Cheryl Wellington knew a few tricks of the trade when she set out to buy new equipment for her neuroscience lab, thanks to strategic advice from the business veterans supporting her dementia research.
Raymond Heung and Stanley Hamilton encouraged Dr. Wellington, a Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, to contact the vendors shortly before year-end, when sales quotas need to be met, and negotiate discounts on the machines and service contracts.
The two men have nearly a century of combined experience in real estate – Heung in the acquisition, development and management of commercial real estate and Hamilton as a Professor at UBC’s Sauder School of Business. Together, these philanthropists take a venture-capital approach to giving.
“If the cause is justified and we think we can make a difference, we spend time and get engaged,” says Heung, who established the Y.P. Heung Foundation three years ago with his wife, Terry, to honour his late father.
Heung, the foundation’s trustee, and Hamilton, an advisory committee member, were attending a forum on Alzheimer’s disease when Dr. Wellington first caught their attention.
“We were impressed by her articulate presentation on a subject that can be quite difficult to understand, and perhaps more importantly, by her passion,” Heung says.
After three meetings with Dr. Wellington, Heung and Hamilton decided to donate $200,000 for new equipment in her lab in the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health. The Faculty of Medicine contributed $50,000 and leveraged the Y. P. Heung Foundation’s gift to secure an additional $300,000 from another B.C.-based foundation.
“All of my equipment was 15 years old – they don’t even make parts for some of it any more,” Dr. Wellington says.
So far, Dr. Wellington has bought four new devices.
“We’ve essentially eliminated three major bottlenecks in our analytical methods,” says Dr. Wellington, whose research focuses on risk factors for dementia, including lipid metabolism, traumatic brain injury and cerebrovascular dysfunction. “A test that used to take three days now takes three hours.”