QEII Foundation donors can turn healthcare ideas into action through the Innovation Catalyst Fund

Three women and a man standing together for a photo, smiling at the camera.

From left to right: Susan Crocker, Dr. Jennifer Johnston, John Hunkin and Susan Mullin, president and CEO of the QEII Foundation, pictured at the inaugural QEII Foundation’s Innovation Den. (Darren Hubley)

Every day at the QEII Health Sciences Centre, the brightest minds in medicine are laser-focused on creating solutions for today's healthcare challenges. Through innovative thinking and research, there is the potential to come up with life-changing ideas to transform health care.

Today, there is a new opportunity to bolster these QEII healthcare scientists and make a tangible difference in the lives of patients and families: the QEII Foundation's Innovation Catalyst Fund.  

In collaboration with the Nova Scotia Health Innovation Hub, the Innovation Catalyst Fund will rapidly fast-track innovative concepts into practice by providing grants to QEII scientists for their ideas that have the potential to transform local care and deliver global solutions.

The fund was born through the generosity of forward-thinking donors John Hunkin and Susan Crocker and their belief in the power of innovative research to make a hospital system great. Their $1 million gift to the QEII Foundation will see $100,000 in grants awarded annually to healthcare innovators over the next nine years. 

They hope to inspire others to get involved and donate, making more grants possible each year. "This is just the start. It's about building QEII profile and showcasing some of the ways donors can participate in driving medical innovation," says Susan.

"I hope others are inspired to join us. It's so important to support research, especially in the early stage. Support attracts more support, builds momentum, and fosters opportunity for big vision and big impact."

A man and woman smile at the camera, standing in a white wall with a glowing purple sign behind them that reads We Are
Susan Crocker and John Hunkin's $1-million gift is advancing healthcare innovation through the QEII. 

Through the Innovation Catalyst Fund, grants are awarded to healthcare innovators focused on projects that:

  • reduce wait times 
  • attract and retain healthcare professionals 
  • produce better patient outcomes 
  • improve access to care
  • deliver more personalized medicine 
  • elevate clinical excellence with new technology and equipment 

Inaugural grant recipients

With the community rallying behind John and Susan's vision, six inaugural grants were awarded in 2023 in a Dragons Den type format with $200,000 in funding available.  

A non-hormonal birth control aimed at revolutionizing women's health on a global scale. A pocket-sized inhaler that delivers medication more effectively, resulting in reduced hospitalizations and preventable deaths. A stretcher lift system that combats the risk of clinician injury and staff shortages during routine operating room procedures. A cancer survivor program that improves survivors' short- and long-term mental and physical health. A new way of administering IVs that reduces patient risk and creates efficiencies for healthcare teams. And a personalized post-operative pain management app designed to make pain management more accessible for all people while reducing opioid use. 

These six projects are just an example of the more than 1,200 active projects being led by healthcare scientists. And it's that depth of innovation that inspired John and Susan to align their generosity with the QEII Foundation. 

"The QEII has the size, scale, and talent to make a huge impact on medical innovation. There is already a vast amount of leading research and innovation happening here but there is still great opportunity to introduce more innovation and give it visibility so that the community knows what's happening," says John. 

Dr. Jennifer Johnston was the lucky top prize winner for her Better Ring project. As a family physician and founder of Elle, MD Biotechnologies, Dr. Johnston saw a need to improve reliable birth control without the use of hormones. 

"The Better Ring stemmed from my desire to find a safer, non-hormonal birth control for myself and all the women and girls around the world who deserve an option that doesn't compromise their health," she says. 

A woman, holding a circular glass ball that is an award, smiles at the camera.
Dr. Jennifer Johnston was the inaugural winner of the top award of $100,000 called the New Path Award for Health Innovation.

With the support of the Innovation Catalyst Fund, Dr. Johnston hopes to launch her first clinical study for her novel contraceptive device this year.

"I am incredibly grateful to the donors who believe in innovation and support the Innovation Catalyst Fund. With this $100,000 grant, I can pursue my dream of making health care more accessible and safe for millions of women worldwide." 

If you want to get involved and be a catalyst for transforming health through the QEII, donate today and help make more grants available in 2024. Your support with other QEII Foundation donors will help power the medical minds advancing care for the patients and families counting on it.

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