Find an unmet need and solve it
It’s common for entrepreneurs to identify an unmet or under-served market through their own lived experiences, though perhaps few can say they’ve lived through as much as Maria Dobson. With three husbands passing of cancer in her lifetime, Maria has intimate knowledge of what it takes to navigate the Canadian healthcare system and the day-to-day realities of cancer outpatient care. Through the experience of her late husbands’ treatments, Maria fully appreciates cancer’s impact across an entire family, and the feeling of helplessness that accompanies a diagnosis.
“I know when you’re diagnosed with cancer, the whole family is affected, and you don’t know where to go. There is no one-stop place where you can be diagnosed and treated. So that’s what was on my mind at the time,” Maria explains. “I started approaching doctors and oncologists and they felt the same way that I did — that there is a gap in the system that could be served well outside of the Cross Cancer Institute.”
Passion is contagious
Taking advantage of property owned by her Roadway Development business, and fueled by her desire to build something that not only honours the legacy of her family but enriches the entire community, Maria’s Canadian Cancer Care centre consists of everything a cancer patient needs pre- and post-time in hospital. In addition to the clinic of specialist physicians, the centre, which officially opens in October of 2019, will include infusion suites for immunotherapy, a pharmacy, physiotherapists and psychiatrists. It’s an inclusive experience that removes unnecessary stressors from patients’ lives. And it’s one that Maria hopes will benefit generations of Edmontonians.
“I just want to offer it to the community and make it beautiful and for my children to actually see something that we created for the community."
This project is not just for myself. But it is more for the community that has given me so much over the years,” Maria emphasizes.It should be known that Maria’s passion for the long-term success of the centre isn’t limited to funding or big ideas. A common figure on-site during construction, Maria made it a personal mission to ensure the project was executed on-time and with the amenities that have made the centre unique in the landscape of Canadian cancer care. Stories, like that of Maria weeding the centre’s front garden by hand on a weekend to eliminate the need for noxious chemical spray, broadcast her deep dedication to the project — a sentiment not lost on her physician partners:
“Because people see that you’re passionate, and you believe in what you do. And also the doctors know and I let them in into the venture. They see the commitment.”
Find the right partners
Through it all, Maria understands that it’s the meshing of interdisciplinary minds that will make the treatment centre as beneficial to patients as possible. From the medical professionals that oversee the centre to the contractor to her bank, aligning herself with the right partners has been critical. In the early days of her idea, Maria had approached her traditional financial institution about funding for the project, but was disappointed to find they didn’t see the centre being viable. It wasn’t until a proposition was made to CWB that she was able to source the financing and expertise required for the concept.
An image of perseverance and dedication, Maria’s singular vision to create a never-before-seen cancer clinic inspired by her own life has also inspired those lucky enough to work with her. Through her thoughtful partnerships, Maria’s incredible efforts have resulted in an institution that honours her family’s past while promising to serve the community for years to come.
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