Donors lead the way in driving medical innovation forward and hope to inspire others

Originally published in QEII Times.

$1-million gift provides funding and leverage for new medical innovations

Author: Tanya MacLean

John Hunkin and Susan Crocker strongly believe that any hospital system that is going to be great needs considerable, leading research happening in the background.

That’s why this forward-thinking couple has donated $1 million to the QEII Foundation to create the Innovation Catalyst Fund to accelerate health transformation at the QEII Health Sciences Centre.

The Innovation Catalyst Fund will rapidly fast-track innovative concepts into practice by providing grants to QEII leaders for their ideas that have the potential to transform local care and provide global solutions that will improve the lives of patients.

Solutions centred around refining systems, building prototypes, performing beta trials and simulations, launching field studies, and demonstrating proof of concept.

“The QEII has the size, scale, and talent to make a huge impact on medical innovation,” shares John. “There is already a vast amount of leading research and innovation happening here but there is still great opportunity to introduce more innovation and give it visibility so that the community knows what’s happening.”

John is no stranger to supporting start-up medical innovation. As a founding member of Angels Den, supporting St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, John saw an opportunity here in Nova Scotia to bring forward a similar concept and presence, when he and Susan became full-time residents of the East Coast.

John and Susan’s generous $1-million gift will allow $100,000 each year for 10 years to be awarded in grants for medical innovation.

2023 was the first year for the grants, with the community rallying behind John and Susan’s vision, allowing for the inaugural year to grant $200,000 to deserving innovators.

Those innovators pitched their ideas in a Dragons Den type format on November 23. In front of a panel of esteemed Den Judges and a crowd of excited guests, Den Presenters were vying for six potential awards, including the top award of $100,000 called the New Path Award for Health Innovation.

Dr. Jennifer Johnston was the lucky top prize winner for her Better Ring project. As a family physician and founder of Elle MD Biotechnologies, Dr. Johnston saw a need to improve reliable birth control without the use of hormones.

With the support of the Innovation Catalyst Fund, Dr. Johnston hopes to launch her first clinical study in 2024 for her novel contraceptive device.

“Support for innovation is critical to making progress and improving health outcomes. The more we can do locally, the better we can help patients in Nova Scotia and hopefully, beyond,” explains Dr. Johnston, a mother of four who believes deeply in improving health care, especially for vulnerable populations.

The ripple effect is something that excites Susan when she thinks about the future of the Innovation Catalyst Fund.

“This is just the start. It’s about building profile and showcasing some of the ways donors can participate in driving medical innovation. I hope others join us,” says Susan. “It’s so important to support research, especially at the early stage. Support attracts more support, builds momentum, and fosters opportunity for big vison and big impact.”

For more information on how to donate to the Innovation Catalyst Fund, visit