The founders and co-owners of Nature’s Path — a family-operated company and one of the world leaders in organic food manufacturing and distribution — have recently made a $1 million donation to VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation.
Ratana and Arran Stephens’ generous philanthropic gift establishes the Stephens Family Fellowship in Gastroenterology, a 10-year program that will support future Canadian leaders in clinical care and research.
The cause is particularly important to both Arran and Ratana, as more than a decade ago, Arran was diagnosed with terminal liver failure and was in urgent need of a life-saving liver transplant. Their daughter, Gurdeep, donated half of her liver in 2011, allowing her father to live and continue his work.
“My family and I are so grateful to the doctors and nurses at VGH for our life-saving surgeries,” says the Stephens family. “In gratitude, we made our first million-dollar donation to the liver transplant department of VGH to enable the purchase of much needed diagnostic equipment. And now, our latest donation is just a continuation of our deep appreciation.”
This gift will allow trainees, known as fellows, to work alongside and learn from leading specialists at VGH, participate in clinical care opportunities and take part in translational research projects to benefit patients.
“Support of the Division of Gastroenterology at VGH will have a tremendous impact on the care of countless future patients,” said Dr. Eric Yoshida in VGH’s Division of Gastroenterology. “The Stephens family have been incredibly generous in their commitment to transform medical care and research in B.C. We are extremely grateful to them.”
In particular, fellows will be part of VGH’s interventional endoscopy service which encompasses procedures like colonoscopy and gastroscopy. The program will also lay the groundwork for the teams at VGH to attract and retain the next generation of specialists.
“This fellowship is directly supporting interventional endoscopy, especially work on pancreatic disease,” says Dr. Michael Byrne, Director of the Interventional Endoscopy Program at VGH. “We are delighted to have this amazing and generous support from the Stephens family, which allows us to provide an even better interventional endoscopic service to our patients with pancreatic disease and allied conditions.”
These future medical professionals will ultimately receive a comprehensive learning experience within the VGH environment, which means better care for patients now and into the future.
Nature’s Path, which is perhaps best well-known for their organic breakfast cereals, is run out of Richmond, B.C., and has the family’s own values of altruism and ethical business practices at its heart.
Supporting medical research and other philanthropic endeavours are a major part of how Arran and Ratana conduct both their personal lives and run their business.
Ratana, who is originally from India, says she was raised by her values-driven grandmother to have compassion and always lend a helping hand to the less fortunate.
Arran, who grew up on his family’s berry farm on Vancouver Island, notes a similar ethics-driven up-bringing. He says his parents taught him to always leave the earth better than you found it and not to judge others because of outer differences.
Previously, the family had donated to empower the Gastroenterology Department to purchase a Fibroscan system, which allowed the hospital’s medical experts to scan patients painlessly without the need for a biopsy.
The seeds of Nature’s Path started with a small family restaurant, funded by $7 from Arran’s own pocket and a $1,500 loan. The company has now grown to employ 650 people, and their organic products are sold across 50 countries — an impressive growth that is founded on these principles of ethics and benevolence.
In addition to their generous donations to VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation, the Stephens family has worked with numerous charities, non-governmental institutions and organizations in B.C. and, between personal donations and charitable contributions from Nature’s Path, have contributed $40 million to worthy causes.
The couple were recently the recipients of the 2021 Order of British Columbia — a recognition awarded to civilians who have served with distinction and excellence in the province — for their continued dedication to altruism and sustainability in the province. This year’s recipients also include Chief Joe Alphonse of Tsilhqot’in Nation and Dr. Bonnie J. Henry of Victoria.