The Bresver Family’s generous donation helps the University of Toronto make history
News & Updates | March 22, 2022 | Rita Scagnetti
The announcement was made in February: the University of Toronto (U of T) created a new academic position, the first of its kind in Canada. Dr. Jeff Myers was appointed the Bresver Family Chair in End of Life Care and Medical Assistance in Dying in the Department of Family and Community Medicine (DFCM) in the U Of T’s Temerty Faculty of Medicine.
“Congratulations to Barbara and David,” said DWDC CEO Helen Long. “This is philanthropy at its best and sets a great precedent. Medical students from across disciplines will take this skill set all over the world and contribute to improving people’s end of life experience.”
This news was the culmination of two years’ of discussion with DFCM for Barbara Bresver, Director at Large with the GTA Chapter of Dying With Dignity Canada, and her husband David, a commercial real estate lawyer. Barbara’s career as a psychologist, decades of watching loved ones die without the support they craved, and her volunteer work as a MAID witness and promoter of Advance Care Planning (ACP), made one thing abundantly clear to her.
“I came to realize how critical it is for doctors to have the most up-to-date information, communication skills and confidence to be able to discuss all options in their conversations with ill and dying patients,” she said.
David’s uncle, Abe Bresver, endowed a foundation in his will – named for his mother Feiga – intended to support research and higher education. With a clear objective, Barbara and David made connections with U of T Faculty of Medicine so that they could realize their vision through a $1 M donation to the university.
“Through this contribution we will see the creation and implementation of a curriculum for new doctors that comprises Advance Care Planning and End of Life training, with a focus on communication. This ‘language’ will be an intrinsic part of a doctor’s training, repertoire and view of medicine,” said Barbara. “It has been a privilege to be able to make this happen.”
Shortly after she retired four years ago, Barbara became involved with DWDC as a witness. “I feel honoured to connect with people at such an emotionally critical time in their lives.” She emphasized that she is constantly struck by the gratitude expressed by the individuals for the support offered.
Besides donating to the DWDC, Barbara also gives generously of her time. In the last 12 months, Barbara has conducted personal ACP workshops for more than 40 people on a volunteer basis, helping them address what she calls the “approach/avoidance dilemma” on the subject of death and dying.
“This is something I can contribute – it’s natural, it’s logical for me,” she said and once again noted how struck she is by the gratitude and sense of relief participants voice.
Through the foundation, David, Barbara and their family have been fortunate to be able to support innovative research at the Hospital for Sick Children, Alzheimer’s Research at Baycrest Centre and Indspire, a national Indigenous charity that invests in postsecondary education of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people to fulfill academic aspirations.