“I know first-hand what epilepsy can do to a family… The anxiety, worry and stress. And despite being one of the most common neurological conditions worldwide, there’s still not enough known about its root causes, diagnosis and treatments.”
– Ali Pejman, VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation board member and philanthropist
Ali Pejman is a man on a mission: to transform epilepsy care in British Columbia.
Born from fatherhood and watching his own daughter suffer through the condition, Ali knows better than most the impact epilepsy can have not only on patients, but their loved ones, too. The late nights up with worry. The tests that come, but not soon enough. The experimenting with different medications and all the impacts that has on the body.
“Epilepsy is truly pervasive,” says Ali. “It changes the trajectory of so many people’s lives. It makes them plan out, and often miss out, on things we all take for granted—dinners with friends, sleepovers, road trips. And that’s just the start. My daughter appears to have outgrown it. After seeing all this myself, I couldn’t stand by and do nothing.”
Today, more than 50,000 people in BC are diagnosed with epilepsy. VGH is the provincial centre for neurosciences and home to the Seizure Investigation Unit (SIU), the only service of its kind in BC that assesses and evaluates challenging and complex neurologic disorders, including epilepsy. Currently, between wait times and experimenting with different medications, patients can face multiple hurdles in finding effective treatments. Meanwhile, they suffer from increasingly debilitating symptoms.
“It’s not right,” says Ali. “So then I asked, what was the problem? And it became clear it was about
resources—funding specialists and the technology they need to build a better future for epilepsy care in BC.”
And so Ali got to work.
Ali, a member of the Foundation’s board of directors, set out to raise $1 million to fund Fellowships in epilepsy at both VGH and BC Children’s Hospital.
He connected with more than 40 friends and business associates who contributed towards this fund. What started as a $1 million goal ended with an incredible $2.7 million.
“To raise that kind of money single-handedly, who does that? With no committee, no gala, just by reaching out to friends,” says Kirsten Pejman, Ali’s wife.
The initiative will fund Fellowships for specialists from around the world, starting their extra specialization under the tutelage of Dr. Yahya Aghakhani, Head of the Epilepsy Program at VGH, and his counterpart Dr. Mary Connolly from BC Children’s.
Fellowships are a critical lynchpin in expanding the knowledge and expertise available at VGH. These investments in the brightest medical minds will improve the level of care available at our hospitals.
“This incredible initiative will empower us to transform epilepsy care in BC, and pave the way for the next generation of medical superstars,” says Dr. Aghakhani. “We are so grateful to Ali Pejman and his friends for this transformative gift to provide the best care to children and adults living with epilepsy.”
From all of us at VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation, thank you Ali.