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The Rotman School of Management in Toronto has received a $6-million gift from the Rotman family to put toward its health care management program.

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At many business schools, private donors are key players in expanding specialty programs.

For example, a new $6-million donation aims to boost one business school’s established focus on health care management. At another, a $1-million corporate pledge will be used to extend the reach of an award-winning program for Indigenous entrepreneurs.

In both cases, the schools involved are leveraging private gifts to secure additional funds from elsewhere, increasing the impact of the initial donation.

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At the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, a new $6-million donation from the Rotman family will be matched by the university, according to a school spokesman, with its 14-year-old Centre for Health Sector Strategy now named for philanthropist Sandra Rotman.

“It was the vision of [the late] Joe [Rotman] and Sandy Rotman to bring business thinking to the health sector,” says Brian Golden, appointed in 2003 to the $5-million Sandra Rotman Chair in Health Sector Strategy at U of T and the University Health Network.

Rotman is one of a number of business schools in Canada and globally paying close attention to health sector management.

“In 2002, we spent $2-trillion dollars on health care worldwide and today it is $8-trillion,” says Dr. Golden. “Every country has realized that it is not sustainable to provide the health care we need.”

He says business school students and faculty bring a “unique perspective” to health care as they can work across a range of activities and assist in breaking down silos in a fragmented system. “The goal is better health outcomes,” he says, urging the public and private systems to learn from and work with each other.

“Canada has tremendous strengths, as does every system,” he says. “But we need to diffuse those strengths across the country more evenly.”

The latest Rotman family donation is earmarked for three initiatives: recruitment of three faculty research chairs in artificial intelligence, life sciences commercialization and health economics and policy; scholarships for graduate students in health care management studies; and support for a new global executive MBA for health care and life sciences.

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The executive MBA, to be offered this October to a class of 35 to 40 students, caters to mid-career health care professionals in Canada and abroad who want to pivot to leadership roles, possibly running a hospital or pharmaceutical company.

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Brian Golden of Rotman says it is increasingly important to examine global best practices in health care management. ‘We need to get outside of our local system to learn.’

The program, delivered in six modules over 18 months in Toronto, Silicon Valley and Singapore, will examine “global best practices,” according to Dr. Golden, also co-academic director of the executive MBA. “We want to know how does Copenhagen organize [health care] to keep their population healthy. ... We want to know how does Singapore finance their health care system to get great health outcomes and at a low cost,” he says. “We need to get outside of our local system to learn.”

Like Rotman, the University of Victoria’s Gustavson School of Business has been able to leverage private support for a specialty program. Since 2013, the Aboriginal Canadian Entrepreneurs Program has graduated 275 students from 26 Indigenous communities in British Columbia, with 72 now running their own companies and another 128 alumni working to complete their startup plans.

This month, Bank of Montreal pledged $1-million to expand the program, starting with an initial cohort of 25 to 30 Indigenous artisans on Vancouver Island who begin classes in a couple of weeks.

“There definitely is an urgency to create entrepreneurial ventures in aboriginal communities,” says Michael Bonner, senior vice-president and regional head for Bank of Montreal.

He says the bank was attracted to the Gustavson program, which has won national and international awards, for its design.

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The curriculum was developed in partnership between Gustavson and the Tribal Resources Investment Corp., an Indigenous organization that delivers financial services and training to First Nations entrepreneurs in northwest British Columbia. In addition to Gustavson faculty who fly in for classes, about 30 per cent of instructors and mentors are Indigenous.

Participating Indigenous students receive free tuition and are able to stay in their home communities without having to go to class in Victoria.

“Aboriginal communities are very tight and family oriented,” says Jacquie Ridley, chief operating officer for Tribal Resources (known as Tricorp). “They are very culturally tuned in to what they do, and to take them out and throw them into a big city like Vancouver or Victoria on their own is a different ball game.”

As well, she notes, “with the way this program has worked for us in the North, these individuals stay in class and don’t drop out.”

Over the 20-week intensive program, students take part in classes and mentorship coaching sessions and receive hands-on entrepreneurship training with a goal to develop a business plan for their proposed startup by graduation.

“We want to make sure there is access to education and access to support [in local communities],” says Mr. Bonner, who applauds the program for graduating local entrepreneurs and, possibly, future employees for the bank.

The $1-million gift from BMO builds on $250,000 pledged earlier by private donors Tim and Frances Price for in-community entrepreneurship training. Last month, the program also received $567,000 from a federal government fund to support First Nations economic development.

Brent Mainprize, an entrepreneurship and strategy professor at Gustavson, worked closely with Tribal Resources to develop and deliver the Indigenous entrepreneurship program. When invited, he works with other Indigenous communities who want to tailor the program to their needs.

He says the BMO gift is “hugely important” for the school’s efforts to attract funds, especially from government. When officials realize private dollars are already on the table, he says “it’s a different conversation.”

With BMO and associated funds, Mr. Mainprize estimates that eight cohorts of the program could be offered in Indigenous communities across the province. He is currently in talks with First Nations leaders in Manitoba about a possible expansion of the program beyond British Columbia.

Follow Jennifer Lewington on Twitter @JenLewington or contact her at jlewington@bell.net