The Nanji family — giving back

When Gulshan and Pyarali Nanji fled persecution in Uganda in 1972, they and their four children were welcomed to Canada.

The couple pledged to one another that if they became financially able, they would give back to the country that had provided them with a safe refuge. The Nanjis have made good on their promise.

Respected and admired within and beyond their Ismaili community, the Nanji family’s legacy of philanthropy is remarkable. They have donated millions of dollars to causes that are close to their hearts. Sunnybrook is one of the fortunate recipients.

Mr. Nanji is president and CEO of Belle-Pak, one of Canada’s Top 50 Best Managed companies. He has also been recognized as one of Canada’s Top 25 Immigrants, was awarded Male Entrepreneur of the year by the Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce and won the Positive Aging Award in 2015.

The Nanjis’ generosity is likely to touch the lives of many patients who visit Sunnybrook.

Their most recent donation means that more patients will be rapidly diagnosed by some of the most advanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines available. Once installation is complete, Sunnybrook will have four state-of-the-art MRIs, one fully paid for by the Nanji family.

“MRI impacts patients throughout the hospital every day,” says Dr. Masoom Haider, chief of Sunnybrook’s Department of Medical Imaging. “We use MRI to detect life-threatening conditions. We use it to guide precision treatments, like cancer surgery and radiation. And its importance only continues to grow as we conduct research that pioneers new uses for MRI.”

The Nanjis’ involvement with Sunnybrook stretches beyond their gifts. They strive to better understand the hospital’s needs by making regular visits and talking to doctors, researchers and hospital staff.

It’s a dynamic established more than a decade ago, when they first learned of a growing need to support adolescents living with mood disorders. Their donation toward brain sciences acknowledged an area of health care that, at the time, wasn’t getting much philanthropic support. Other donors soon came forward, helping turn Sunnybrook’s youth psychiatry division into the largest in Canada.

“My passion is to help youth who struggle with serious mood disorders that make everyday life a challenge,” Mr. Nanji says.

The Nanji Family Foundation continued to support Sunnybrook, contributing to the expansion and renovation of the emergency department and creation of the Nanji Emergency Response Centre, which serves patients with acute needs and provides dedicated space for emergency psychiatric patients.

The foundation next made a major investment in two critical areas: the Nanji Ambulatory Centre, which occupies 30,000 square feet and is the location of Sunnybrook’s out-patient clinics for dermatology, ophthalmology and vision sciences, plastic surgery and rheumatology, and the four-floor expansion of Sunnybrook’s main wing. This helped to complete the world-class Women & Babies Program facility.

Many life-saving and patient-care improvements at Sunnybrook over the past 12 years can be traced back to the promise Mr. Nanji made to himself as he arrived at his new home in 1972.

“Giving back to a community that has given so much to us is just the right thing to do,” Mr. Nanji says.

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