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Saturday, October 25, 2014

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New Baycrest chair aims to improve seniors’ lives

Tags: Health
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Garry Foster

TORONTO — Garry Foster has a simple goal for his three-year term as chair of Baycrest’s board of directors.

He wants to improve the lives of seniors.

A chartered accountant and vice-chair of Deloitte, Foster, 61, said in an interview at a Baycrest café that being Baycrest’s chair gets him out of the boardroom.

“I get to connect with the people, and really see what’s going on here,” says Foster, who is married and has two married children and one grandchild.

Foster became acquainted with Baycrest when he took part in a fundraiser. He went on to work on the board’s finance committee, he said, after the late Gordon Wolfe, former executive director of Jewish Family  & Child, encouraged him to join.

“I was aware of the work it does, but when my mother-in-law became a resident, I saw how amazing the place is. There is caring and compassion, as well as a drive for excellence.”

Among his other volunteer work, Foster, who was was recently vice-chair of the Baycrest Foundation, has been a member of Mount Sinai Hospital’s board of governors since 1999, president of Jewish Family & Child, and chair of the board of governors of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Talking about Baycrest, Foster said, “not many places are world leaders in what they do, but Baycrest is in that realm. Its research will transform aging. Our research into cognitive neuroscience is a gift that the Jewish community has given the world.

“I am honoured to be part of a world-class academic health sciences centre. It continues to build an international presence as an innovative leader in care delivery and systems solutions for aging populations.”

Recently, he said, Baycrest scientists went to Washington, D.C., to debut the world’s first functioning virtual brain, at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience attended by 32,000 scientists and clinicians from around the world.

“The virtual brain can show a simulation of how a normal brain works, as well as the activity pattern after it has had a ‘virtual’ stroke,’” Foster said.

“The project is now entering Phase II, bringing it a step closer to creating a predictive modelling tool that will change the way we assess and rehabilitate brains that have suffered damage from stroke, epilepsy or the early stages of Alzheimer’s, for example. The project team plans to demonstrate the effects of a stroke and epilepsy on the brain to basic and clinical neuroscientists in Europe next spring.”

Despite being a world-class facility, he said, Baycrest, which has the largest kosher kitchen in Canada, has never lost its heritage or culture. “The Jewish community is still the bedrock of Baycrest. It is important to stay connected to our roots.”

Community support makes Baycrest special, he said. “Money donated goes to improve the life of residents, and of people who come here [for services.]”

Foster said that during his term, he wants to figure out how to use the centre in the best way possible.

“How can we provide services for the community, using this centre as the hub?”

He would like to see the government provide the resources to make it possible for Baycrest to deliver services in people’s homes – to keep people at home and live a fruitful life, he said.

“It’s all a matter of funding. A lot of people would rather live in their own environment.”

He wants to change Baycrest’s image, he said, “but not too much. I want to take our research and disseminate it to the world, and I want to be known as the world’s leader in cognitive neuroscience. At he same time, though, I still want it to be the Jewish place on Bathurst Street.”

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