The Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health (DMCBH), a partnership between the University of British Columbia and Vancouver Coastal Health, officially opened Feb. 27, uniting under one roof research and clinical expertise in neuroscience, psychiatry and neurology.
The building is named after Vancouver philanthropist Djavad Mowafaghian in honour of his $15-million donation to UBC. Construction of the $70-million building is supported by the B.C. government ($25M), Industry Canada ($10M), Canada Foundation for Innovation and matching funds from the BC Knowledge Development Fund ($6.48M), as well as by $13.5M in donations from Charles Fipke, the Townsend family, the Borgland family, and Rudy North.
The DMCBH is home to clinics for Multiple Sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, depression and other brain disorders.
“For individuals like me with brain-related conditions, this building exudes hope,” said Marilyn Lenzen, a North Vancouver resident, MS patient and participant in UBC-VCH research, who was one of several people at the opening ceremony. “The atmosphere here is one of restlessness, of not being content with accepted, conventional treatments. I am proud to be part of that process of discovery, and gratified to see that even more patients will now be able to do the same.”
Innovative programs that integrate research and patient care, led by Canada’s top researchers – including Canada Research Chairs, BC Leading Edge Endowment Fund Leadership Chairs and a Canada Excellence Research Chair — will offer British Columbians improved access to treatments and clinical trials.
The DMCBH will also house research labs in concussion, stroke, addiction and healthy aging, and serve as a venue for the education and training of hundreds of medical students and graduate students.
“It’s especially meaningful for me to be here for this opening today, as I will head home after this event to attend the funeral of a family member, a retired doctor, who died this past week after struggling with Alzheimer’s disease,” said the Honourable Judith Guichon, OBC, the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia. “We know that there’s a lot of hard work, and that answers will take time, patience and long hours. But little by little, pieces will be discovered, the keys to unlock the mystery will be found, and we will be able to improve the outcomes for so many.”
Brain dysfunction affects one in three Canadians from early childhood to old age, costing more than $30 billion annually. It’s expected to overtake heart disease and cancer as the leading cause of death and disability in Canada by 2020.
Bridging the research-clinical gap
“This multidisciplinary, collaborative approach puts UBC and our Vancouver Coastal Health partners in an absolutely unique position to make material advances that will benefit generations to come,” said Stephen J. Toope, UBC’s President and Vice Chancellor. “For UBC this is an extraordinary occasion in our history.”
David Ostrow, President and Chief Executive Officer, Vancouver Coastal Health, said, “VCH understands that when researchers and clinicians have the opportunity to work alongside each other, patient problems become tangible and urgent – and this is where solutions come from. As a result, the innovation that will take place at the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health will lead to better patient outcomes and promote better care for every British Columbian affected by brain disease.”
In addition to clinics and research laboratories, the DMCBH will also serve as a venue for teaching and learning, where hundreds of UBC medical students and graduate students can take advantage of the interdisciplinary activity and the proximity of research to patient care. Clinical spaces will have larger exam rooms and work spaces to accommodate instructional activities.
Located directly in front of UBC Hospital, the 13,709 square-metre centre was designed by Stantec with patients in mind, including short walking distances, simplified way-finding and numerous places where patients can rest or pause.
A major clinical feature at the DMCBH is an expanded infusion room. Under the supervision of doctors and nurses, MS and Alzheimer’s disease patients routinely receive intravenous medication infusions that may last five to eight hours. The new infusion room, with natural light, WiFi and space for family and visitors, represents a significant improvement for patient care. The facility also hosts the largest cohort of a national MS drug treatment trial, led by Dr. Anthony Traboulsee, who is also leading a national study on CCSVI.
The centre will include a brain tissue and DNA bank, a state-of-the-art repository that preserves donated patient material which could be used to identify genetic risk factors for diseases.
The building is designed to meet the LEED Gold standard by employing a suite of sustainable strategies focused on reduced energy consumption, conservation of water, and use of materials that are low in volatile organic compounds.
Initial B.C. government investment was announced in March 2008, and construction began in October 2011. In March 2013, HRH The Duke of York toured and dedicated the cornerstone of DMCBH. Thirty years earlier, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh opened the Imaging Research Centre which preceded the Brain Research Centre, a partner in the creation of the DMCBH.
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James Moore, Federal Minister of Industry and Minister responsible for British Columbia, said, “Our Government is proud to support partnerships like the ones that came together to make this Centre a reality. The treatment that this facility will provide, will have a positive impact on the lives of those Canadians suffering from brain diseases and disorders, and put British Columbia at the forefront of cutting-edge research technologies for many years to come.”
Terry Lake, the B.C. Minister of Health, said, ”On behalf of Premier Christy Clark and the provincial government, I wish to acknowledge and thank those who contributed to this centre, including the generous donation from Dr. Djavad Mowafaghian. The innovative health research and clinical care that will take place at the facility will help us ensure better patient outcomes now and in the future.”
Background: Djavad Mowafaghian
Born in Tehran in 1927, Djavad Mowafaghian, CM, OBC, lost his father at the age of one and was raised in a modest household by his mother, to whom he attributes his passion for giving.
In 1987, Mowafaghian decided to make Vancouver his home after visiting and falling in love with the city. In 1990, he established a company that developed and managed several office buildings. In 2003, he created and funded the Djavad Mowafaghian Foundation with a mandate of bettering the lives of children through health and education.
Since 2003, the Foundation has helped many organizations. In 2004, it supported a redevelopment project at BC Children’s Hospital that included the creation of a new oncology wing. It has also contributed to UBC, Simon Fraser University, and over twenty other charities in the Vancouver area.
In 2010, Mowafaghian decided to contribute to the construction of the new Centre for Brain Health. He choose this project as it would play a role in studying and finding cures for brain disorders affecting both adults and children.
In his remarks at the opening ceremony, Mowafaghian drew upon the words of the 13th century Iranian philosopher and poet Rumi, who wrote that a person can be continually reborn by new ideas.
“It is my hope that scientists working in this centre will be reborn every day — reborn with a new idea — so that thousands of suffering people who enter through the doors of the brain centre with brain disorders, pain, and tears in their eyes can later exit through the discharge doors with shining, smiling faces, hearts and mouths full of gratitude, and arms and legs swinging joyfully and pain free,” he said. “If UBC accepts me as a volunteer, it would be my great honour to be stationed at the discharge door of the brain centre, and to give each cured patient who leaves a long-stemmed rose and hug. The day I am able to do so will be one of the best and most rewarding days of my life.”