​​​​​​​​Ivan de Souza and Governor General David Johnston
Ivan de Souza (L) after being awarded the Meritorious Service Medal from Governor General David Johnston at Rideau Hall in Ottawa. The decoration is one of the highest honours a Canadian civilian can receive. (Photo: WO RONALD DUCHESNE, RIDEAU HALL © OSGG, 2016)​

Ivan de Souza has been recognized by the Governor General for his efforts in improving cancer care in Canada. He received the Meritorious Service Medal at Rideau Hall in Ottawa last week.

Building on the philanthropic legacy of his wife Anna Maria de Souza, Ivan was instrumental in advocating and securing funding for the creation of an oncology knowledge translation centre. In June 2008, less than a year following the passing of Anna Maria, the de Souza Institute was established by the Ontario government to deliver innovative continuing education, mentorship and fellowship programs to nurses and healthcare practitioners across the province.

For his efforts, Ivan was one of 35 people at the ceremony to receive the Meritorious Service Medal, which is one of the highest civilian honours a Canadian can receive. Created by then-Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in 1991, it recognizes individuals who have performed an exceptional deed or activity over a limited period of time that has brought honour to Canada. Past recipients have been recognized for their work in the arts, science, medicine, international relief work and acts of heroism and bravery.

Prior to the ceremony, Ivan sat down to discuss the honour, his motivation and his goals going forward.

How did you find out that you were receiving this award?

It was truly a remarkable experience. I received an email followed by a letter from the Governor General's office. He advised me that he was writing on behalf of Queen Elizabeth to inform me that in recognition of the creation of the de Souza Institute and for all of the tremendous work that is being done by the de Souza Institute to improve cancer care I have been awarded the Meritorious Service Medal.

What motivated you to help create the de Souza Institute?

Without a doubt I was inspired by my late wife Anna Maria who passed away from cancer in 2007. It was during her cancer journey that we got to witness firsthand what families go through and the role that caregivers play in treating patients.  It was a difficult time for us, we received excellent care but we recognized that there were still some nursing challenges and an opportunity to improve the system.

We wanted to do our part to advocate for better care, we wanted to ensure that regardless where someone lived that they could get the best care possible.

DeSouza Infographic  

I am very happy to say that under the direction of Dr. Mary Jane Esplen, the de Souza Institute has provided unparalleled support to nurses and has made great strides in standardizing training.  Regardless of where nurses live, whether in urban, suburban, rural or remote areas, they get the same training.

What do you see for the de Souza Institute moving forward?

I am incredibly proud to see how much the de Souza Institute has accomplished and how quickly it happened.  The de Souza has expanded beyond nurses and provides support to other healthcare practitioners, in fact, to date approximately 7,000 healthcare practitioners have enrolled in de Souza courses.  The de Souza Institute has introduced new technologies that make the course work more affordable and more accommodating; people can enroll in the courses they want when they want them. The quality of the education and the way it is being delivered is trendsetting. The de Souza brand is now being associated with excellence in specialized training and lifelong learning.

Moving forward I expect that de Souza will continue to be the go to place for anyone who wishes to enhance their skills, confidence and experience in oncology and palliative care. The de Souza Institute will also be expanding beyond Ontario and in the next few weeks there will be a major announcement regarding a new partnership with another province. These are very exciting times at de Souza.​

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