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  • Writer's pictureDave Veale

Dialogue with a “Dragon”

Updated: Sep 23, 2021

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The Honourable Anne McLellan has agreed to be one of four esteemed Dragons in this weekend’s Medical Dragons’ Den. Funded by the Saint John Regional Hospital Foundation (SJRHF), it’s the first event of its kind in Canada and will showcase three innovative ideas for advancing healthcare in New Brunswick – with a $500,000 prize for the winning idea.

Born in Nova Scotia, Anne is a former Deputy Prime Minister of Canada and has held several senior cabinet positions, including Federal Minister of Natural Resources, Minister of Health, Minister of Justice, Attorney General of Canada and Federal Interlocutor of Métis and Non-Status Indians. She is senior advisor in the national law firm Bennett Jones LLP and has been the Chancellor of Dalhousie University since May 2015.

In July 2009 Anne was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada and in October 2013 she received the Alberta Order of Excellence.

Anne holds a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Law degree from Dalhousie University as well as a Master of Laws degree from King’s College, University of London. Anne has served on the board of Nexen Inc. and presently sits on a couple of publicly traded boards including Nutrien.

I started my conversation with Anne by asking her how she ended up becoming one of the Dragons in the upcoming Medical Dragons’ Den event…

A:     I met Saint Johners Derek Pannell and his wife, Judith, while on the board at Nutrien. Derek was so excited about this idea of a new way to do philanthropy for the SJRHF. When he asked me to consider being a Dragon for the 2018 event I immediately agreed.

Q:     Who are the other three Dragons joining you in the Den?

A:     Scott McCain, President of JSM Capital Corporation, Dr. David Elias, President and CEO of Canadian Health Solutions, and Steve Douglas, Executive Vice President and Chief Integration Officer with Nutrien.

Q:     What was your initial reaction when you first heard about using the Dragons’ Den concept with a philanthropic twist?

A:     It seemed like a thoughtful and fun idea – a great way of encouraging philanthropy, encouraging a larger segment of the public to take an interest in medical research in the area and learn more about the research initiatives that doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals are pursuing in the region and throughout the hospital.

Q:     How are the three applicants that will pitch to the Dragons chosen?

A:     The SJRHF seeks applications from people in the healthcare profession in the region. Jeff McAloon, President & CEO of SJRHF, and his people take a look at all the applications and narrow them down to three. The final three applicants, on the night of the Medical Dragons’ Den, will be making their pitch to us as to why they should be awarded the $500,000 medical research prize.

Q:     Who is your favorite Dragon from the Dragons’ Den on CBC?

A:     My favorite Dragon is Arlene Dickinson. She’s very thoughtful. We need a lot more role models like her in Canada.

Q:     How does your position as Chancellor of Dalhousie University tie into what you’re doing this weekend with the SJRHF?

A:     The Saint John Regional Hospital Foundation is a teaching hospital for our medical program at Dalhousie – an important connection. The healthcare professionals, the doctors and others who are presenting interact with our students on a regular basis.

Q:     Is there criteria that the Dragons will apply to the pitches that are being made?

A:     We are encouraged to apply some criteria. One of the criterions is the magnitude of impact the idea can have in the local area or region. That’s important in terms of improving the quality of healthcare for residents.  Other criteria are innovation, the impact on patients, the strategic nature of the investment, sustainability, the project timetable and return on investment.

Q:     After the presentations to the Dragons, what happens?

A:     We adjourn and, as a group, work through our impressions and opinions. Then we announce the winner of the $500,000 – to be used to help the winners pursue their research.

Q:     How important is an event like this with respect to innovation in healthcare within Canada?

A:     I think it’s very important on a number of fronts. One, philanthropy’s hard. Raising money isn’t easy because there are so many demands on people’s resources and on their interests. It’s important when you’re encouraging philanthropy to have interesting and novel ways of approaching it to capture people’s interests.

There is the opportunity to put a team together and bear down on an idea. To think about how they can move the idea forward to improve the quality of healthcare in the region and possibly beyond. So it should have a very practical application in improving the quality and quantity of medical research.

Q:     I understand they are anticipating a sold-out event at the Imperial Theatre on Saturday Night.

A:     That was Jeff’s promise. He and Scott McCain may have money riding on it.

Q:     You talked about Arlene Dickinson being a great role model, what is your perspective on the importance of role modeling good leadership.

A:     I think it’s very important. I focus a great deal on women, women in politics, particularly because I spent twelve-and-a-half years as an elected politician and minister in the governments of Prime Ministers Chretien and Martin. I think it’s important to have strong, accomplished female role models in politics and in business – in all walks of life – including medicine and education.

Women have been underrepresented. Therefore, it is important to see women achieve and succeed in roles that have traditionally been more associated with men.

I do hope that we will see a female president of the United States very soon. I also hope that we will see another female Prime Minister of Canada. I have the greatest respect for the Honorable Kim Campbell. She’s a friend of mine.

Q:     What are the qualities that helped you play a leadership role in the political arena?

A:     Anyone who knows me knows that when they come to talk to me about anything, I’ll say, ‘Interesting idea. Where’s the plan?’ If you want to go into politics, you need a plan. Some people say, ‘Show me the money,’ I say ‘Show me the plan.’

You need to be determined and focused. You need to be prepared for surprises.

It’s an uncertain and, I’d say, potentially more dangerous world than we have seen for some time. Resilience is going to be important – being able to take the unexpected onboard and not overreact or under-react, but thoughtfully examine what happened, bring the right team of people together to deal with the issue and move forward.

Q:     What specific advice would you offer to young aspiring female leaders?

A:     Work hard, be focused, be curious and don’t let other people tell you what you can and cannot do. Be active. Be engaged. See where you can make a difference in your community regardless of your age or your background and then build from there.

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This article published in the Telegraph-Journal on Friday, April 6, 2018

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