Putting research forward


Neil and Susan Manning’s donor story

On October 5th, 2017, we had the privilege to announce a very special gift that demonstrates the power of philanthropy for research that aims to transform care. A Victoria family who has been impacted by cognitive health issues stepped forward to inspire Island Health, the University of Victoria and the University of British Columbia to partner and develop The Neil and Susan Manning Cognitive Health Initiative. To fund the program the Mannings have made a generous pledge of $2.5 million to the Victoria Hospitals Foundation.

Through this Initiative, Island Health, the University of Victoria and the University of British Columbia’s Island Medical Program will come together for the first time on a joint research project. Collectively, they aim to improve the diagnosis and treatment of dementia.

This visionary project will see the development of state-of-the-art digital tools for early diagnosis, the integration of research protocols into patient care, and the tracking of dementia patients throughout Vancouver Island into a single real-time Dementia Guidance System database that will cluster patient’s symptoms, treatment plans and outcomes. Over time, these tools will be available for use by family physicians to assist with early diagnosis and care across Vancouver Island.

For Island Health, there is a compelling need to learn more about this complex and devastating illness, and how best to help patients and their families. In addition to having a high population of older adults, Vancouver Island is experiencing a “rising tide” of dementia, with many types of dementia and advanced and complex cases. Fortunately, the family physicians, clinics, hospitals and community care services that treat patients with cognitive health issues all operate under a single health authority (Island Health) creating an ideal environment in which to conduct clinical and health services research.

“When a cognitive health illness impacted our family and we began to understand this issue, we realized that while much research had been done, there is still so much more to do to solve the riddles around cognitive diseases,” said Neil Manning. “We reached out to the healthcare professionals in Victoria, as it is our home, and asked how can we help? The vision they created for this project resonated with us. For the past two years all the partners have worked to finalize the details. It is our great hope that the knowledge gathered will, in time, help thousands of patients.”

“This program demonstrates the power of philanthropy for research that aims to transform care,” said Bruce Dyck, Victoria Hospitals Foundation’s Board Chair. “This gift, which is our first significant research gift, will bring together some of our best researchers and clinicians to create an unequalled legacy of healthcare that will improve dementia care for people across Vancouver Island. We are so grateful to Neil and Susan Manning for their vision and generosity and extend our deepest gratitude.”

“If you have had a family member impacted by a cognitive health issue you know how devastating the diagnosis can be,” said Leah Hollins, Board Chair of Island Health. “As this program unfolds, clinicians from Island Health and researchers from UVic will design and run a collection of cognitive health disorder studies. They will also engage medical professionals, giving them the opportunity to conduct research with their patients and deliver quality care simultaneously.”

The project will also aim to expand clinical trial opportunities for patients with dementia, including studies of investigational new drugs otherwise not currently available to patients on the Island.

“This donation creates an exceptional opportunity to advance health research collaborations on Vancouver Island, and represents the way of the future for research partnerships,” said Professor Jamie Cassels, President of UVic. “The initiative announced today will see University of Victoria researchers, Island medical professionals, and Island Medical Program educators and students working together as teams on cognitive health research. These teams will strive to incorporate their learning into practice so that those living with a cognitive health disorder can see the benefit of this research much more rapidly.”

Dr. Bruce Wright, UBC’s Regional Associate Dean for the Island Medical Program added, “Physicians who have clinical appointments with UBC’s Island Medical Program will be some of the first to be equipped with leading-edge clinical tools through this Initiative. This will build Island Health’s capacity in the area of cognitive health while providing a best practice platform to educate the next generation of healthcare providers located on the Island.”