1. How did you get into healthcare philanthropy?
A purpose-driven career has always been important to me, but I didn’t always know I would end up in healthcare philanthropy. I studied biochemistry & molecular biology in university. I also supported (and then led) Dalhousie’s Shinerama fundraiser for cystic fibrosis research. I thought I wanted to be a doctor. It turns out, I was a better fundraiser than researcher. I started my career in the for-profit sector helping educational technology companies build their businesses in Canada, the US, and overseas. I was inspired by their ability to change how the world works and learns. I transitioned my career to the for-purpose sector to help more leaders build better businesses and use them as a force for good. I led the fundraising team at Habitat for Humanity Canada. Now, I work at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) Foundation as its Vice-President (Corporate & Community Partnerships). While my path to healthcare philanthropy wasn’t always obvious, I couldn’t be more grateful for my purpose-driven career.
2. Why did you choose to make healthcare philanthropy your career?
I was raised by two incredible parents who taught me to always do the most good. That core value underpins my vision of an inclusive and sustainable world that works for everyone. I chose a career in healthcare philanthropy because I believe that everyone should have access to the health care they need when they need it. In my role at CAMH Foundation I get to work with the world’s most accomplished leaders and help them and their businesses support the world’s most accomplished mental health researchers. I get to advise these leaders on how they can create mentally healthier workplaces and better support their employees’ psychological health and safety. My team and I get to build best-in-class partnerships with businesses, their leaders, and community fundraisers. Every day, I get to work with leaders who choose to put social purpose. In the best way I can, I get to contribute to Canada’s largest fundraising campaign for mental health in our country’s history and help CAMH achieve its bold vision for the future of mental health care. And to me, that’s incredible and why I continue to choose a career in healthcare philanthropy.
3. Tell us about a pivot point or crucial step in your career journey.
Early in my career, a colleague told me not to share my sexual identity at work. He told me that if I wanted to be successful, I should get back in the closet—the same closet I worked so hard to come out of in university. He was wrong. Eventually (but not quickly), I chose to be my authentic self at work. I am an out and proud gay male. My incredible husband and I are proud parents to biracial twin boys who came to our family through adoption. We are not special. But living life as my authentic self is my superpower both personally and professionally.
4. What was your first job, and what is something it taught you?
In addition to “always doing the most good,” my parents taught me the value of hard work. My mom stayed home with me and my brother and helped make sure we had all that we needed by driving a school bus. My dad was an electrician and owned his own small business for over 30 years before retiring. My first summer job was working for him, building electrical panels and doing odd jobs around the shop. I was quickly relieved of doing any manual labour and put in the front office. As it turns out, I do some of my best work in the boardroom. After a short but insightful stint working for my dad, my first job not acquired through nepotism was at Tim Horton’s—
a rite of passage for every Canadian teenager.
5. What are your future aspirations?
I hope to have a long career in healthcare philanthropy, leading progressive fundraising teams, and inspiring the next generation of leaders to change the world. Like my parents are for me, I hope to be a great role model for my children and inspire them to do all the good that they can for all the people that they can in all the ways that they can. I also hope that I can successfully train my husband to fold our clothes like Marie Kondo (I recognize that this is a stretch goal, but he’s trying-ish!).
Find Chris on LinkedIn.