Walter and Maria Schroeder
Walter and Maria Schroeder’s generous $25 million donation will help UHN’s innovative arthritis program become a world-class hub for innovation in research, education and patient care. (Photo by Cavouk)

For Jill Miller, a diagnosis of osteoarthritis in her knee that she describes as "knife-like" pain, nearly put an end to her weightlifting career.

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, causing the cartilage surrounding the body's bones and joints, to degenerate. 

"I did not want to give it up," Jill says about weightlifting, the sport that took her and her husband to championship tournaments all over the world. "But the pain was intense."

One in five Canadian adults is currently living with arthritis, a disease causing inflammation of the joints, which can result in chronic, debilitating pain, reduced mobility and premature disability.

Arthritis is the leading cause of disability globally.

To address this growing crisis, the Schroeder Arthritis Institute, launched with a $25 million donation by philanthropists Walter and Maria Schroeder, will help UHN's innovative arthritis program become a world-class hub for innovation in research, education and patient care.

Dr. Robert Inman, a rheumatologist, and Dr. Mohit Kapoor, a leading scientist in osteoarthritis will be Co-Directors of the new Institute. 

"Maria and I have put a great deal of thought into making this gift and ultimately we were persuaded by the vision and leadership of Dr. Kapoor and the arthritis team at UHN," comments Walter. "We want to be part of an effort that will finally put an end to unnecessary pain and suffering from arthritis and related conditions."

Drs. Mohit Kapoor and Robert Inman
Dr. Mohit Kapoor, (L), a leader in osteoarthritis research, and Dr. Robert Inman, a rheumatologist, will be Co-Directors of the new Schroeder Arthritis Institute (Photo: Courtesy The Globe and Mail)

Funds will go toward supporting top scientific talent and providing critical salary and infrastructure resources for the entire research team, which includes 51 scientists and clinician-scientists, 113 trainees and 200 staff.

"The Schroeder Arthritis Institute is being launched with an integrated vision, a carefully crafted strategic plan and sustainable business model," says Dr. Kapoor. "Combined with our world-leading multidisciplinary team of scientists, clinicians and educators, the Schroeder Arthritis Institute is destined to be one of the top institutes in innovation, learning and clinical care, in the world."

The Institute will encompass research, education and innovations in clinical activities within four clinical programs: Hand, Orthopedics, Osteoporosis and Rheumatology, with the core goal of pushing the boundaries of discovery, learning and patient care.

"The Schroeder Arthritis Institute will be the leading entity in Canada to provide an integrated multidisciplinary approach for the management of bone, joint and connective tissue diseases," says Dr. Inman. "This Institute is something we have long dreamed of and with the help of Walter and Maria Schroeder, we will now be able to make our dream a reality."

"This incredibly generous investment in the Schroeder Arthritis Institute at UHN is game-changing for patients and scholarship," says Dr. Kevin Smith, President & CEO of UHN. "Six million Canadians are currently living with arthritis and its sequelae. Thanks to the generosity of Walter and Maria Schroeder, we will continue to make a difference in their lives through care, research and education as a globally renowned academic health sciences centre."

Building on the momentum of the arthritis team's progress in recent years, including innovations in surgical approaches for bone and joint diseases, new diagnostics and treatments in ankylosing spondylitis, lupus, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, psoriatic arthritis, scleroderma and Sjogren's syndrome, as well as the development of predictive tools for orthopedic surgery outcomes, this donation will enable the arthritis team to make a global impact through early diagnosis, innovative treatments and prevention.

"This unique approach, creating alignment and synergy between our research and clinical teams, can only serve to help translate discoveries faster, and benefit patients sooner," says Dr. Brad Wouters, Executive VP, Science & Research, at UHN. "This gift will help solidify UHN's status as the largest research hospital in Canada and as a leader in arthritis research and clinical care, globally."

After several surgeries and the opportunity to participate in a clinical trial involving stem cell injections in her knee, Jill Miller is back to training and competing, and now helps others maximize their capabilities of performance as a facilitator, thanks to the exceptional care she received at UHN.

Looking ahead to future competitions, despite the challenges, she is optimistic.

"I just might win," she says with a smile.

Quick facts about the Schroeder Arthritis Institute:

  • 80,000 patients treated annually
  • 1,200 joint replacements performed each year
  • Home to one of the world's largest arthritis clinical cohorts & tissue biobanks

Quick facts about arthritis (Source: Arthritis Society)

  • There are more than 100+ types of arthritis
  • By 2040, one quarter of Canadians will be living with arthritis
  • Arthritis costs the Canadian economy approx. $33 billion each year
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