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Salmon Arm physician honours wife in Shuswap campaign

Salmon Arm physician honours wife in Shuswap campaign
Brian Ayotte and his late wife Gail after the two were presented with a silver fish on on the Shuswap Hospital Foundation's Champion Donor Recognition Wall.

Retired Salmon Arm physician Brian Ayotte is thrilled Shuswap Lake General Hospital (SLGH) will be establishing a new, full scope mammography program.

The former cardiologist and past-president of the Shuswap Hospital Foundation (SHF), Brian lost his wife Gail to breast cancer last April. Like most breast health patients, she spent time travelling to either Vernon or Kamloops for service.

“Gail developed a malignant breast lump in 2013 at the age of 71, which meant a couple of trips to Kamloops for surgery and several trips to Vernon for follow-up mammography over seven years,” he says.

The cancer returned last Christmas, which required several more out-of-town trips for treatment.

“It complicated things not having the services in Salmon Arm,” Brian says, noting that, for many with breast cancer, the travel causes a great deal of discomfort.

Following Gail’s death, Brian asked that all funds donated to the foundation in her memory be directed toward a breast health program.

Over the next several years, that new program will become a reality, relying on the dedication of people like Brian to give back to the community. The Shuswap Hospital Foundation has kicked off a fundraising campaign for a new mammography program and the purchase of a new CT scanner for SLGH. The Ministry of Health approved and the SHF has kicked off its campaign called Here We Grow. The two new additions will come with price tag of $4.4 million and the foundation will provide 75 per cent of the funding.

Once the new program is up and running the Province’s mobile mammography unit will no longer come to the Shuswap as patients will be able to have regular screening at the hospital throughout the year. And if a patient finds a lump in their breast or irregular screening shows the need for further follow-up imaging, they will be able to get that in Salmon Arm.

The fundraising campaign, the foundation’s portion is $3.3 million, has already received serious community support.

Thanks to some very generous family donations and one who has chosen to remain anonymous, the foundation already has $2.2 million committed to this project. Donations were received from the estate of Robert Haney – $500,000; the estate of Geoffrey Collins – $591,950; the estate of Don Hilton –$149,299; the estate of Evelyn Painter – $415,911; and an anonymous donation of $350,000.

“We are so thrilled to be moving forward to help raise more funds for these two important projects,” said Shuswap Hospital Foundation president Angela Spencer. “We have such great support from the community and we have no doubt people will step up for our hospital once again. We are looking forward to supporting these enhancements to patient care at SLGH.”

Along with the mammography program, the foundation will raise money for a replacement CT scanner as the current machine, purchased with funds raised from the SHF in 2009, is reaching its end of life.

Exact timelines are still to be determined, however the CT scanner project is expected to be complete by 2022 and the mammography program by 2023.
To support the foundation’s Here We Grow campaign, go online to, call 250-803-4546, or mail a cheque to the Shuswap Hospital Foundation, P.O. Box 265, Salmon Arm, B.C. V1E 4A7.