UHN surgeon donates $500,000 towards purchase of PPE

Dimitri OreopoulosRenowned nephrologist Dr. Dimitrios Oreopoulos, pictured here in 1981 with his oldest peritoneal dialysis patient on her 90th birthday, founded Humane Medicine. Dr. George Oreopoulos became the chairman after his father died in 2012. (Photo: Courtesy George Oreopoulos)

Dr. George Oreopoulos knows his father would want him to step up and do the right thing.

So, as news of the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the fight against COVID-19 spread both internationally and nationally, Dr. Oreopoulos, a vascular surgeon at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre who is also appointed to the Joint Department of Medical Imaging, put the resources of the charity founded by his late father, Dimitrios, to work.

He donated $500,000 from Humane Medicine to UHN to be used for the purchase of PPE.

“For something as important as fighting COVID-19, we knew he would be all in,” Dr. Oreopoulos says of his father, renowned nephrologist Dr. Dimitrios Oreopoulos, who died in 2012.

Known for turning peritoneal dialysis into a practical therapy for kidney failure, the elder Dr. Oreopoulos considered one of his proudest accomplishments mentoring hundreds of aspiring trainees from around the world. In recognition for his lifetime of dedication to the advancement of nephrology, he was awarded the UHN Global Impact Award in 2012.

George Oreopoulos

“I know the team at UHN will go above and beyond to care for patients with COVID-19. I didn’t want the lack of PPE to be a barrier,” says Dr. George Oreopoulos. (Photo: UHN)

After his father passed away, Dr. Oreopoulos became the chairman of Humane Medicine, a charity Dimitrios founded with a mission to promote humanity and caring in the practice of medicine.

As a nephrologist, Dr. Dimtirios Oreopoulos always put an emphasis on building a deeply meaningful patient-to-physician relationship. If his patients were in need, he would lend a helping hand through Humane Medicine.

Dr. Dimitrios Oreopoulos credited much of his success to the support of a talented multidisciplinary team at UHN.  He took great pride in promoting and looking after his team members, many of whom continue to work at UHN today.

The idea to donate towards the purchase of PPE came to Dr. Oreopoulos after he performed an emergency operation on a patient from the COVID-19 ward. He could sense the distress among his colleagues; their worry stemming from the possible lack of PPE and the potential ethical dilemma it would put them in as the number of patients requiring support grew.

“I know the team at UHN will go above and beyond to care for patients with COVID-19. I didn’t want the lack of PPE to be a barrier,” says Dr. Oreopoulos. “My colleagues on the Humane Medicine board were in full agreement in supporting the institution where my father spent almost his entire career.”

The Humane Medicine Board of Directors, comprised of Dr. Oreopoulos and three physicians from hospitals across the GTA, knew that while Dimitrios may no longer be at the helm, it was important to champion the values he lived by and to help TeamUHN members look after patients at a time of exceptional stress to healthcare providers.

The first shipment of PPE made possible by Humane Medicine’s donation arrived on April 17.

Dr. Oreopoulos encourages others who are considering donating to do so – and do it soon.

“We have to be all in, all of us, right now,” he says.  “At the end of the day, it’s a team effort.”

During this unprecedented time, the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre is grateful to all those who have asked, “how can I help?” Between support for our frontline workers and support for COVID-19 research, these acts of generosity will help keep us all healthy and safe, and return us to our daily lives as quickly as possible.