Why I Give a Day – Dr. Winnie Siu

Dr. Winnie Siu

My first introduction to Jane Philpott was a picture of her smiling at me from a poster card advertising an event where she was to receive an award for her work in raising awareness and funds to fight HIV/AIDS, particularly recognizing her efforts through the Give a Day campaign.

At the time, I was a medical student early in my clinical training, doing an elective rotation at Casey House and entertaining a faint career interest in global health. I had returned from the sub-Saharan African country of Zambia just a few months earlier where I had been working on an HIV research project. The trip had left me pondering questions about social activism, the role of Canadian doctors in international health, and my responsibilities to vulnerable populations as a physician. I had not met very many doctors involved in global health, and I was intrigued by this woman who had spent almost a decade working in Niger and was now receiving an award for championing the cause of HIV/AIDS in Africa locally. A few weeks later, I heard the name Jane Philpott again, in the context of the opening of a family medicine residency program with a focus on global health. I tucked all these pieces of information away in the back of my head.

Fast forward three years, a few more international experiences, a pervasive and growing desire to engage in global health, and a number of residency interviews later, where, at present, you can find me most days working in the residents’ room beside Jane’s office at the Health for All family medicine clinic at Markham Stouffville Hospital. I am now in my second year of residency, and one amongst the first cohort of residents to train in family medicine with an emphasis on issues of multi and cross-cultural health, as well as health of populations that are marginalized and vulnerable both locally and globally.

Despite this, I must be truthful in admitting that many days, the health and well-being of those living on other continents is far from my mind. Residency has a way of making you focus intently on the here and now – the patients on your list for that morning, the on-call shift you are working that night, the presentation you are (frantically, always) preparing for the next day. Mostly, this is good and necessary: I want to give my undivided attention to the patient who is sitting right in front of me. Yet it is so easy for me to forget to consider the global context of the health and wellness of populations – and my reasons for becoming a doctor in the first place.

In as much as Give a Day is a chance for me to contribute in a tangible way to the efforts of fighting HIV around the world, it is also a reminder for me to reflect on the motivations that I promised to stay true to during my medical training, like global health equity, social justice and human rights. What is remarkable about Jane is that I believe these issues are always at the forefront of her mind. For her, Give A Day is lived out every day of the year.

The two organizations that Give a Day supports, Dignitas International and the Stephen Lewis Foundation, have deep personal significance for me, as the founders of both wrote books which directly influenced my decision to pursue a career in global health. If you Google the salary of a second-year resident in Ontario, and divide this number by 210 (the number of working days in a year), I will be donating this amount, rounded up to the nearest hundred, to the Give a Day campaign on Dec. 1.

For some of you, this amount may be too little. To this I say: Great! I’m delighted that you’ll be able to give more!

For some of you, this amount may be too much. To this I say: That’s okay; it’s not how much we give individually, but the sum of our efforts that will make the difference.

And isn’t this the point of Give a Day, after all? The seemingly daunting, insurmountable task of an AIDS-free world will one day be achieved through – and only through – the synergy of our collective contributions.

Great Results for Give a Day 2010!

We are thrilled to announce that the Give a Day 2010 campaign has raised over half a million dollars on behalf of people affected by HIV! This is a great time to celebrate and reflect on all that happened in 2010.

There was even greater energy, enthusiasm and momentum for the Give a Day movement this year. We saw the concept of “global solidarity and local solutions” put into action as communities in Canada came together in creative ways to show their strong support and solidarity for communities in Africa that are affected by HIV. We kicked off the campaign by hearing former Prime Minister Paul Martin address a sold-out crowd from the legal, medical and business communities, urging them to join the Give a Day movement. We were gratified to see how this endorsement inspired new campaigns and donations and gave us the opportunity to bring the idea of Give a Day to a wider audience.

We thank all those who participated in the Give a Day campaign. The donations received have been instrumental in allowing The Stephen Lewis Foundation and Dignitas International to continue their remarkable work in responding to the HIV and AIDS pandemic at the grassroots, facilitating access to life-saving drugs and by supporting community-based initiatives.

We are already hard at work preparing for Give a Day 2011. Please contact us at info@giveaday.ca if you would like to be a part of this growing movement! We can give you information on how to launch a campaign in your workplace or how you can join us as a volunteer.

Paul Martin Inspires Canadians to Take Action

This year’s Hot Talks event promised to inspire, and with a line-up that included former Prime Minister Paul Martin and Dr. James Orbinski, it did just that.

More than 200 people from the Toronto business community attended the sold-out event at the National Club last week to learn more about development in Africa and the role that Canadians can play in eliminating the AIDS pandemic that currently threatens the lives of millions.

Speakers highlighted the role of individual Canadians in ensuring that the issue of AIDS in Africa does not fall off the radar. They noted that even the smallest amount of support to an organization like the Stephen Lewis Foundation or Dignitas International can make a big difference.

Simple actions taken by everyday Canadians in the fight against AIDS acts like a beacon, said Give a Day founder Dr. Jane Philpott. It’s a signal to the international community that Canadians stand in solidarity with individuals living a world away, and that the issue of AIDS in Africa is unacceptable.

Many attendees have since pledged that they will recognize World AIDS Day on December 1st by giving one day’s pay to an organization that will use the money well in the fight against HIV.

Video footage of this event will soon be uploaded so check back soon.

The Right Honourable Paul Martin, Dr. James Orbinski and the Give a Day Team

The Right Honourable Paul Martin, Dr. James Orbinski and the Give a Day Team

Hot Talks: Paul Martin – Tuesday, November 9

Former Prime Minister Paul Martin will speak at this year’s Hot Talks Event. The focus of the talk will be Africa -The Economic Future:  Prospects and Challenges. In addition, Dr. James Orbinski of Dignitas International, and Dr. Jane Philpott, founder of Give a Day to World AIDS will discuss how poverty and disease play a role in the development of Africa.  Please join us at The National Club (click here for a map) on Tuesday, November 9 at 7:30 am. Tickets for the event are only 30 dollars and can be purchased here.

7:30 am – Doors Open/Breakfast Served

7:45 am – Program Begins

9:00 am – Program Ends

Please feel free to circulate this poster to your colleagues and friends: