May 25, 2022
UCalgary change inspired by philanthropic contribution to precision health
A building on the University of Calgary’s Foothills campus is being renamed in honour of more than $20 million in giving to precision health by Calgary businessman and philanthropist Cal Wenzel.
This month, the Teaching, Research and Wellness Building is being renamed the Cal Wenzel Precision Health Building to honour more than $20 million in philanthropic contributions from the Cal Wenzel Family Foundation. This includes a new $16-million commitment to expand the Cumming School of Medicine’s (CSM) precision health research capacity.
“Precision health is core to the Cumming School of Medicine’s strategy, but CSM doesn’t do this alone; this vision is empowered by transdisciplinary research and partnerships with our community,” says Dr. Ed McCauley, president and vice-chancellor, University of Calgary. “The name change recognizes more than a decade of philanthropic commitments by Mr. Wenzel and his family through the Cal Wenzel Family Foundation. It is also a reflection of, and testament to, outgoing CSM dean Jon Meddings’ vision and leadership in precision health.”
Precision health is a vision Dr. Jon Meddings, MD, championed during his 10 years as dean of the CSM. In simple terms it involves finding the right treatment for the right person at the right time. It’s a personalized approach that takes into account the effect of factors like family history, genetics, diet and lifestyle on an individual and culminates in a specific disease that requires specific treatments. The CSM has been a world leader in several areas of precision health for years, and today’s announcement aims to further advance its capabilities locally and globally.
“I have been tremendously impressed with the precision health research taking place at the CSM and especially the researchers themselves, who are so talented and enthusiastic. Having a chance to talk to a few of them, I felt like I had to do what I could to support them. They believe they can make a difference and I believe they will,” says Wenzel. “And like Dr. Meddings says, precision health really is the future.”
Examples demonstrating the CSM’s leadership in precision medicine include:
- The International Microbiome Centre where scientists are investigating how an individual’s microbiome — made up of trillions of bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi — influences the way we interact with the world, and how we might harness it for wellness
- Data from the Centre for Health Informatics providing insights and analysis for matters of public health, like wastewater monitoring during the COVID pandemic
- Diagnostic, research and training opportunities in cardiovascular magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) at the Stephenson Cardiac Imaging Centre
- Individualized immunotherapy that uses existing cancer drugs in a whole new way, treating rare cancers by using someone’s own cancer cells
- Lead centre for the Prairie regions Marathon of Hope Cancer Centres network is bringing precision oncology to the forefront. Clinician-researchers are working together with 15,000 cancer patients to gather data to develop targeted therapies
- Research to individualize drug treatments for those with difficult-to-treat epileptic seizures
“At the CSM, pursuing solutions to today’s health challenges using precision health is central to what we do. But we can’t do it alone. Investments like the one announced today with the Wenzel family play an instrumental role in our future. The commitment from Cal and his family will allow us to expand precision health in Alberta and continue to pursue new frontiers in medical research,” says Meddings, whose 10-year tenure as CSM dean ends at the end of June.
He says the new funding will support the CSM’s ability to attract and retain top precision health researchers and scholars to Calgary.
The Cal Wenzel Family Foundation has been supporting medical research in Calgary for more than a decade including funding a Hepatology Chair since 2010, a cardiometabolic disease research program as well as other endowments and research projects.
The building, located on Hospital Drive, is one of the most recognizable on Foothills campus. Its eye-catching glass front prominently faces 16 Avenue NW. The building houses CSM departments and offices, research institutes, UCalgary’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, which recently announced plans to double enrolment, and Alberta Health Services clinical spaces, including the only publicly-funded facility dedicated to colon cancer screening in Canada. The building was constructed in 2005.
The University of Calgary is working with The City of Calgary and AHS to transition parking and wayfinding signage to reflect the building’s new name. The CSM acknowledges this will take time — and thanks you for your patience and for assisting in the process. Please reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you identify something that needs to be updated after fall 2022.