Sundin announces $330,000 health fellowship

Former Toronto Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin announces a $330,000 donation to help fund a new research partnership between the University of Toronto and the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm.

University partnership will focus on developmental health issues

Former Toronto Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin announced Friday he will donate $330,000 to help fund a new research fellowship on maternal health.

His donation will cover one third of the cost of a research partnership between the University of Toronto and Stockholm’s Karolinska Institutet that will focus on early childhood health issues.

The Mats Sundin Award in Medicine will select two post-doctoral researchers, one from Canada and one from Sweden, to travel to the partner institution for a year of study under the direction of senior researchers.  

Sundin, the Leafs' all-time points leader, said his interest in the project began during his time playing in Toronto, which spanned 13 years of his 18-year career.

"As a former Leaf player I have visited and worked a lot with Sick Kids’ hospital," he said. "I’ve seen kids that are sick, with life-threatening conditions, and you want to reach out to them and help."

"This program supports scientists trying to understand the first 2,000 days in our lives and how they affect us the rest of our lives."

Catharine Whiteside, the University of Toronto’s Dean of Medicine, said the fellowship will help scientists answer questions that are key to understanding the links between childhood development and health problems that can emerge later in life.

"A range of factors can change the genetic expression of an infant or a child in ways that will affect their health trajectory throughout their life," she said Friday. "Understanding these factors and turning them on and off at the right time can have a profound effect on the future health of individuals. It can change how we approach some of the most common diseases affecting millions of people, including diabetes, cardiovascular conditions and cancer."

Sundin, who retired in 2009, will be honoured on at a pre-game ceremony on Saturday ahead of the Leafs' game against the Montreal Canadiens.