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Medical research trainees and the importance of supporting their work and education was the focus of this year’s Molly Appeal Donor Appreciation Luncheon, held in person for the first time since the start of the global pandemic.

“When you fund a research trainee, you fund the next generation of medical researchers,” Dr. Paola Marcato, who holds an Endowed Chair in Breast Cancer Research at Dalhousie, told the guests.

“They are the ones who are in the labs day in and day out, asking the tough questions, testing hypotheses, and finding solutions to some of healthcare’s greatest challenges.”

About 120 people attended the luncheon at the Ashburn Golf Club in Halifax in October 2023.

Donors mingled with researchers and graduate students as they listened to Dr. Marcato’s brief remarks and enjoyed their lunch.

Dr. David Anderson, Dean of Medicine, and Dr. Eileen Denovan-Wright, Associate Dean of Research for the Faculty of Medicine, also praised the donors and stressed the importance their contributions make to medical research and advancements in healthcare.

“For more than 40 years we have been inspired by the generosity of Molly Moore,” Dean Anderson said. “She believed in the importance of health research and throughout her lifetime, gave all she could to support the incredible work of researchers here at Dalhousie.”

Ms. Moore, a housekeeper and single mother, inspired the Molly Appeal in 1980 after she donated what she could – a dollar. She believed her modest gift would propel medical research forward when pooled with the contributions of others.

Dalhousie couldn’t create transformative research programs and initiatives without donors like Molly and all those attending the luncheon, Dean Anderson said.

“Thank you so much for your generosity,” he told them.

Ruth Peppard contributes to the Appeal in the same spirit as Molly did. Ms. Peppard is a second-generation donor, whose mother also gave whatever amount she could spare, until her death in 1986.

Ms. Peppard, who worked in the pathology lab at Dalhousie for 27 years, likes the fact that “it doesn’t matter if you have a lot of money.”

“Everybody can help,” she said from her seat at the luncheon.

Although the Molly Appeal’s donations always support medical research, the Fund chooses a different cause within medical research each year.

This year’s spotlight on medical research trainees is a chance to let donors know just how crucial they are to the research projects that improve healthcare, Dr. Denovan-Wright told the donors.

“Our healthcare system is reliant on the discoveries and solutions that research trainees and their supervisors explore through their research, and the positive impacts are immeasurable,” she said.

“Vibrant labs attract and retain the next generation of medical researchers, and at Dalhousie, we want the best of the best to come here, stay here, and grow our knowledge economy.”

Hannah Cahill, 23, is one of those next-generation medical researchers. Currently working in Dr. Mercato’s breast cancer lab, she is in the third year of her PhD program investigating the potential of long non-coding RNA, the messengers within cells that carry instructions to synthesize proteins, as a drug target for breast cancer.

Scholarships and other funding donors provided enable Ms. Cahill to spend more time on her research and less time at her second job, working at a Tim Horton’s.

“I love working in the lab,” she says.

Another research trainee, Taylor Caddell, 25, heralded the importance of donor-supported funding that has supported her work during graduate studies in Dr. Craig McCormick’s lab in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology. Ms. Caddell is studying coronaviruses and how their proteins interact with and influence cells.

The initial funding she received later helped Caddell secure a national scholarship.

“These types of scholarship opportunities are really important for helping you to look competitive in the eyes of national competitions, so that was really important for me,” she said.

Many donors at the luncheon enjoyed meeting the trainees and researchers, they said. Although each one had a different motivation for giving to the Molly Appeal, all spoke of the importance research played in their lives.

“My husband had cancer, and the last treatment he received kept him alive for 33 years,” said Vivian Coughlan, who has donated to the Molly Appeal for more than 25 years.

“We all live on fixed incomes as we get older, but I’ve always maintained supporting this charity because it’s important.”

Alyson and Leo Walsh have given to the Molly Appeal for more than a decade, for one simple reason:

“I want diseases cured,” said Mrs. Walsh. “Let’s find something to relieve the pain and suffering of people.”