Take a look back at the April issue of Leaside Life, on our Green Heroes pages, and you will find Ben Chan there, with his and his family’s initiatives to live as green a life as possible.
Now Ben has become a hero of a different sort. As a researcher at the University of Toronto, Dr. Chan is working with other U of T researchers to develop a simplified, low-cost ventilator that is easy to mass produce, as a backup option in case we run out of regular ventilators in Ontario during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In his spare time (before the pandemic changed our world), this extraordinary individual enjoyed playing with a local band, The Parkhursts (named for Parkhurst Boulevard of course, where some of the band members live). He plays bass, but is also accomplished on guitar, piano, drums and vocals. In usual times, the band plays at special events in the neighbourhood.
“…the highlights of my day right now – living through this period that is very hard on all of us where it is important to find ways to support, and connect with each other” – find him up on his second floor balcony, with his amps, microphone and guitar at the southeast corner of Bessborough and Sutherland – with the daily 5 p.m. “community sing-song” where “during this COVID crisis, we band together as a community to pay tribute to the healthcare workers, delivery people and all those keeping us going.”
Ben grew up in Toronto and obtained his MD from the University of Toronto. He was originally interested in “student government and big-picture systems issues, so went on to study economics and health systems.” He didn’t stop there. He holds a Master of Public Health (Harvard) and Master of Public Affairs (Princeton) and completed an Executive Program for Non-Profit Leaders at Stanford University. He is also an affiliate scientist at the Institute for Clinical Evaluation Sciences (ICES).
At the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at U of T, Ben is an assistant professor of Global Health working on strategy and leadership for healthcare quality. Medical students in one of his classes have just finished practicums in a variety of low-resource locations, ranging from Northern Ontario, the Northwest Territories, and inner-city Toronto to small Caribbean islands, where their emphasis was on “quality management in healthcare in low-income settings.”
He keeps his hand in Emergency Medicine by helping out with last-minute demands for additional staffing in small towns such as Clinton and Seaforth in Southwestern Ontario. Recently, he has been doing 24-hour shifts, spread out over three to four days. Over the years, he has provided primary care and been an emergency physician in more than 70 rural and Indigenous communities.
Ben is fluent in English and French, nearly fluent in Spanish, and is progressing on the other three official United Nations languages – Russian, Arabic and Mandarin. These are useful for working with the World Bank in Washington, DC where he spends time usually every three months, for missions five to six times a year in countries in French West Africa, and in Latin America where he helps to raise awareness and funds to improve primary care healthcare.
Ben serves on the board of directors of Children Believe in Markham. On his board profile page, he describes himself as being “curious, conscientious and creative.” Also quoted – “My childhood dream was to get married and live happily ever after.” He laughs at that quote now, but also says “my wife likes it.”