Group photo of Aziz family

The Albert and Florence Aziz Family Foundation commits $650 000 over 5-years to support the work of genetic disease expert Dr. Donald Vinh

The Aziz Family donated $650,000 to the SDR Project to support the work of genetic disease expert Dr. Donald Vinh.

Karen Aziz jokingly admits that their affinity for the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) began when she, her twin sister and two brothers were born, at the Royal Victoria Hospital. Established in 1893, “The Vic” fell under the umbrella of the MUHC until most of its operations were moved to the Glen site in 2015.

Reflecting upon her childhood, Karen says the importance of giving was instilled in her family from a young age. “Hard work and caring for others was always expected and praised. Looking after other people was very important. My parents were always involved with the church and the community,” Karen recalls.

Today, community and philanthropy remain top priorities for the Aziz Family. It was through a family friend, Jim Hindley, that they discovered the work of Dr. Donald Vinh. Last year, Jim, his granddaughter, Shawnea Roberts and their family launched the SDR Project to support Dr. Vinh’s ground-breaking work to uncover and treat genetic diseases.

Shawnea has lived with an unexplained illness for decades, and only Dr. Vinh has promised to ease her ongoing medical woes. The goal of the SDR Project (named after Shawnea’s initials) is to raise $2.5 million over the next 5 years to create the Centre of Excellence for Genetic Research in Infection and Immunity at the MUHC. The new centre will provide Dr. Vinh and his team the resources and tools necessary to help more people with unexplained illness.

The SDR Project held an event late last year with a presentation from Dr. Vinh to discuss his research. After attending, Karen was inspired to support the doctor, who is affectionately known as the Canadian Dr. House in homage to the fictional TV character who also solves medical mysteries. According to Karen, much like Dr. House, “Dr. Vinh’s the type of doctor who never says no.”

Upon learning about the SDR project, Karen thought, “Why not try to keep the greatest doctors here in Montreal?” Resolving to do just that, the Aziz family made a donation toward the acquisition of the Biomark HD. This valuable piece of equipment allows for the examination of the 25,000 genes found in the human genome—and will enable Dr. Vinh to take his genetic studies to the next level, while he continues to improve the lives of patients like Shawnea.

Dr. Vinh performs immunological and genetic investigations to help treat patients with inexplicable or mysterious conditions. His research also focuses on identifying genetic defects of the immune system that explain why certain people are prone to infections. Thanks to the Aziz family, Dr. Vinh can pursue his studies and treat thousands more patients.

Other MUHC projects involving COVID and its long-term effects further inspired Karen’s family to donate to the MUHC Foundation. “It’s close to the heart because of the respiratory issues in our family,” she says, explaining that not only did her late father experience respiratory issues, but her son was born very prematurely and has since been followed by the Respiratory Clinic at the Montreal Chest Institute.

Karen believes all donations are impactful, and encourages people to support projects that touch their hearts. “Even if it’s $20 or less. Just give whatever you can. It’s not only about the big donations. No matter what the donation is, it’s all great—and it makes people feel good, too,” she says.

Consider making a donation of any amount to the SDR Project—every gift makes a difference. To learn more and to donate click here.