Interview: Helga Schnider, Vice President Donor Relations
Note: Since this interview was published, Helga has officially retired! We wish her all the best.
Tell us a little about yourself!
I joined Humber River Hospital over 5 years ago when the new Hospital was just under construction. It has been an incredible journey from our legacy sites to North America’s most digital hospital. As the Vice President, Donor Relations, I oversee donor relations, annual giving, marketing and communications, community giving and events, and signature events.
In one sentence, how would you explain your job to a friend?
My job is to engage and build relationships with people, both high-touch and low-touch, to inspire them to support Humber and the future of healthcare, communicate the important impact of their support, and ensure they feel valued and appreciated.
Is there a Program of Care you have a personal connection to?
I have for a long time been an advocate for breaking down the stigma around mental health. As a community, we need to provide more support to individuals in crisis. I am very proud of our expanding Mental Health & Addictions Program and the very committed, compassionate and talented team of physicians and healthcare workers who deliver incredible care. The Hospital has many unique features from the separate EPU (Emergency Psychiatric Unit) to the outdoor courtyards on the 5th floor, to TDSB classrooms for patients that enhance the delivery of mental health services.
What are the three most interesting pieces of technology at Humber?
I love the investment in technology and innovation that creates an incredible positive impact far beyond what was expected. Things like STERIS RealView technology, a surgery patient tracking system, that allows you to track your loved one in surgery on your cell phone while you go to have a coffee and relax for a bit or maybe living half way around the world and you can stay in touch. Families are easily in the know and so appreciative.
The pneumatic tube system – a reinvented version of a nostalgic technology that significantly reduces the turnaround time for blood and other laboratory tests and urgent medications.
And Pepper– the newest addition to the Humber Family. Pepper is a child-size, humanoid robot used by our Child Life Specialists to comfort, educate and entertain young patients. It shares stories, plays music, dances and even takes selfies with you. Pepper is a huge success and demonstrates Humber being ahead of the innovation curve.
Do you have a favourite project?
I think one of the most exciting and far reaching projects was our marketing and donor relations transition from “help us finish the job” to build the hospital to now being able to talk about the impact of Humber’s state-of-the-art technology, advances in care and share amazing patient stories and outcomes. This included creating new messaging and refreshed look for the Foundation that was incorporated into many significant marketing initiatives including a new website, enhanced social media and program-specific fundraising materials, as well as our beautiful new digital donor wall that I am very proud of. The donor wall is one of a kind for hospitals in Canada located in the heart of the Hospital. It features a rotation of donor names on a gigantic screen with a smaller interactive screen that shares donor stories, hospital technology highlights, and lots of other interesting information.
What is one awesome thing you’ve done in the last year?
I went back to India! I backpacked in southern India over 20 years ago the hard way and went back this year to northern India in style. It was a combination of exploring bustling cities like Mumbai, Jaipur and Udaipur, getting off the beaten track in rural Rajasthan and a yoga retreat in a Maharajah’s castle from the 1600s (we got to meet the current Maharajah of the castle). Rajasthan was breathtakingly beautiful and I had so many once in a lifetime experiences that I will cherish with close friends and new friends. And I finally made it to the Taj Mahal!
What inspires you?
I am inspired by PASSION for whatever you do and am so fortunate to work with so many passionate people. Our physicians, nurses, and healthcare workers who go above and beyond every day and are truly dedicated to delivering compassionate care. Our donors who support the hospital from the heart and our volunteer who give their time so generously. My colleagues at the Foundation who are truly an amazing team committed to the future of healthcare. I am inspired by the passion of my yoga teachers, ballet and opera performers, my husband’s passion for his boat, and my friend’s passion for her artwork.