.”
After a long battle with leukemia and then prostate cancer, Mohamed died in 2021. His friends and former colleagues have been hard at work making sure his legacy lives on with the Mohamed Ali Memorial Award – UHN Foundation’s first grant in support of the educational and professional development of Environmental Services and Transportation staff.
Dr. Natasha Leighl, Medical Oncology Lung Site Lead at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, got to know Mohamed through his wife, Valarie Ali, who worked as a nurse at PM for 33 years. She helped plan the award grant with Mohamed in his final days.
“There are lots of recognition awards for physicians, for nurses, or students and other groups, but not really for the Support Services team,” says Dr. Leighl. “They are rarely in the forefront for recognition, but the work that they do is critical.
“This award was a way to propel Mo’s incredible generosity and spirit forward and bring the profession to the forefront in order to recognize their great work.”
For his widow Valarie, the award is a way to “keep his memory alive.”
“Anything he did, he did right and he did it properly,” says Valarie. “He got along with everybody … he went out of his way for other people.”
“This award would mean so much to him.”
The Mohamed Ali Memorial Award, established through the generosity of the Ali family and donor philanthropy, is a new annual award for Environmental Services and Transportation staff across UHN sites to put towards educational and professional development opportunities.
The award will be given to one to three support services staff each year (up to $1,500 per person). The funds can be used for courses like Centennial College’s Healthcare Environmental Services Management course, or any Canadian Healthcare Housekeepers Association (CHHA) courses.