A Fresh Start: The entrepreneurial spirit of the Lung Health Foundation will live on

On Monday, September 19, George Habib handed over the leadership of the Lung Health Foundation to the new President and CEO, Jessica Buckley. We sat down with George recently and asked him about some of his reflections on leading the Lung Health Foundation over the past 15 years, how the organization has evolved and the entrepreneurship that will continue with the new President and CEO. 

What we didn’t know when we began hearing George’s story are the similarities between the two, as natural entrepreneurs. In fact, both George and Jessica would eventually become senior executive leaders at organizations that they began working with when they were new university graduates. 

For George, he excelled at being a leader from a very young age. During high school, he began volunteering with Junior Achievement and continued this work through his university years. He created Summer Enterprises, a program designed to provide high school students with the job skills and experience of running a small business, while earning an income. The program would become a provincial program and George would become Junior Achievement’s CEO. Not unlike Jessica Buckley, who would become Senior Vice President with Woodbine Entertainment after her own early start in the company following her graduation from university.

When George first joined the Lung Health Foundation, he recognized very quickly that it was his entrepreneurial spirit that would help shape his vision for the organization. 

Under George’s leadership, he began to develop partnerships with stakeholders and across government channels. George, and a determined team, formed a community that shared the same goals of improving the lung health of Ontarians. They became visionaries – anticipating the government’s requests while helping to define and articulate the pressing needs of those with a lung disease.

“We wanted a dedicated focus on lung health, not just in Ontario, but federally and in every province across Canada. While much has been accomplished, we knew that there was so much more that needed to be done. Lung health is an underfunded area and it’s such a critically important issue for Canadians. Eventually, we recognized the need for a stronger national focus, and our vision for a national lung health agenda started to evolve – one that would help all Canadians. And we wanted to be at the center of all of that work, driving the change needed by heightening education and awareness and engaging strong leaders and authentic voices to support our mission. Everything we do in advocacy takes us one step closer.”

With that goal in mind, and under George’s leadership, the Ontario Lung Association reimagined itself as a national organization, the Lung Health Foundation, in 2020. The organization’s colors – breathing blue and restorative red – and a bold new strategic plan promised Canadians that a new era was here, and that lung health would start now.

“We’re very clear in our goals and we are very focused on the patient and that’s what drives everything we do,” says George. “We want to make sure no one loses a loved one to asthma, reduce hospitalizations for those with COPD, give people with lung cancer a fighting chance, help Canadians mitigate the dangers of infectious diseases, and educate younger generations about the impact of smoking, vaping and cannabis use.”

After 15 years in driver’s seat, George feels the organization continues to be well positioned for tremendous growth. He is proud of the staff, the senior leadership team, and the board. Combined, their collective efforts have built a strong foundation for the ground-breaking future of the Lung Health Foundation.

“I’m very delighted with the new leadership, with Jessica Buckley as the new President and CEO,” says George. “She’s a highly skilled individual with a similar entrepreneurial spirit and an incredible amount of talent. I feel very reassured knowing that the organization that has captured my heart over the years is in good hands.”

For George, an avid golfer, he knows early mornings on the golf course are in his future, as he spends time in Ontario that has been his home for quite some time, along with Nova Scotia, where his wife Sharon is from. He’ll also continue his volunteer and charitable work in the non-profit sector, joking that, “let’s face it, I can’t golf 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year!”

We want to thank George for his tremendous leadership of the Lung Health Foundation over the years and would like to remind him of what Fred Rogers has famously said, “often, when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.”

Good luck, George!

To make a gift to the Lung Health Foundation in George’s honour, please click to donate here.

For more information on the Lung Health Foundation and our bold, strategic plan, please click here.

Save the Date! Join us our we celebrate our fresh start with our Breathe! Bash on Thursday, January 26, 2023. Sponsorship packages are now available. For more information, contact Daniella Shurgold, Senior Manager, Development at dshurgold@lunghealth.ca.

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