Women outlive men by five years in B.C. and Dr. Larry Goldenberg thinks that has a lot to do with the fact men are 20 years behind women in being proactive about their health. So just as he championed a prostate cancer centre of excellence at Vancouver General Hospital a decade ago, he is now focused on forming a men's health centre, not unlike the one for the opposite sex at B.C. Women's Hospital.
People tend to think of penises and prostates as the only body parts men have to worry about, but Goldenberg begs to differ. "The penis is like the canary in the mineshaft," he says, referring to the fact that erection and other problems may be due to numerous medical conditions, especially cardiovascular disease. "But there's more to men's health than penises, prostates, vasectomies, and circumcisions. Men are 20 years behind women in terms of gender-specific health centres," says Goldenberg, professor and head of the department of urologic sciences at the University of B.C. and Vancouver General Hospital.
Major hospitals have women's health centres in recognition of their unique attributes, and Goldenberg believes it's time to have centres for men too. More men than women suffer and die from numerous serious diseases and accidents, some of which he attributes to the fact that men haven't caught up with women's progress in personal health concerns. "The days of men being the strong silent types, the ones with bravado, should be over. Men get osteoporosis, they have falling hormone levels as they age, just like women, and their life expectancy is shorter [on average, women outlive men by nearly five years in B.C.], so we need to address all those things."
Goldenberg has been thinking about such an initiative for many years and now he's lending his stature to a fundraising campaign and partnering with the Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University (Vancouver chapter). He's being honoured at a Four Seasons Hotel $225-a-ticket dinner April 13. Funds raised will be split between the university in Jerusalem and a men's health centre at VGH that will blend research, patient education and clinical programs. "I've never studied there and my only connection to Hebrew University is really through Zionistic visions, but they wanted to honour me and so I suggested we do this as a partnership with the VGH and UBC Hospital Foundation," said Goldenberg, who is also co-director of the Prostate Centre at VGH.
The centre received a $20-million donation from business mogul Jimmy Pattison several years ago, after a pitch from Goldenberg. This time around, Goldenberg is shooting for just $1 million in seed money for what he calls the first men's health centre in Canada, to be based in existing space at VGH. "Once we get the first million, the seed will be planted and then we can start fertilizing it by garnering more money from government and agencies which provide grants," he says.
Dinner organizers, including co-chairs Peter Bentley and Leon Glassman, are hoping to raise $2 million in ticket sales and donations. VGH would get $1 million and Hebrew University the same. A portion of the total will also go toward collaborative prostate cancer research between the hospital and the Israeli university. "It's exciting to establish these global networks. We're also developing one with Australian scientists and several in the U.S.," says Goldenberg.
The men's health centre will act as an umbrella organization with its focus on preventive health strategies, clinical research and the treatment of ailments relating to bones, decreasing hormone (testosterone levels), sexual health, cardiovascular conditions, prostate cancer, nutrition, and mental health. "It will be an organization that will foster partnerships with other clinical and research centres all around the world. "It's not about building something new or about building Rome in one day. I'm talking about an organization that will truly look at all the issues men face, especially as they age," said Goldenberg, adding that the centre would act as an information clearing house where family doctors could seek experts and also refer their patients.
Ron Dumouchelle, president/CEO of the VGH and UBC Hospital Foundation, applauds the Goldenberg mission, saying: "Men don't always take care of themselves the way they should. The vision of an integrated program at VGH to diagnose, treat and support men to keep them healthy longer is innovative and world-leading. Dr. Goldenberg and his team are builders and pioneers with a strong record of achievements and breakthroughs to benefit men from across B.C."