Hamilton’s McMaster University receives $32M gift to create new health sciences hub

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Published February 1, 2022 at 2:22 pm

McMaster University received a donation of more than $32 million that the institution hopes will boost its role as a hub for biomedical innovation, entrepreneurship, and global health. (McMaster University photo)

Hamilton’s McMaster University received a donation of more than $32 million that the institution hopes will boost its role as a hub for biomedical innovation, entrepreneurship, and global health.

The gift from Alabama physician and entrepreneur Marnix Heersink and his wife, Mary will create the Marnix E. Heersink School of Biomedical Innovation and Entrepreneurship to educate the next generation of entrepreneurial health innovators.

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“I think McMaster is the perfect place to make this donation because of its well-earned reputation in innovative health care learning and research,” said Heersink, who was born in the Netherlands and grew up in Burlington, Ontario. After graduating as a physician, he moved to Alabama where he has a successful career as an ophthalmologist and business leader.

“Health care, innovation and entrepreneurship go hand-in-hand. We’ve seen how McMaster encourages this trend and I was inspired. The possibility of amplifying health-care innovation beyond McMaster is what motivates me to make this donation, which I consider an investment in the creation of more opportunities for others.”

Marnix grew up in Burlington and even sold newspapers in Hamilton.

A portion of the gift will also create the Mary Heersink Centre for Global Health, which will help to create new solutions addressing emerging trends and threats to global health, such as pandemics and the climate crisis.

Mary Heersink, a food security author and advocate, is a founding member of the international advisory board for McMaster’s Global Health Graduate Program, which includes a consortium of universities in the Netherlands, India, Thailand, Norway, Colombia and Sudan.

“The problem-based learning model that came out of McMaster University’s pioneering work is now embraced across the world, and it is a proven entity that has already transformed medical education,” she said.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored we need a new way of teaching healthcare workers and new approaches to public health in the global arena. The pandemic stretches beyond the physical and medical to the economic, psychosocial and educational disruptions that cut across all societies and boundaries,” she added.

David Farrar, McMaster’s president and vice-chancellor, believes in this holistic approach

“We are very grateful for this major gift from Marnix and Mary Heersink, which will allow us to cement the link between cutting-edge biomedical science and entrepreneurial activity, helping McMaster to lay the foundations for a new innovation ecosystem right here in Hamilton,” he said.

The Marnix E. Heersink School of Biomedical Innovation and Entrepreneurship will be based at the Michael G. DeGroote Centre for Learning and Discovery on McMaster’s main campus, and in the future, it will be housed in a new purpose-built building, as McMaster develops Canada’s Global Nexus for Pandemics and Biological Threats.

In Sept. 2021, the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) received $95 million US from Marnix and Mary Heersink. Subsequently, the University of Alabama School of Medicine announced its name would become the Marnix E. Heersink School of Medicine.

The UAB is now in the process of creating the Marnix E. Heersink Institute of Biomedical Innovation and the Mary Heersink Institute for Global Health. These two major new programs at UAB will complement and work with the matching programs at McMaster.

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