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Dr. Dhun F. Noria is photographed in Scarborough Hospital's lab on Feb. 18, 2014. (FRED LUM/THE GLOBE AND MAIL)
Dr. Dhun F. Noria is photographed in Scarborough Hospital's lab on Feb. 18, 2014. (FRED LUM/THE GLOBE AND MAIL)

On police board, Dhun Noria balances life in the spotlight with battling breast cancer Add to ...

Dhun Noria, a two-time breast-cancer survivor, is described as a tireless fundraiser and advocate for patients, on top of having her own medical practice and sitting on the city’s Police Services Board.

Dr. Noria, who often does not speak out about her work with the board, has been recently forced into the spotlight as the board grapples with allegations that it’s too closely aligned with Chief Bill Blair, compromising its ability to act at arm’s-length.

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Dr. Noria said such allegations have no merit. “We are constantly questioning, challenging and holding the chief responsible and accountable to run the service efficiently and effectively.”

When asked about Dr. Noria‘s contribution, Chief Blair said: “Dr. Noria never misses our events relating to the cancer survivors whom we support by organizing fundraising events. … Besides being generous with her own money and beyond, she regularly talks about her own experience of fighting the cancer.”

To Dr. Bill Bell, President of the University Health Network, Dr. Noria is the type of individual “who gives, gives and gives. She’s a fighter.” Dr. Noria sits on the UHN board.

When she was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1994, Dr. Noria said her radiologist colleague “was in tears when he gave me the news.” Her cancer came back in 2003. Despite mastectomy, breast reconstruction, lumpectomy, radiation therapy, tamoxifen and chemotherapy, Dr. Noria said she never slackened the pace of her medical work as a surgical pathologist, helping patients as chair of Shared Hospital Lab. The lab provides microbiology services to patients of three hospitals – North York General Hospital, Toronto East General Hospital and the Scarborough Hospital.

“I would go for my chemotherapy on Fridays and would show up early morning Monday at the hospital. I never faulted in my commitment to patients,” she said.

Dr. Noria is receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Scarborough Hospital in May – she’s only the second person in the Scarborough Hospital history to receive such an award. (She and her husband, businessman Farokh Noria, are also being honoured in March for their $1-million donation to the hospital for cancer care.)

In an interview conducted before Chief Blair’s announcement that the OPP was taking over the investigation into Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, Dr. Noria talked about the Police Services Board and her many other roles:

The Ford brothers are accusing the chief of having a political agenda. What are your thoughts on this?

Chief Blair is a man of great honour, integrity and is highly respected by his peers. I don’t believe he has any political agenda. He is just doing the best job he can.

If the chief were to ask for a third term, would you and the board support it?

His term goes to April, 2015. We will cross this bridge when we get to it.

Do you support an increase in the police budget? [According to a recent operational review commissioned by Chief Blair, the force needs more than 170 new officers.] Or through increasing use of technology, are you [and the board] in favour of saving some money?

No, I don’t support an increase in the police budget at the present time. This is a fiscally responsible board and together with the chief and services, we are looking at every opportunity including use of modern technology, outsourcing, collaborating back-office functions with city hall – in fact re-engineering and looking at all aspects to lower the spiralling cost of policing. There are no sacred cows.

How did you continue your work while battling cancer?

I never allowed any setbacks in my personal health to get me down. I am an optimistic person who believes that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. I cope by always looking forward to doing good things and working hard and smart. I live and work and cope by minimizing my troubles.

Regarding the Lifetime Achievement Award – it is not the awards that I cherish; it is my relationship with the community and individuals that I cherish.

Now you are completely cured?

As an eternal optimist, I would like to believe that I am completely cured. In May of this year it will be exactly 20 years since my first diagnosis of breast cancer. I did have cancer come back in 2003. Following surgeries and chemotherapy, I have beaten the recurrence, too.

Tell me about your work at Scarborough Hospital.

The Scarborough Hospital has two divisions – Scarborough Grace and the Scarborough General. We always face the challenge of delivering the best care most economically, to an ever-changing demography. Currently our hospital is in merger talks with Rouge Valley Hospital. Our goal is to deliver services more efficiently to residents of Scarborough.

Any final thoughts on your health issue?

I share my personal story of being a two-time breast-cancer survivor widely with Canadians. I proclaim loudly: “One shouldn’t have to suffer or die from this disease.”

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Ajit Jain is a freelance writer.

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