We sat down with Bonnie Fish, who serves as the Board President for the Israel Cancer Research Fund, to hear about her experience being part of an organization that for the past 45 years has helped support scientists in Israel make major breakthroughs in cancer research.
Bonnie, tell us how you got involved with the Israel Cancer Research Fund (ICRF)?
I was first introduced to the organization through my colleagues, and current ICRF board members, Ian Kady and Tammy Anklewicz, who invited me to attend a number of ICRF fundraising events including, their Women of Action event which recognizes women for their achievements in health sciences, community, philanthropy and business. At that time, I had recently lost a close friend to cancer and after learning more about the history of the organization and the cancer research ICRF was funding, I decided I wanted to do more to give back to this cause and to honour my friend. So I joined the Board and then spent a year on the Executive Committee and now I am in the third year of my term as Board President.
In your opinion, what is the most important work that this organization does?
ICRF’s mission is to support the best and brightest scientists conducting ground breaking cancer research in Israel. What stands out about this organization is that the funds raised for ICRF go directly to life-saving scientific research and not to “bricks and mortar.” Annual grants are given directly to Israeli cancer researchers at all of the leading academic and biomedical research centers in Israel. To date ICRF has contributed more than $83 million to support over 2,700 grants for Israel based cancer researchers. ICRF has funded scientists who went on to make incredible medical breakthroughs in cancer including discoveries which led to the development of Gleevec, an important treatment for leukemia, and Doxil, a drug for the treatment of ovarian, breast and AIDS related cancers. Two ICRF-funded scientists (Professors Avram Hershko and Aaron Ciechanover of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology) received the 2004 Nobel Prize in chemistry.
Choosing to serve on a non-profit board of directors enables you to become an integral part of solving problems in your community. Similarly, as a lawyer, much of your time is spent solving problems. Does this experience with the ICRF give you a different perspective, one which you can bring to your law practice?
Absolutely. The not-for-profit world is a whole world unto itself and it has been a very different experience from my law practice. In my volunteer role, the experiences and connections I’ve made have enhanced my understanding of the world outside of the law and have given me a much broader perspective. I feel like everything that you do outside of your legal practice in a volunteer capacity, adds a new dimension to your work and a better understanding of the people that you deal with on a regular basis.
What advice would you give to a new lawyer who is looking for the opportunity to give back to their own community?
That’s a really great question. I would say in my very earliest days of practice when I was struggling with not only my own time commitments to the practice, but also raising a family, I would have found it extremely hard to commit to doing something at this level, like being President of a Board. However, even early on in my career, I would always try to get involved with something – a charity walk, volunteering at a soup kitchen, donating food and clothing to those in need and I’d get my family involved. Small commitments at first. Making the time to help out a cause or support a charity even if just for a few hours, allowed me to feel like I was doing something other than being a lawyer. As time went on, I was able to give back more and build upon those experiences. Then one day you reach a point in your career where you have some connection to a charity, either through a colleague or experience and you are able to take the next step and play a bigger role in giving back to that cause. It is very satisfying when that moment comes.
To learn more about Israel Cancer Research Fund visit: https://www.icrf.ca/