A flurry of official openings and celebrations of innovation and entrepreneurship are accompanying the visit to McMaster University by Alabama-based philanthropists Marnix and Mary Heersink.

Marnix, a prominent eye surgeon and entrepreneur, and Mary, a food security author and advocate, are on campus June 16 and 17 for celebrations of their $32 million gift announced in February of this year.

Thursday morning they were given the first white lab coats of the new Marnix E. Heersink School of Biomedical Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which has now been formally approved by the university’s Board of Governors.

The school, within the Faculty of Health Sciences, will educate emerging health innovators and involve the Faculty’s schools of medicine, nursing and rehabilitation science. Program offerings are in development for the school’s anticipated opening in September 2023 and will include immersive clinical experiences to identify problems and form solutions, and drive innovation through collaborations.

“I am very pleased the approval of the Marnix E. Heersink School of Biomedical Innovation and Entrepreneurship comes as we welcome Marnix and Mary to the university,” said John Kelton, a Distinguished University Professor of medicine and executive director of the Michael G. DeGroote Initiative for Innovation in Healthcare.

“We continue to find innovative ways to improve health and equip the next generation of health professionals with the tools they will need to lead in an ever-changing health care landscape.”

On Friday, the Heersinks officially open The Clinic which was built as a result of a previous $1 million gift but delayed in construction by the pandemic.

The 3,000 square-foot-space is within the Health Sciences Library in the Health Sciences Centre, and provides a space where students, staff, faculty and entrepreneurs will find education, resources and support to move their innovations forward.

Fiona Bergin, program manager for The Clinic, said: “We recognize everyone’s journey from innovation to commercialization is different. Each inventor has the opportunity to customize their innovation road map to best support their unique needs and path to commercialization.”

Marnix and Mary Heersink are also meeting with McMaster President and Vice-Chancellor David Farrar and FHS Dean and Vice-President Paul O’Byrne, and they are taking part in discussions on the development of the new school, The Clinic and the Mary Heersink Program for Global Health.

The Mary Heersink Program for Global Health, created from the Heersinks’ new gift, will develop new solutions addressing emerging trends and threats to global health, such as pandemics and the climate crisis.

It will also grow McMaster’s successful Global Health Graduate Program which includes a consortium of universities in the Netherlands, India, Thailand, Norway, Colombia and Sudan.

The Heersinks’ recent gift has also established a partnership between McMaster and the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) in both the development of biomedical innovation and entrepreneurship as well as global health.

Following a gift of $95 million in 2021 by the Heersinks, the UAB is creating a Marnix E. Heersink Institute of Biomedical Innovation and the Mary Heersink Institute for Global Health.  The new UAB institutes will complement and work with the matching programs at McMaster.

“We will see ripples from Marnix and Mary Heersink’s generosity for generations, and this week we are celebrating the first impact that will create a widespread and sustainable legacy,” said O’Byrne.

“Their philanthropic mission will influence human and societal health and well-being as well as the economies locally, nationally, and globally.”

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