New gift to OWN.CANCER campaign builds on renowned Calgary strength in cancer-focused emotional and psychological research and care

OWN.CANCER Campaign Co-Chair John Osler (left) and philanthropist Patrick Daniel unveil a plaque in honour of the Daniel Family Foundation's gift

OWN.CANCER Campaign Co-Chair John Osler, left, and philanthropist Patrick Daniel unveil a plaque in honour of the Daniel Family Foundation’s gift. Photo by: Adrian Shellard, for the University of Calgary.

Cancer patients and their families will benefit from a new multimillion-dollar gift through the OWN.CANCER campaign (a partnership between the University of Calgary, Alberta Health Services and Alberta Cancer Foundation) to advance Calgary’s world-leading psychosocial oncology research and care.

The $5 million contribution by Calgary philanthropist Patrick Daniel and his family will support a world-class clinician-researcher through a new research Chair in Psychosocial Oncology in the Department of Oncology and Arnie Charbonneau Cancer Institute — a joint entity of Alberta Health Services and the University of Calgary.

Psychosocial oncology (PSO) is a cancer specialty that addresses the social, psychological and emotional issues that arise with a cancer diagnosis and treatment, as well as survivorship. With one in two Albertans currently expected to face a cancer diagnosis, this work is essential.

Calgary’s already world-renowned program will benefit greatly from the gift, as well as a new collaborative space in the Calgary Cancer Centre. The Daniel Family Foundation Psychosocial Oncology Hub will bring clinicians, researchers, care teams and families together — under one roof — to collaborate on the cancer challenge in a way that hasn’t previously been possible.

A family affair

Patrick Daniel's mother, Catherine Daniel

Patrick Daniel’s mother, Catherine Daniel, was passionate about psychosocial oncology after her cancer diagnosis in the late 1970s. Photo: Courtesy Patrick Daniel

The retired energy executive is a long-standing champion of psychosocial oncology. Daniel’s connection to it is personal: his mother, Catherine Daniel, truly owned her 1978 lymphoma diagnosis and years of treatment by researching and developing her own emotional and mental well-being plan. Daniel says she did this four years before the first meeting of early experts on psychosocial oncology in Canada even occurred.

“It was a very unusual thought at the time; not very many people connected your mental and emotional health with your physical health. The fact that she believed so much in it made me want to do something to help,” Daniel says. Catherine went on to enjoy spending time with her children and grandchildren for another 14 years before she died in 1992, he adds.

A long-standing champion for PSO, he’s given generously to the field — first through Enbridge, where he served as president and CEO from 2001 to 2012, and later through the Daniel Family Leadership Chair in Psychosocial Oncology at UCalgary. With this new gift, he hopes to capitalize on the opportunity for growth through the Calgary Cancer Centre and OWN.CANCER campaign

“UCalgary’s work in psychosocial oncology has been world-recognized and makes a real difference. It is very satisfying to be supporting such globally impactful work,” says Daniel.

On the map

Dr. Barry Bultz, Ph.D., is a global founder of psychosocial oncology whose work put Calgary on the map in this field. Bultz, an Alberta Health Services psychologist and UCalgary researcher, led the development of some of the very first protocols for screening for cancer-related distress — known as the ‘sixth’ vital sign in cancer patients — which are now embraced as the standard of care in cancer hospitals around the world. Earlier this year, he was recognized with the Order of Canada for his work.

“The way we treat cancer goes beyond the tumour to address the whole patient and their unique journey. In Calgary, we have focused our research on really understanding the psychological needs and social well-being of patients with cancer, both during and after treatment,” says Bultz, the Daniel Family Leadership Chair in Psychosocial Oncology.

“We are placing a major research emphasis on survivorship and identifying new strategies to help patients transition to life beyond cancer.”

UCalgary clinician-scientists were also among the first to use their own research to develop and customize mindfulness-based therapy programs and relationship workshops for patients coping with cancer. Current research includes integrative oncology, as well as examining the unique needs of survivors of pediatric cancer. This work is bolstered by philanthropy, including the Alberta Cancer Foundation’s Enbridge Research Chair in Psychosocial Oncology and the Button Family Initiative in Pediatric Psychosocial Oncology and Survivorship.

Catalyzing opportunity

The new Daniel Family Chair in Psychosocial Oncology will lead psychosocial oncology research and care for the next 10 years at the new Calgary Cancer Centre, harnessing strengths around access to psychosocial patient outcome data through Alberta’s unique province-wide electronic health record system and UCalgary’s research partnership with Alberta Health Services (AHS).

UCalgary offers powerful capabilities to analyze the data. New data-driven research will enhance real-time communication among researchers, care providers and patients and families, and foster a learning healthcare system where care is continuously improving for other Albertans who enter the Calgary Cancer Centre’s doors.

“This generous gift from Patrick will enable us to attract additional internationally recognized leaders to build on our research excellence in the psychosocial space — providing a power-up for this critical work. It will attract talent, international collaborations, and research funds to Calgary to fuel projects of significant global importance,” says Dr. Jennifer Chan, MD, director, Arnie Charbonneau Cancer Institute.

“The Daniel Family Foundation Psychosocial Oncology Hub at the new Cancer Centre will support research, clinical care and community engagement centralized under one roof,” says Dr. Don Morris, MD, Ph.D., head of UCalgary’s Department of Oncology; and facility medical director, Tom Baker Cancer Centre and the new Calgary Cancer Centre, Alberta Health Services.

“It will allow resultant multidisciplinary teams to provide cutting-edge psychosocial cancer care for our patients and their families. The opportunities afforded by this chair will significantly expand the scope of the new cancer centre’s reach to address the diverse needs of pediatric, young adult and adult cancer populations, and encourage new and collaborative partnerships with underserved communities.

“In addition, this gift will allow the recruitment of the best and brightest trainees as part of the next generation of psychosocial oncology researchers and clinicians.”

UCalgary President Ed McCauley, Ph.D., agrees: “World-class research and education are absolutely driving better care. This targeted and proactive approach can help mitigate further cancer-related challenges — reducing overall healthcare costs and allowing patients and families to return to work faster and live their lives more fully.

“We are so grateful to the Daniel Family Foundation for their philanthropic vision and commitment to changing the trajectory of cancer.”

Learning to live again without fear

Beth, breast cancer survivor, and her husband Chuck

Beth Fortin with her husband, Chuck Fortin

Beth Fortin, a Calgary breast cancer survivor, mother and supervisor in the insurance industry, finished her treatment in April of this year. While the cancer is no longer in her body, it left behind serious symptoms of trauma and distress. She says the psychosocial oncology care she continues to receive through Tom Baker Cancer Centre has been tremendously helpful for both herself and her partner, Chuck.

“No matter what your stage of cancer is, you are going to end up with psychological trauma, because you have to learn to live every single day with the possibility of recurrence. The counselling I received has empowered me to start living again without fear,” Fortin says.

“I feel proud to live in a city with this calibre of expertise in cancer-specific psychosocial therapy and I would encourage every cancer patient to seek it out.”

Like Catherine did before them, the Daniel Family Foundation is delivering a tangible impact on the lives of countless cancer patients.

“There’s so much yet to be done. We’re only really scratching the surface in terms of emotional and mental health and what it does for physical health,” says Daniel

At the Calgary Cancer Centre, we’re bringing together researchers, medical teams, prevention experts, patients and families in ways never before possible. Help make an impact for patients and donate to the OWN.CANCER campaign today.

As originally published on UCalgary News.