June 1, 2022

A healthy future for Albertans

At the CSM, our success is made possible by the overwhelming generosity of our philanthropic champions

Unveiling the Cal Wenzel Precision Health Building May 25, 2022.

Adrian Shellard

Calgarians are just different. That’s the only way I can describe it.

How else do you explain thousands of individual donors giving more than half a billion dollars to the University of Calgary’s medical school in the past decade.

Our medical school is named the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM) in honour of Geoffrey Cumming who donated $100 million in 2014, the largest single philanthropic gift in UCalgary’s history. The CSM has research institutes with names like Charbonneau, Hotchkiss, Snyder, O’Brien, Libin and McCaig because of an overwhelming generosity and sense of community found in our philanthropic champions. The name of our seventh research institute — the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute — is a testament to our remarkable partnership with the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation and the community who supports this life-changing work. 

There is another name to add to that esteemed list — Cal Wenzel.

Cal and his family are well-known both for having built the homes of thousands of Calgarians as founder of residential builder Shane Homes and as a strong voice in the local homebuilding industry. What you may not know about the 78-year-old grandfather, is he has given $16 million to the CSM through the Cal Wenzel Family Foundation to expand the CSM’s precision health research capacity. A prominent building on the university’s Foothills campus is being renamed the Cal Wenzel Precision Health Building to honour his remarkable contribution.

The commitment from Cal and the Wenzel family will allow us to continue to pursue new frontiers in medical research and support our ability to attract and retain top precision health researchers and scholars to Calgary.

People who live in cities that have medical schools, like ours, are fortunate to have access to the newest health research and health care. And precision health — in simple terms, finding the right treatment for the right person at the right time — is the future of medicine.

Philanthropic partners like Cal Wenzel and Geoff Cumming enable our school to move from great to extraordinary. Their contributions extend beyond the dollars — they help us attract the best learners and researchers to create new knowledge and improve the health of our citizens. Their dollars and leadership serve as leverage for provincial and federal funding, bringing money and opportunity to Calgary, and expanding our ability to contribute knowledge and commercialization opportunities to Alberta’s economy. 

They enable leadership in precision health through facilities such as the International Microbiome Centre, where scientists are investigating how to further harness an individual’s microbiome for greater wellness; the Centre for Health Informatics, which is providing insights and analysis for matters of public health, like wastewater monitoring during the COVID pandemic; bringing precision oncology to the forefront, pursuing advanced opportunities in cardiovascular magnetic resonance imaging and so much more.

These gifts drive innovation and allow us to remain nimble — ready and able to capitalize on opportunities that come our way and meet the most pressing, and sometimes unexpected, health challenges of our time. The reason it matters can be found close to home for all of us — behind the research and statistics is the health and well being of a colleague, friend, family member or perhaps ourselves.

For all of us at the CSM, improving health — by bringing the most advanced research to create the best and most precise care — is at the core of what we do.

My 10 years as the dean of the Cumming School of Medicine is over at the end of June. But as I leave the role and reflect on the thousands of individuals who financially support our medical school, I know our future as a city and a province is bright and healthy.