Benefactor Profile: Leighton McDonald

By Wendy Campbell:

Although the internet was originally conceived as a free resource, creating and mounting content is far from free. This newsletter and the website where it appears are possible through the generous support of Closing the Gap, a healthcare organization providing a number of community health services in a wide range of settings. Occupational therapy and physiotherapy form part of the team of professionals that work toward Closing the Gap’s aim of “enriching lives and changing tomorrow”.

I met and talked with Leighton McDonald, president of Closing the Gap, in his Mississauga office on a recent wintry morning. Born and raised in Rhodesia, Leighton left for university in Cape Town in the eighties, during the war of independence that led to the establishment of the Republic of Zimbabwe. Although he came from a family of lawyers, he had always had medicine as his goal. While working as a family doctor for a short time after qualifying, he developed an interest in the field of occupational health and practiced for a number of years in the mining industry. During this time, he also gained a strong sense of the inequities and inefficiencies in the South African healthcare system and a desire to affect change. He brought these ideas with him to Canada in 2014.

Arriving here in Toronto without a commitment to a specific job, his interest in treating individuals with HIV/AIDS in South Africa led him to the Ontario HIV Treatment Network where he was Chief Operating Officer until recruited by Closing the Gap in May of 2016. It also prompted him to join the Board of Directors of Casey House, Canada’s first and only stand-alone hospital for people with HIV/AIDS. He has served on their Board of Directors since 2014, taking over the position of Chair in 2016.

Leighton feels passionately that investments in preventative medicine avoid extensive and expensive care as well as being the right thing to do for individuals and society. He and Closing the Gap value the role that physical therapy and occupational therapy play in keeping people, particularly our aging population, active, mobile and out of hospital. Although funding increases annually for community care, it doesn’t keep up with the increasing demand for service – and the gap widens. Representing Closing the Gap in meetings with government, Leighton’s philosophy is to work collaboratively towards a long term integrated strategy to better serve our citizens.

In addition to his involvement in improving the delivery of health care in the community, Leighton takes pride in Closing the Gap’s workplace wellness initiatives in a variety of settings. These take the form of identifying health risks by checking blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels and monitoring anxiety provoking situations that can lead to mental health issues. Recognition of the stresses faced by many low income employees has led to courses in financial literacy being given in the workplace.

We’re grateful for the financial assistance to launch our website, which we hope will inform and engage our alumnae. We’re also grateful to have a supporter like Leighton McDonald in our corner, both in our roles as rehabilitation professionals and as health care consumers.