For more than five decades, Bob Saunders has been selling and developing real estate in Vancouver. Bob has played a role in the growth of many industrial areas in Greater Vancouver including the very early development of Gastown alongside four partners.

Yet his impact on some of the most beloved areas in the city may never have happened at all without the help and support of the medical experts at Vancouver General Hospital.

Fighting colon cancer, kidney failure, and a spine infection

In 1990, Bob was diagnosed with colon cancer. He was so impressed with the care he received at VGH that he started giving back to the hospital that helped him through his time of need.

This relationship would only grow stronger when he later received care for kidney failure, followed by a procedure to remove kidney stones in 2011 by Dr. Ben Chew, Director of Clinical Research at the Stone Centre at VGH.

Then in 2015, Bob faced another grave and life-threatening situation—a severe infection of his spine and two collapsed vertebrae. Dr. John Street, spine surgeon with the Complex Spine Program at VGH, needed to perform surgery immediately.

“I never thought I would see my wife, Trish, again,” says Bob. “If it wasn’t for Dr. John Street and the spectacular care I received at VGH, there’s no way I’d still be here. They saved my life. And I’m walking today.”

Investments for the future

Bob knows better than most how investment today pays off for future generations. This philosophy has guided his choices in his successful career, and today has led to extraordinary and transformative gifts in health care.

To date, the Saunders have donated more than $5M in support of various causes at VGH, including Dr. Chew and the Stone Centre, Dr. Street at the Blusson Spinal Cord Centre, and the renal program headed by Dr. Nadia Zalunardo.

Dr. John Street, Bob Saunders and Dr. Nadia Zalunardo.

Dr. John Street, Bob Saunders and Dr. Nadia Zalunardo.

“It was time,” Saunders says. “It’s better to give now than when it’s too late.”

These gifts are empowering the clinician-scientists at VGH to perform transformative research that will impact care today and well into the future.

Transforming health care today

“I am extraordinarily grateful to the Saunders and all they have selflessly given,” says Dr. Zalunardo, who has been treating Saunders’ kidney issues for the past six years. “These gifts allow our researchers to invest in innovations that would otherwise not be possible.”

Dr. Chew agrees.

“Through these gifts, we are able to conduct vital research to help improve the treatment and care available for those suffering from kidney stones,” says Dr. Chew. “We’re looking into some very exciting areas now, including the connection between the intestinal microbiome—health bacteria—as it relates to kidney stones.”

The spinal program will be dedicating new funds to hiring a full-time research coordinator to work with other health care centres to develop and disseminate protocols to fight spinal infection and complications for patients in hospital—afflictions Saunders knows all too well.

Already in the six years since his surgery—with the Saunders’ support—protocols developed at VGH have been extended across Canada and internationally.

“One of the values that Bob and Trish saw was how each year we’ve been able to expand the influence of our research,” says Dr. Street.

Paying it forward

Despite all he has generously given so far, Saunders vows to give more—as long as he can.

“When you’ve been in the hospital as many times as I have, you appreciate the care you get from these outstanding doctors, the nurses, the facilities,” says Bob. “They’re just phenomenal—and you want to make them better so they can save other people too.”