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$10 million donation from V. Prem Watsa’s Odyssey Group Foundation for Stamford’s Breast Center
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$10 million donation from V. Prem Watsa’s Odyssey Group Foundation for Stamford’s Breast Center

Stamford Health, the system that includes Stamford Hospital, announced a $10 million commitment from the foundation of the Prem Watsa-run parent company of Stamford-based reinsurance underwriter OdysseyRe to support a new Breast Center that officials say is needed to meet growing demand and enhance patient care.

With the contribution from the Odyssey Group Foundation, the new Breast Center is scheduled to open in late 2024 in a section covering 8,000 to 10,000 square feet on the first floor of the Tully Health Center – bringing together services currently provided on the building’s second and fourth floors.

The consolidation will deliver an improved patient experience through better patient flow, “co-location” of specialists, increased capacity and greater privacy, according to Stamford Health officials.

“The women of our area deserve the finest facilities to go along with the finest care,” Kathleen Silard, chief executive officer and president of Stamford Health, said in a press conference at the Tully Center, which is located just north of downtown, at 32 Strawberry Hill Court. “Now it is time to match the level of care we provide to the beautiful and equally impressive settings that we want to provide that care in.”

The new Breast Center will focus on imaging and surgery, but it will also accommodate space for medical and/or radiation oncologists from Stamford Health’s Bennett Cancer Center to see patients.

Along the new complex at the Tully Center, patients will continue to receive medical and radiation oncology treatments at the Bennett Cancer Center, which is located on the Stamford Hospital campus on the city’s west side, while mammograms will still be available at sites in other towns across the Stamford Health network.

Stamford Health already ranks as a top-level provider of breast cancer care, with services that encompass initial diagnosis through reconstruction. In the 2022 fiscal year, Stamford Health performed more than 28,000 mammograms across facilities in Stamford, Darien, Norwalk, Wilton and Greenwich. In addition, it delivered about 4,300 treatments for breast cancer.

Among its honors, the Breast Center was the first such facility to gain accreditation, in 2009, from the American College of Surgeons’ National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers.

“This gift will make a meaningful difference for the patients we see,” Dr. Mia Kazanjian, co-director of the Breast Center and director of women’s imaging, said at the press conference. “We are on the heels now of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is a very important time for outreach, given that many women, for so many reasons, didn’t have regular screening mammograms during the pandemic… The key to fighting breast cancer is early diagnosis, and the key to early diagnosis is screening mammography.”

Odyssey Group, which has nearly 300 Stamford-based employees, is a longtime donor to Stamford Health. In 2011, it pledged $10 million to support a new emergency department, which launched in 2016 as part of the opening that year of the new Stamford Hospital. In 2008, Odyssey gave $2 million for the acquisition of the “da Vinci” surgical system.

“It’s an honor to be here. Stamford Hospital is a beacon in this community,” Odyssey Group CEO and President Brian Young said at the press conference, wearing a pink shirt in recognition of the color that represents breast cancer awareness. “I can’t tell you how proud we are to be affiliated with this outstanding institution.”

Odyssey Group Foundation’s donation comprises part of Stamford Health’s Campaign for Women and Babies.

Having raised slightly more than $33 million of its approximately $40 million target, the campaign is supporting other projects including the modernization of the Whittingham Pavilion on Stamford Health’s Bennett Medical Center Campus, as well as the expansion of other services and programs throughout the Stamford Health system.

In total, more than 3,700 people work for Stamford Health, which ranks as the largest employer in Stamford.

Since the Foundation’s inception, over $62 million have been pledged to more than 450 charities around the world. In addition to short- and long-term grants made at the corporate level, the Foundation also holds a biennial Employee Nomination Campaign that gives employees the opportunity to help support charities that are near and dear to them. In 2021, this campaign resulted in $2.5 million being distributed via Odyssey Group’s five operating divisions, ultimately benefiting 110 charities around the world.

Prem Watsa founded Toronto-based financial services firm Fairfax Financial Holdings in 1985 and remains its chairman and CEO. Born in Hyderabad, India, Mr. Watsa later joined his brother in Canada, and then enrolled in the University of Western Ontario’s MBA program. He paid his way through school by selling appliances door-to-door and, after a stint as an investment analyst, struck out on his own in 1984. He began acquiring insurance companies, modeling his business after the success of his idol, Warren Buffett.

Fairfax now has property and casualty insurance and reinsurance interests across the world plus stakes in companies that include BlackBerry and GE.

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