Sarah Downey, President and CEO of Michael Garron Hospital.
Sarah Downey, President and CEO of Michael Garron Hospital.

Sarah Downey reflects on seven years as President and CEO at MGH in farewell to hospital community

Dear colleagues, partners and community,

Thank you to everyone who has reached out through texts, e-mails, social media, phone calls and in person to express your congratulations for my appointment as the next President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). I am humbled by your thoughtfulness.

While I am excited for the opportunity to lead Canada’s largest mental health teaching hospital, I will miss this vibrant community hospital – one with amazing people, an unmatched “just do it” attitude and a tremendously bright future. MGH has an incredibly special and unique culture – one that captivated my heart and mind from the moment I started here in April 2015.

Since my first day, I have been motivated to serve the people who work and get care at MGH. I love the hospital’s proactive approach to innovating and improving care, characteristics that have kept MGH as a source of pride in our community for nearly 100 years. Nothing has made me prouder than being approached at a local hockey game or by neighbours who couldn’t wait to tell me about the excellent care they received from our hospital.

While all of our accomplishments are far too great to list, allow me to highlight a few. We rebuilt half of our hospital as part of our redevelopment project, bringing to reality new and enhanced facilities that will forever change MGH and the care it provides the community. Our teams continuously adapted to meet the ever-changing and increasingly complex needs of our patient population, launching programs like the Mental Health Emergency Assessment Zone and Child and Youth Emergency Zone in the Stavro Emergency Department (ED), as well as the Home Peritoneal Dialysis (PD) and integrated Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI) services. We’ve implemented new technology, received our third Exemplary Accreditation and shown our city and province how important community hospitals are to the integrity of the healthcare system. 

In addition to being an incredibly busy and excellent hospital, we forged meaningful and trusting partnerships as we created one of the province’s best Ontario Health Teams (OHT): East Toronto Health Partners (ETHP). Through ETHP, we successfully implemented an integrated, community-based response to COVID-19. We opened Canada’s first COVID-19 Assessment Centre, advocated for those most in need and administered more than 543,000 PCR tests and more than 629,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine – all the while caring for many incredibly ill COVID-19 patients in our hospital and through our virtual COVID-19 care program.

Indeed, it’s these ambitious initiatives – and the people behind them – that have inspired me every day to jump out of bed and rush to work to see how I can make our efforts run deeper and faster. 

While the things that we accomplished together make me proud, what I am most thankful for are the genuine relationships we have forged. My happiest memories are the thousands of conversations with many of you – staff; physicians and credentialed clinicians; leaders; learners; volunteers; the MGH Board of Directors; the MGH Foundation; donors; our OHT partners; local elected officials; and patients, families and caregivers. I will miss the amazing people at MGH and across East Toronto the most, though many of these bonds will never be broken.

As I work with the MGH Board of Directors and Wolf Klassen, MGH’s interim President and CEO, to ensure a smooth leadership transition, I want to leave you with a few pieces of advice.

  1. Take care of yourselves. The COVID-19 pandemic has been long and hard – and the path forward has many hurdles. However, our patients and community and your colleagues need your skills, experience and passion for this work now more than ever. To get through this and see our healthcare system through to better times, we need you to be well and engaged.
  2. Leadership matters. Being a leader is not easy – there are long hours and complex issues and it can be difficult to find solutions that satisfy everyone. That said, if given the chance, lean in. You can lead from any position in this organization and community. I encourage you to find a way to help your program, department, profession, hospital and community beyond what’s asked of you in your day-to-day jobs.
  3. No matter what your role is in MGH or ETHP, aim to create health and build community. Our hospital and community are better served because we see the full picture of health. We can and must work across our system to provide comprehensive solutions to health issues – across primary care, home care, long-term care, community and social services and acute care. 

As I start my new role at CAMH, please know that I will be your loudest cheerleader. I care deeply about my MGH colleagues and ETHP health system partners. And, as a long-time resident of East Toronto, I am sure that you’ll see my family and me seeking care here. This is my community hospital, too.

With admiration and gratitude,


Sarah Downey
President and CEO
Michael Garron Hospital

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