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Volunteer work a benefit for academics: dean of science

Participating in the leadership of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario has made her better at her job, says dean of science Marlys Koschinsky.

Marlys Koschinsky“It’s the lifelong learning concept,” she says. “I have gained new skills because of my involvement.”

She first started working with the foundation in 1995 as a member of a committee responsible for setting research policy. In subsequent years, she filled many other leadership volunteer roles in the foundation, including oversight of the allocation of grant budgets, the promotion of women in scientific careers, and finances and investment.

Last year, she completed her second three-year term on its board of directors in the capacity of research subject matter expert and received its Tony Graham Award for Excellence in Board Service -- the foundation’s highest honour for board service.

Koschinsky calls the foundation a “world-class organization” dedicated to the noble mission of eliminating heart disease and stroke, which claim the lives of about 90,000 Canadians each year. “It certainly is best-in-class for charities in terms of accountability, transparency and communication with donors.”

She says her work for the foundation has given her a greater understanding of leadership.

“It trains you in how to connect with people and tell your story,” Koschinsky says. “It’s all about how to communicate effectively to a broad community of stakeholders.”

She says that it is important for academics to engage in volunteer work, to feel they have made a difference. Many academics do undertake such work, including peer review, fundraising and serving professional societies.

“We are working very hard in our professional lives, but real fulfillment comes from what you can bring to the table to share.” 

The foundation’s president Barry Cracower nominated Koschinsky for the award. He says he was proud to outline her outstanding contributions to its world-class recognition advisory group: “The foundation is thrilled to be honouring her in this way.”

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