Meet Julie Desharnais, Executive Director of the HMR Foundation

Photo of Julie Desharnais, new Executive Director of the Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital FoundationJulie Desharnais is the new Executive Director of the Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital Foundation. Let’s meet her.

What did you do before joining the Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont Foundation?

I was Vice-President, National Strategic Initiatives for the Canadian Cancer Society. Prior to that, I worked for more than ten years at the Fondation du DJulien.

You have extensive experience in philanthropy.

Indeed, I have more than 20 years of experience in philanthropy, both as a manager and volunteer. I assisted many non-profit organizations. I have served on boards of directors and was involved in the organization of major fundraisers, events, and several negotiations with different levels of government to secure the funding needed to update care and services.

What led you to apply for the position of Executive Director of the Foundation?

I have always worked toward improving the health and living conditions of people in the east end of Montreal, first as a social worker at the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve CLSC, then as Assistant Executive Director at the Fondation Dr Julien.

Commitment is the connecting thread throughout my professional career. I have always wanted to make a difference, help others, and have an impact. Applying for the position of Executive Director of the Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont Foundation was therefore a logical next step, one that matches my professional aspirations.

So, you know quite a bit about the health care sector?

Beyond the health field, in which I have been involved for a very long time, I have been working for years with vulnerable people in the east end of Montreal. I know their immense needs. I know their fragility. And Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont is at the heart of this reality, today probably more so than ever before, as this reality has been compounded for nearly a year now by a pandemic that is hitting hard the surrounding neighbourhoods and its patients.

At the same time, health and medicine are constantly evolving, especially at Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont. It is here that, thanks to exceptional teams, phenomenal expertise is being developed in several fields. Thanks to its donors, the Foundation is proud to contribute to the development of tomorrow’s medicine.

Health innovation in the east end is a very forward-looking project. It is no coincidence that the Hematology-Oncology and Cellular Therapy University Institute of the Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont will soon be home to the first gene therapy production unit in Canada.

What did you know about the HMR Foundation, before joining?

I knew the Foundation as a partner and as a neighbor since the offices of the Canadian Cancer Society are nearby. I was also following the evolution of major undertakings, such as the Centre of Excellence in Cellular Therapy, research in hemato-oncology and stem cell therapies, which represent considerable advances in the fight against cancer. We were directly linked by these innovative projects.

By joining the Foundation, I welcome the opportunity to contribute, in all humility, to advancing research, developing access to cutting-edge training and innovating in care and services. The Foundation and its donors have a direct impact on the population, patients, and families. This makes me proud. I have the feeling that I am making a difference. This is what drives me: making a difference!

How does the pandemic affect philanthropy?

The philanthropic community has been directly impacted by the pandemic on several levels: the first and most well known has to do with events and the loss of revenue stemming from the fact that they could not be held as before (public health measures). On that front, the Foundation is actually doing quite well, because its partners, donors, volunteers, all took action and showed their support – demonstrating the strong, close link that exists between the Foundation and its “great family”.

Nevertheless, non-profit organizations have had to reinvent themselves in virtual mode. The human contact that is so important in life in general, and even more so in philanthropy, is lost.

We are all very eager to resume our recognition events and our fundraising events, so that we can continue to underline how important it is to support the Foundation and its Hospital, as well as demonstrate the tremendous work that is being done on a daily basis.

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