One-on-One with Leanne Denis

Leanna Denis

When she’s not cooking up a feast for friends or playing with her dogs on the beaches of Mayne Island, Leanne Denis, the Faculty of Medicine’s Executive Director, Development and Alumni Engagement, leads a professional team aimed at raising more than $70 million annually to support the Faculty’s research and education initiatives. 

Together with her team, Leanne collaborates with partners through the Faculty of Medicine, the UBC community and beyond to align the visions of donors with needs within the Faculty, to transform health for everyone. 

As the Executive Director, Development and Alumni Engagement, what are some of your goals or aspirations in your current role? 

In my opinion, perfection in philanthropy is when you are able to take a donor’s vision and align it with an organizational need. 

My aspiration in my role is to continue developing a team of professionals who can work in partnership with our faculty to do just that. A great example of that is the $24 million donation from Edwin S.H. Leong in March 2018 to establish the Healthy Aging Program in his name. It was a textbook example of the value of collaboration – in the Faculty and beyond – to come together to make a gift like that happen. 

For you, what makes UBC different?

The great thing about UBC, and specifically the Faculty of Medicine, is that the opportunities for donors are infinite. 

Because of the scope of the work that we do at the Faculty, nine times out of ten I can find alignment between a donor’s vision and the Faculty’s needs. The work we are doing in medical science at UBC is inspiring — we are truly transforming health for everyone. 

Who inspires you and why?

My mom. She was trained as a nurse by nuns, and she built a progressive and rewarding career in occupational health nursing — a field in which she came to be seen as one of the pioneers. She was always doing things to improve herself professionally while raising a family and has kept that energy up in retirement. I feel truly fortunate to have a female role model like her. And she makes the best cookies! 

How do you like to recharge?

On a weekend day, I love to turn on CBC Radio One and spend the day in my kitchen creating something. In the summer it’s canning, in the winter it is usually a meal to share with friends. A day doing that, is the best day ever.  

Favourite spot in B.C.

Mayne Island — I spend most of my weekends there and it’s become a really special place for my family and me. When I go to Mayne Island everything slows down. 

First job

Selling shoes at Lewis Shoes in Metrotown Mall. 

Secret talent

I can create an ear-piercing whistle with my fingers — I use it to get the attention of my dogs!

Best piece of advice

It was a piece of wisdom that a roommate passed on from her mom: you attract bees with honey. If you present yourself and frame what you’re talking about in a positive way, it’s more likely you’ll get a positive response. While I’m not always successful at following this advice, I truly do try!

Published: July 2018