Teaching Compassionate Care

Can compassion in health care be taught? Nursing professor and UCalgary researcher Dr. Shane Sinclair, PhD, says ‘yes,’ but better training is needed.

After reviewing current compassion training programs, Sinclair and his team worked with health-care providers and patients to create a benchmark for what encompasses compassion. They then used this information to assess current training programs. He and his team think there is room for improvement.

The results of Sinclair’s review suggest compassion training needs input from patients, as they are the ones ultimately impacted. “We need to mature in our training programs to move beyond simply nurturing feelings of compassion to actually providing practitioners with tangible evidence-based clinical skills and behaviours to provide compassion to patients in a more meaningful, robust and sustainable way,” he says. 

For Sinclair, OWN.CANCER isn’t so much about dominating cancer but personalizing each patient’s care to their own needs and preferences. “In addition to a new state-of-the-art building, the new Calgary Cancer Centre means we will have a renewed focus on providing state-of-the-art compassionate care inside the building.” 


This is our moment. Our once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the landscape of cancer research, care and treatment. We’re ready to OWN.CANCER with Dr. Shane Sinclair. Are you with us?

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University of Calgary student and cancer researcher shares what the new Calgary Cancer Centre will mean to researchers like her

Parisa Ghahremanifard, a Master of Science student at the University of Calgary is part of a research project hoping to improve the lives of patients with oral cancers, one of the most common cancers of the head and neck region. 


“My MSc is in  Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and I work at Dr. Pinaki Bose’s lab at the Arnie Charbonneau Cancer Institute where I’m currently researching ways to  stop oral cancer progression in patients.”


Parisa’s study focuses on cancer immunotherapy. Immunotherapy treatments harness the body’s immune system to attack tumours. A key step involves helping the body’s cancer-fighting T-cells recognize which cells are cancerous.


“Cancerous cells are as smart as we are because we literally share the same DNA. So as we try to find a way to treat patients with chemotherapy or radiation, the cancer cells find a way to fight back and resist the treatment. I think it’s amazing to destroy cancerous cells with the tool that God has given us all, our own immune cells!!”


With the new Calgary Cancer Centre being one of the largest comprehensive cancer centres in North America, it means bringing together researchers, medical teams, prevention experts, patients and families in ways never before possible. Which is an exciting prospect for researchers like Parisa.


“I can’t wait to continue my project in our new lab at the Calgary Cancer Centre. I think it’s a brilliant idea to gather all cancer professionals and patients in one place. I believe if we all work together and look at cancer from different perspectives hopefully with every small step we will finally OWN.CANCER. Even if all this work helps one person enjoy their life a few days more, I believe that it will all be worth it.”



At the new Calgary Cancer Centre, we’re bringing together researchers, medical teams, prevention experts, patients and families in ways never before possible.

Click here to learn about the five critical areas in which we aim to tackle cancer.

You can help clinicians and researchers like Parisa Ghahremanifard perform world-class cancer research by making a donation to the OWN.CANCER campaign today.

Click here to Donate.


Mavis Clark – Campaign Cabinet Members


A campaign of this magnitude doesn’t happen without the support and dedication of our community. The OWN.CANCER campaign cabinet is made up of passionate Calgarians who are champions for improved cancer research, treatment and care in our province. Through their advocacy, donations and guidance, we’re closer to reaching our $250 million fundraising goal in support of the Calgary Cancer Centre. In this series, we’re sitting down with our cabinet members to learn what the OWN.CANCER campaign means to them and the impact it will have on Albertans facing cancer. 

“The Calgary Cancer Centre is a daring dream being realized through unfettered determination and sheer perseverance.”

Mavis Clark is an educator who retired from the Calgary Board of Education, having held a variety of school-based and senior-level administrative positions. She completed her career as the Superintendent of Human Resources. Mavis Clark graduated from the University of Calgary with a Bachelor of Education and Masters of Education and holds a Certified Human Resources Practitioner designation from CHRP Canada.

In addition to completing two terms as a UCalgary Senator, she served on community boards, particularly those focused on women and families including Homefront Calgary, Prairie Action Foundation and the Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter. 

Mavis Clark is a passionate champion for the community, investing time in the education of children, social justice reform, and changing the narrative about lung cancer. 

What inspires you to OWN.CANCER?

“In March 2007, my husband Paul Clark heard four words that would change our lives forever: ‘You have lung cancer’. With the utterance of this unvarnished statement, our charmed life was over as we knew it. Paul was a non-smoker, the picture of health and in the prime of his life when he was diagnosed with this deadly cancer. In April 2010, Paul succumbed to the disease.  Like most people with lung cancer, he didn’t live five years past the diagnosis.

“It was then that I stepped forward to become a vocal advocate to push for the advancement of lung cancer awareness, prevention, screening and increased funding for research.  The stark reality was that the lack of funding would continue to dramatically limit the options and outcomes for lung cancer patients.

“It was clear if nothing changed then countless families would share our heartache. I couldn’t change my own circumstance but perhaps I could make a difference for someone else.”

“I started a personal campaign to “own lung cancer”.  Over the past 12 years, I have become a recognized cancer advocate, bringing much-needed attention to the stigma associated with lung cancer and its dismal survival outcomes.  As a community member, I have supported The Arnie Charbonneau Cancer Institute through the Cumming School of Medicine. Together, our mission is to decrease cancer in the population, advance treatment and improve the patient experience. To this end, the Paul Clark Lung Cancer Fellowship was established in 2011. It is now an integral part of this mission, to attract and support innovative researchers as they seek to change the outcomes of this devastating disease. These efforts have led to the formation of The Lung Cancer Translational Research Initiative at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre.”

Why was it important to you to volunteer and contribute to this campaign?

“In the twelve years since Paul’s death, I have worked closely with a brilliant team of clinicians/researchers who are driven by a commitment to bring real hope to lung cancer patients and their families. I continue to be inspired by their quest to find the right treatment so each patient can live their lives to the fullest. Working with these talented individuals, and being a member of a powerful collaborative partnership between community-health care scientists/medical professionals has helped me to deal with his passing.

“I am thrilled beyond words by the progress our Calgary clinician/researchers are making to translate the bed to bench and bench to bedside knowledge into leading-edge cancer prevention/treatment in many cancers.  I am proud to be part of the OWN.CANCER campaign.  It represents what we do best in Alberta the community coming together to achieve big, bold, audacious goals. 

“The OWN.CANCER is all about engaging the community in a collaborative relationship with the best and brightest in the medical field to be leaders with the goal of conquering cancer at a world level. Collectively we can change the face of cancer if everyone embraces and “owns” the cause.  Every dollar raised will make a huge difference!!!  I am committed to doing my part through the continued funding of The Paul Clark Lung Cancer Fellowship and by leaving a legacy gift to financially support the advancement of cancer research into the future. 

“The OWN.CANCER campaign will impact so many lives…. to me, it is the personification of hope.”

How do you believe this campaign and The Calgary Cancer Centre will impact Albertans facing cancer?

“You can never really anticipate how life will unfold.  We all have dreams. We all have hopes. But sometimes reality has a different plan. The new Cancer Centre will be there for those facing the challenges of a cancer diagnosis. This magnificent facility is the realization of many acts of generosity, volunteer efforts and institutional partnerships coming together to make an ambitious dream come true.

“The new cancer centre has a powerful humanistic vibe…a feeling like you’re being hugged and enveloped by warmth. You have the sense that it’s no longer about what has happened. It’s about what’s going to happen and creating a safe space for everything that’s coming next. Each cancer patient’s journey will be supported in a building bolstered by imagination, innovation and industriousness. This facility will offer life-affirming support for patients and their families informed by revolutionary research and the utilization of cutting-edge equipment. The new Cancer Centre will be the catalyst for progressive cancer care for our community and far beyond. Working together, all things are possible.” – Mavis Clark


Click here to learn more about the OWN.CANCER campaign


Dr. Amanda Khan aims to make a significant impact in cancer patient care at the Calgary Cancer Centre


Dr. Amanda Khan,  a second-year radiation oncology resident physician at the University of Calgary, was inspired to pursue medicine after witnessing the care her brother received when he was diagnosed with leukemia.The ability to help patients through their cancer journey is a privilege and I am truly living my life’s dream by helping patients the way my brother’s oncologist helped him,” she says. 

In order to best serve patients, Dr. Khan decided to train as a clinician-scientist. This is a physician with a medical degree who also obtains a Ph.D. degree to perform clinically relevant research.

“Not only do I see patients in the clinic and help treat their cancer, but I also perform research that can directly impact their care and improve their quality of life.”

After receiving her MD/Ph.D. dual degree at the University of Toronto, she chose the University of Calgary for residency because of the world-class clinicians and the upcoming Calgary Cancer Centre which will be one of the largest comprehensive cancer centres in North America. 

“In terms of Calgary’s excellence, not only do the radiation oncologists here engage in incredible cancer research but their clinical knowledge and bedside manner made such an impression on me during my elective here, that I was willing to move halfway across the country during the pandemic to train with them. I also chose to train at the University of Calgary because of the new Calgary Cancer Centre. Being able to be at the vanguard of cancer care and treatment delivery in Canada is an incredible opportunity. My future goal is to become a clinician-scientist radiation oncologist at the Calgary Cancer Centre and have my own research laboratory to help make cancer treatments safer and better.”

To Dr. Khan, the words OWN.CANCER reflects exactly what she tries to do every day.

“As a radiation oncology resident physician, I try to take control over cancer and own it via imaging, safe radiation delivery and research so that my patients can live their lives.”


At the new Calgary Cancer Centre, we’re bringing together researchers, medical teams, prevention experts, patients and families in ways never before possible.

Click here to learn about the five critical areas in which we aim to tackle cancer.

You can help clinicians and researchers like Amanda perform world-class cancer research by making a donation to the OWN.CANCER campaign today.

Click here to Donate.


Bachelor of Health Sciences student at the Cumming School of Medicine turns cancer diagnosis into opportunity to help advance research

Cumming School of Medicine student and cancer survivor, Milan Heck.

When Milan Heck first noticed a lump on her hip, she and her family blamed it on the boot cast she wore to heal her broken ankle. But on Aug. 31, 2015, they learned that an abnormal gait wasn’t the culprit. Heck had a tumour. Two-and-a-half weeks later, she found herself at the Alberta Children’s Hospital waiting to meet her oncology team. 

“That meeting is when everything became real,” says Heck, who’s now a second-year Bachelor of Health Sciences student at the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM). “That’s the first time I recall thinking, ‘That’s it. This is cancer.’ I felt numb. I put on a stoic face, surrounded myself with people and tried to make the situation as lighthearted as possible. I think that’s what has helped me cope throughout the years.”

Heck was diagnosed with alveolar soft part sarcoma (ASPS), a malignant soft tissue tumour which starts in the soft connective tissues of the body such as fat, muscles or nerves. ASPS usually starts in the legs or arms and most often metastasizes to the lungs but can involve other organs, such as the brain or bones.

“What felt like a small lump turned out to be a tumour the size of a grapefruit,” says Heck. “Upon initial diagnosis, my doctors also found a lesion on my brain and 13 lesions across my lungs. I was completely in shock.” 

Over the past six years, Heck has undergone nine surgeries, two radiation treatments and has tried numerous medications. Many of which caused unpleasant side effects and complications. While experts do their best to recommend therapies, they face many challenges when diagnosing and treating them.

But thanks to the participation of cancer patients and innovative research methods, new treatment options are on the horizon. 


Developing a better understanding

Dr. Jennifer Chan, MD, a pathologist and the scientific director of the CSM’s Arnie Charbonneau Cancer Institute, explains that there’s no standard treatment for most rare cancers because there’s less research on them and, in turn, not enough information to support drug development.

Dr. Jennifer Chan

“The good news is that researchers are no longer studying ‘cancer,’ we’re investigating the various types and subtypes of cancer, and we’re doing it in creative and innovative ways,” says Chan who’s also an associate professor in the Department of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine. “The better we understand a cancer, the better we can treat it.”

One of these ways is by banking leftover clinical samples for research. Another is by using the collected tissue samples to make tumour models from the patients’ cancers. The models allow researchers to study the development and progression of a tumour, and test new treatments to see which ones are effective. 

Thousands of Calgarian patients are making this research possible by contributing pieces of tumour tissue extracted during surgical or biopsy procedures. Heck is one of them, and her samples are currently being used by a team of UCalgary researchers to better understand ASPS.     


Giving a gift for research

“When one of my surgeons talked to me about participating, it was an easy decision for me,” says Heck. “Knowing that my donation could help generate knowledge about ASPS, I immediately said ‘yes.’”

To date, Heck has donated three samples, which have been stored within the Charbonneau Institute’s Clark H. Smith Tumour Centre’s tissue bank — a biorepository that specializes in neurological and pediatric diseases and provides samples to local, national and international researchers. The biobank is directed by Dr. Chan who explains that collected samples can sometimes be stored for a while before they’re used. Earlier this year, Heck’s samples were pulled and a team of researchers is now focused on finding new treatments.

“Choosing to participate is like giving a gift for research,” says Chan. “Understanding tumour biology is a critically important step in the process of finding new therapeutic approaches, reducing toxicity of current therapies and improving patient experience. Without participant samples, we wouldn’t be able to model or study these tumours in the same way we are now.”


A more tailored approach

Dr. Douglas Mahoney, PhD, a member of the research team and an associate professor in the departments of Microbiology, Immunology & Infectious Diseases and Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, explains that the live samples from the biobank are what allow researchers to test treatments and develop more personalized treatment plans. 

Dr. Douglas Mahoney

“The more we learn from these studies, the more tailored our treatments will become,” says Mahoney. “Up until now, this rare disease didn’t have many preclinical models and we’ve generated them. Now we’re starting to use cell-based therapies to see if they’ll work in vivo.”

Mahoney and his team are using Chimeric Antigen Receptor or CAR T-cell immunotherapy, which uses synthetic biology to modify T-cells — a type of white blood cell that’s essential to the immune system —to recognize and kill the cancer cells. This therapy has successfully treated children and adult patients with forms of leukemia and lymphoma and there’s growing evidence that engineered immune cells also have the potential to be broadly applicable across more types of cancer.

The team has built a new CAR T-cell therapy specifically for ASPS and is testing it against Heck’s cancer. One day, it could become a treatment for ASPS patients like her. 

“My hope is for safer, better therapies for cancer patients,” says Mahoney. “There’s no guarantee that we ever achieve that, but we have the tools, ideas and right people to take a fantastic shot at it.” Heck agrees. 

“New ways of treating cancer are on the horizon,” she says. “Even if I don’t see that happen in my lifetime or receive any of the treatment, I know that there’s potential for someone else down the line to benefit from the knowledge that’s being created, and that’s a silver lining.” 


In 2023, the new Calgary Cancer Centre (CCC) will open and will be the largest comprehensive cancer care centre in Canada. The space will create a fully-integrated environment that enables experts like Drs. Chan and Mahoney to efficiently advance their research from discovery, invention, preclinical studies and clinical trials; improving the experience and prognosis of cancer patients. Learn how you can help make a difference by contributing to the CCC or tissue bank


Dr. Jennifer Chan, MD, is the scientific director of the Arnie Charbonneau Cancer Institute and an associate professor in the Department of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine at the Cumming School of Medicine. She is also a member of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute at the University of Calgary.  

Dr. Douglas Mahoney, PhD, is an assistant professor in the departments of Microbiology, Immunology and Infectious Diseases and Biochemistry & Molecular Biology at the Cumming School of Medicine. He is also a member of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute, Arnie Charbonneau Cancer Institute, and Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases at the University of Calgary.


Written by Melanie Tibbetts for the Cumming School of Medicine. 

Using research to identify what really matters to cancer patients – Dr. Nancy Nixon

Dr. Nixon is a medical oncologist and researcher at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre.


When we think of cancer research, we often think of treatment options. But understanding and improving the patient experience and care is just as important for doctors, researchers, and patients. “Research is fundamental in helping us identify new treatment options that allow patients to live better for longer, and increase the number of patients we can treat. It’s also really important in helping to identify what really matters to patients,” shares Dr. Nancy Nixon, a medical oncologist and researcher in Calgary.

Like many Albertans, Dr. Nixon’s family has been impacted by cancer, and it is a large part of why she has focused her time and research improving the lives of metastatic breast cancer patients.

“I lost my mom to breast cancer in 1994, and that’s had a big impact in my life. It’s been behind my motivation to do what I do for a living, pursuing clinical trials and new research. I think it’s exciting to see how the landscape of cancer treatment has changed over time.” 

Dr. Nixon has focused much of her research on understanding and responding to patient priorities. By listening to her patients and understanding what matters most to them, she aims to improve the overall journey of Albertans facing metastatic breast cancer.

“I think it’s important for patients to have some autonomy and control over how they’re treated, and why they are treated in certain ways. It really does make a difference, being able to take power over cancer and not let it control us.”

Through her research, Dr. Nixon is currently focused on supporting patient understanding of treatment options, clinical trials, additional supportive care and networking groups by creating better access to accurate information for metastatic breast cancer patients. 

For Dr. Nixon, the new Calgary Cancer Centre is an opportunity to start from the ground up, to think to the future about what doctors and patients will need and what cancer treatment will look like. It will allow her, along with countless others, to have a more patient-centred approach with its centralized resources, dedication to research and some of the best and brightest minds working to improve cancer treatment and care. “Having resources, along with surgeons and radiation oncologists and medical oncologists all in the same space will really facilitate that patient-centred approach. We won’t be split up in our separate towers. We’ll all be working together in one place as a single group focusing on cancer.” 

Learn more about how the Calgary Cancer Centre will focus on improving the patient experience and helping patients OWN.CANCER in their own terms.

Calgary’s Clinical Research Contributions

Dr. Jose Monzon explains how clinical trial research that begins at Calgary’s Tom Baker Cancer Centre has the potential to impact cancer patients around the globe.

The clinical trials that come to life at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre can change lives beyond Calgary, the province or even Canada. Dr. Jose Monzon knows this from experience.

“When you do clinical trials research, you’re making impacts not only on your community,” explains Monzon, “but also on patients worldwide.”

Monzon is a medical oncologist and medical leader for the Clinical Research Unit at the Tom Baker. He helps manage and oversee the roughly 150 clinical trials happening in the centre at any given time while also leading trials of his own. The role includes meeting with clinical trial unit leaders to discuss trial activities, brainstorm ways to improve the process for patients and find avenues to open other trials. Beyond research, Monzon sees patients and enrolls eligible candidates into existing trials.

While the job can be varied and complex, Monzon’s rationale behind why he does what he does is simple.

“To be able to help patients through that process and that journey seemed important to me,” he says. “I learned very early on that with research, you can make huge impacts on patient outcomes.”

Simply, a clinical trial is the testing of a novel agent — often a drug — or a previously known agent in a unique setting to evaluate its safety, responsiveness, toxicity and, of course, its effect on survival. Eligible patients are enrolled in trials and tracked through regular tests to gauge how the agent is working versus the previously established treatment option.

After three phases with different goals at each, the treatment can potentially become the new standard of care.

According to Monzon, the Tom Baker is unique in its opportunity for investigator-initiated trials, often supported by the Alberta Cancer Foundation. This reputation is attractive for academic researchers across the country and is part of what drew him to Calgary. Monzon has helped lead a handful of trials spawned from findings at the Tom Baker, such as an ongoing look into the positive effects of statins, which are cholesterol medications, on rectal cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

The idea for the trial came from a patient database assembled by fellow oncologist Dr. Michael Vickers during his time working at the Tom Baker. The opportunity to work together and collaborate to create new trials in Calgary not only helps researchers, but also benefits patients.

“These are homegrown ideas. That’s the beauty of it,” says Monzon. “These are trials that can open up options for our patients here.”

Each year, the Tom Baker Cancer Centre enrolls around 400 patients into clinical trials, creating opportunities to pursue alternative treatments that can lead to life-saving results. With the Tom Baker acting either as the starting point or as a contributor to larger trials, the potential for widespread change is immense. And at its core, it all starts with the patients.

“[Clinical trials] provide these options of novel treatments, and it gives the patients hope of responding and prolonging life, but it also helps other cancer patients,” says Monzon. “We have everything to thank for the patients involved in clinical trials. Our goal is to have a clinical trial opportunity for every single patient who comes to the cancer centre and that patient and clinician trial activity should be celebrated and encouraged.”

Brief Glossary Of Clinical Trial Terms


Clinical trial: The testing and tracking of a new treatment to evaluate its effects on human health outcomes.

Industry-sponsored trial: When a business or corporation, like a pharmaceutical company, conceives, plans and funds a clinical trial. 

Investigators: The researchers leading and conducting work on a clinical trial. 

Investigator-initiated trial: When an independent researcher has an idea for a trial they want to conduct, conceive, plan and run themselves.

Phases Of Clinical Trials

Bench Research: 
Prior to clinical trials, bench researchers run tests outside of humans. This often means seeing how cells react within cancer cell line models or animal models and how novel agents may show activity in or inhibit pathways.

Phase 1: Often the “first-in-human” trial, phase one starts testing the safety and tolerability of a drug. Researchers start with a very small dose and incrementally increase until signs of toxicity appear. Efficacy and responsiveness data are collected, but it’s not yet the main goal.

Phase 2: Once the dose is established, researchers begin looking at efficacy and responsiveness. An indicator in many clinical trials is how much tumours shrink.

Phase 3: The novel drug or treatment is compared to the previous standard of care. If the new treatment shows improvements in survival, it usually becomes the new standard of care.

Phase 4: Phase four trials happen once the agent is established as a new standard of care. They operate like population-based studies in function, looking into the benefits of the treatment in broader use.

Originally published in Leap Magazine.

Giving Through Generations


Philip Libin; Stuart Libin; Harriet Libin;

As children growing up in the mid-1940s, Phil and Harriet Libin learned about the importance of giving back from their respective families. The couple’s parents, Saul and Sonia Libin and Leo and Goldie Sheftel, donated whatever time or money they could afford to people in need. As a result, Phil and Harriet began volunteering in their early teens — before they even met. Regardless of what the Calgary forecast had in store for them, they would each take to the streets with blue collection boxes every Sunday morning, fundraising for the Jewish National Fund of Canada.

“When you go out and get that quarter or that dime or that nickel, it gives you that sense of satisfaction in helping. My parents would never turn away someone in need, and I grew up seeing my parents give,” says Phil. “What’s the old saying: ‘Monkey see, monkey do?’” he chuckles.

Phil and Harriet first met as teenagers while attending Central Memorial High School in Calgary. The couple will celebrate their 65th wedding anniversary this year.

Today, the Libins are well-known as dedicated fundraisers and philanthropists in the city. They started the Phillip and Harriet Libin Family Foundation in 2009 to help support various local organizations and have often focused their fundraising efforts on the medical field. This past year, they donated $3 million to the Alberta Cancer Foundation supporting breast cancer-related research and clinical trials at the new Calgary Cancer Centre.

With this state-of-the-art cancer centre opening its doors in 2023, the Alberta Cancer Foundation, in partnership with the University of Calgary and Alberta Health Services, has launched the OWN.CANCER campaign to raise $250 million in support of enhanced research, treatment and care within the centre.

Raising funds for cancer care and research is a cause close to the Libin family’s hearts. In 2006, Sheryl — Phil and Harriet’s daughter, Stuart’s sister and mother to Michael and Matthew— was diagnosed with breast cancer. Phil and Harriet went to every single appointment with Sheryl at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre. After an 11-year journey with cancer, Sheryl passed away from her illness in 2017 at age 55.

“Sheryl will have been gone for five years in May,” says Harriet. “I always said to Phil, ‘We have to find some way that will be meaningful to keep Sheryl’s memory alive.’ And when the Calgary Cancer Centre came up, we thought it would be a perfect place because it’s meaningful for us and because we went through the process with her.”

Sheryl shared the same generous spirit as the rest of her family, as she and Stuart followed in their parents’ footsteps to volunteer and lend a helping hand to anyone in need.

“We want to do this in memory of Sheryl and in honour of Stuart,” says Phil.

In recognition of the Libins’ contribution, the Calgary Cancer Centre is naming the Knowledge Centre auditorium the Philip and Harriet Libin Auditorium. The space will facilitate meetings, seminars and conferences where medical professionals and patients alike will have a space to communicate and share research.

“This will be a centre of excellence for research,” says Phil. “Educational lectures in this auditorium are going to be key to the patients who are travelling along their cancer journey. For Sheryl, she was sitting on pins and needles wondering, ‘What is this disease doing, how quickly is it moving?’ The unknown is the scariest. So, this auditorium will be a venue to provide a source of information and can help cancer patients start to see how their journey is going to fall into place.”

The Calgary Cancer Centre is still under construction, but requests are already underway to book the auditorium for patient advisory meetings, support groups and lectures.

“We’re quite excited for the centre to open,” says Harriet. “Even though it isn’t going to work for our daughter, this will offer hope for others. Throughout the years and growing up, there was always some member of our family who was not well. It became a part of our lives and always felt important.”

When it opens next year, the 1.3-million square foot Calgary Cancer Centre will have capacity to treat more cancer patients with increased space for clinical trials that is currently available at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre. It will also contain 110,000-square feet of dedicated research space.

“I really hope this centre will give people confidence knowing they have a place to take their loved one to be cared for,” says Harriet. “I hope that in the not-too-distant future, they’ll find cures for some of these cancers or make things easier for people if they can’t be fully cured. I think Sheryl would be honoured to know that we remember her in this way, and she’s in our hearts always.”

Phil and Harriet have raised significant funds for multiple causes over the years. Phil, who led a successful career in development and commercial real estate, has been a member of the Rotary Club of Calgary since 1989 and has served on the boards of various charities. Together, they’ve helped raise millions for local communities and causes.

“You do these things because you want to,” says Phil. “And because there’s a need for them.”

Giving back is a generational habit for the Libins. Growing up, Stuart also learned to contribute back to both the Jewish community and the community at large. As an adult, he joined the Rotary Club of Calgary and the Rockyview Hospital Fund Development Council.

“It was always natural,” Stuart says, “they always had a bug in my ear. I guess you could say I learned a great lesson from [my parents].”

The Libin’s lessons — their generational generosity — will continue to have a lasting impact here in Calgary and will make a tremendous difference for cancer patients at the Calgary Cancer Centre and beyond.


Originally written by Jennifer Friesen and published in the Alberta Cancer Foundation’s Blog

Dr. Fiona Schulte is dedicated to helping young patients carry the weight of cancer

Dr. Fiona Schulte

Madison Tutt was going into grade 10 when she got the news: cancer. Not just cancer but an eggplant-sized  neuroblastoma tumour growing in her abdomen, wrapping around her aorta, which explained the pain she’d been feeling all through her body for the past two years. The athletic young Canadian had been setting her sights on making the high-school volleyball team, but now she had much more stressful things on her mind.

She started chemotherapy immediately after her diagnosis; her hair began falling out on Christmas day. After four rounds, and the accompanying nausea and exhaustion, the treatment failed. Her doctors removed the mass in a high-risk surgery, but this brought additional complications – a collapsed lung, a stent that led to a life-threatening blood clot, fear and frustration that this would never end.

Maddison Tutt today

“It took so much longer than what I thought for me to recover. I wasn’t expecting all the hiccups along the way. And that’s where I got really upset and down because I thought this was going to get my tumour removed and everything would be better. I was afraid of a relapse,” she says.

At around this time, Madison was introduced to the psychosocial oncology team at the Alberta Children’s Hospital, including psychologist and researcher Dr. Fiona Schulte, PhD, R. Psych. Over the next few years, Fiona and the team helped to carry the weight of the disease for Madison, supporting her and letting her know that her feelings were normal.

Helping children and adolescents cope with cancer

Fiona Schulte, an AHS clinician and member of UCalgary’s Arnie Charbonneau Cancer Institute and the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute,  always knew she wanted a career in psychology and working with patients. It was when she witnessed a family member’s battle with breast cancer that she shifted her sights to oncology, specifically the psychological impact of cancer in young children.

Pediatric psychosocial oncology is an emerging field, brought about by a new reality that more and more children are surviving cancer. Fiona’s research interest began with understanding how cancer impacts a young child who is diagnosed with cancer, and their family. She is interested in the psychological impact of this for development and mental health – both at the time of diagnosis but also longer term.

“We know that there are certain therapies that impact brain and development in terms of cognition, which has implications for social development and psychological wellbeing,” Fiona says.

Improving the patient experience through integrated care

Fiona is working to understand both the immediate and longer-term psychological impacts of the disease. “The story doesn’t end when treatment does,” says Fiona, who advocates for supports, education,  and knowledge around what the longer term cancer experience looks like. She says cancer needs to be viewed as a chronic health condition; her recent research follows a cohort of children across their lifetime to understand the late effects of diagnosis and treatment. She wants to understand the potential risks and protective factors, including genetic and biological components – something she says is only possible by collaborating and working outside of our silos.

Fiona sees this integration as one of the greatest opportunities of the new Calgary Cancer Centre, which includes a unique new dedicated clinical space for adolescent and young adult care. This space, she says, will allow clinicians and researchers to work together like never before and find new ways to integrate clinical care and research.

Hailing from Eastern Canada, she sees the new cancer centre as a very Calgary enterprise. “I came to Calgary because I knew it to be up and coming, a city of growth and a place of real potential for change.” She believes Calgary can be the leader and hub to take this work further, but “this is not going to be the work of one institution alone. We need to come together as researchers so that we can look at larger samples and populations of survivors to really be able to speak with more certainty about what some of the longer-term impacts may be.”

To Fiona, owning cancer means taking control. “We might not be able to cure cancer, but there are things that we can do. Depression, sleep, anxiety – these are modifiable targets for intervention. I think that is powerful.”

Owning cancer

Madison has been cancer-free since 2014 but still experiences side effects, including pain. She continues to see members of the psychosocial oncology team at Alberta Children’s Hospital on an as-needed basis. She recently graduated from Bow Valley College’s Business Administration Event Management program and is excited for the future.

She says that the support and care she received, at the Alberta Children’s Hospital and through the psychosocial team, made an indelible impact and helped her become who she is today. “While cancer is not something I would wish on anyone, it’s brought me a lot closer to people and has helped me to think, grow and learn.” It’s also helped her to support a young girl she babysat, one who had the same exact cancer as her – an experience she holds near to her heart.

She’s excited for the potential that lies ahead through the Calgary Cancer Centre. “All cancer journeys are scary but having a facility like this will help.” She believes giving to this campaign is important, considering that one in two of us will be impacted by cancer during our lifetime. “Donating may help you down the road, or a friend or family member. Or maybe it’s no one you know personally, but you’re helping someone out. And that’s owning cancer.”