Women Against Multiple Sclerosis luncheon comes to Ottawa, honours PwC partner Ellen Corkery-Dooher

Fundraiser brings in more than $33,000 for research into chronic disease that affects central nervous system
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WAMS honouree Ellen Corkery-Dooher, a partner at PwC Canada, is flanked by Sabrina Fitzgerald, left, managing partner of PwC in the national capital region, and Lisa McCoy, division president (Ontario and Nunavut) with the MS Society of Canada, at the first Women Against Multiple Sclerosis Luncheon held in Ottawa, at the Ottawa Conference and Event Centre, on Friday, Feb. 28, 2020. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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A well-respected partner with PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP who went public last year with her multiple sclerosis condition was honoured Friday at an inaugural luncheon hosted by the MS Society of Canada.

Ellen Corkery-Dooher was recognized for both her contributions to her workplace and to her community at the Women Against Multiple Sclerosis (WAMS) Luncheon, held at the Ottawa Conference and Event Centre. The honouree is head of PwC Canada’s management consulting practice and has been a partner at the international audit and consultancy firm for the past 14 years. 

The event, emceed by CTV News Ottawa co-anchor Patricia Boal, marked the first time a WAMS luncheon has been held in the nation’s capital. Similar events have been taking place in cities across Canada since 2005, raising more than $14 million for research into MS, a chronic and potentially disabling disease, affecting the central nervous system.

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From left, Kristin Harold, regional director for Eastern Ontario with the MS Society of Canada, with event emcee Patricia Boal, co-anchor of CTV News Ottawa, at the WAMS (Women Against Multiple Sclerosis) Luncheon. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Canada has one of the highest rates of multiple sclerosis in the world. There are an estimated 77,000 Canadians living with the disease, with women diagnosed up to three times more than men.

The luncheon featured keynote speaker Zahra Al-Harazi, an award-winning entrepreneur and author, as well as Dr. Lara Pilutti, an associate professor in health sciences at the University of Ottawa. She was able to share some of the latest developments in MS research.

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From left, Dr. Lara Pilutti, an associate professor at the University of Ottawa in the Interdisciplinary School of Health Sciences, with WAMS honouree Ellen Corkery-Dooher and keynote speaker Zahra Al-Harazi, an author and award-winning entrepreneur. Photo by Caroline Phillips

On hand were Lisa McCoy, president of the Ontario and Nunavut division for the MS Society of Canada, and its Eastern Ontario regional director, Kristin Harold, along with Sabrina Fitzgerald, managing partner of PwC for the national capital region and a finalist for a WBN Ottawa Businesswoman of the Year Award. 

Among the notable attendees of the luncheon who live with multiple sclerosis were Kent Kirkpatrick, former long-time city manager with the City of Ottawa, and Jennifer Molson, who famously took part in a ground-breaking clinical trial at The Ottawa Hospital, involving a bone marrow stem cell transplant, to successfully treat her disease. The $6.47-million trial was funded by the MS Society of Canada.

As well, there was volunteer Hetal Kushwaha, who was diagnosed 15 years ago when her oldest child was turning one and she was also prepping to write her last professional exam. Kushwaha, who is a patent agent and partner at Marks & Clerk Canada, attended with her husband, Neal Kushwaha, who, incidentally, made news headlines a couple of years ago after he helped rescue a man while on his way to the top of Mount Everest.

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Kent Kirkpatrick and Marie Vaillant both live with multiple sclerosis and have been very involved with the MS Society of Canada, at the inaugural Women Against Multiple Sclerosis (WAMS) Luncheon, held at the Ottawa Conference and Event Centre. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Long-time supporters Neal Kushwaha, president of Impendo, and Hetal Kushwaha, a patent agent and partner at Marks & Clerk Canada, at the inaugural Women Against Multiple Sclerosis (WAMS) Luncheon, held at the Ottawa Conference and Event Centre. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Six years ago, Corkery-Dooher learned she had MS. It began with a case of blurry vision, followed by a year of tests. Her brother, François Corkery, who was at the luncheon, also lives with the disease.

“It was a terrifying diagnosis,” the emotional honouree told a nearly 200-person crowd that included some of her colleagues and clients.

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From left, Lisa McCoy, MS Society of Canada, with WAMS Luncheon honouree Ellen Corkery-Dooher and her brother, François Corkery, both of whom enjoy full and productive lives while living with MS. Photo by Caroline Phillips

It look a long time for Corkery-Dooher to feel comfortable sharing this part of her life. As a businessperson, she worried others might question her capabilities if they knew about the diagnosis.

She spoke publicly for her first time last summer, while participating in a cycling fundraiser for the MS Society of Canada. 

“I’m trying to be open about what it feels like,” she told her audience.

"Living with MS is like living with that roommate you had in university and you just cannot evict her."

“Living with MS is like living with that roommate you had in university and you just cannot evict her. She parties all night when I have to get up in the morning and go to work, feeling exhausted.

“When I run, she trips me up and has a good laugh. She moves things around on me and I can’t find them,” added Corkery-Dooher, who’s taken to sticking Post-It Note reminders around the kitchen at home.

Corkery-Dooher said she manages her demanding career thanks to the tremendous support she gets from her firm and from her family, including husband Gregg. “You make waking up every day worthwhile,” she told him from the podium.

Having MS means that Corkery-Dooher challenges herself to live every day in the moment, the room heard.  “You can live your best life with MS," she said. "My brother and I are proving that. Many of you are, as well.”

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Kyla Cullain and Sean MacGinnis, co-founders from BuildAble, an accessible renovations and design company, at the Women Against Multiple Sclerosis (WAMS) Luncheon, held at the Ottawa Conference and Event Centre on Friday, February 28, 2020. Photo by Caroline Phillips

At PwC, Corkery-Dooher champions work cultures that celebrate diversity and inclusion. She has survived breast cancer, following a diagnosis at age 37. She adopts dogs from the humane society. She believes in giving back to the community by supporting such causes as the Ottawa Food Bank and Christie Lake Kids. In her youth, she was a junior councillor at CLK’s camp for underprivileged children, earning $75 a summer (of which she spent about half at the tuck shop).

Colleagues spoke in a video about Corkery-Dooher, describing her as direct and honest, thoughtful and caring, and unflappable and funny. 

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From left, Lisa McCoy, president of the Ontario and Nunavut division for the MS Society of Canada, on stage with WAMS honouree Ellen Corkery-Dooher at the Women Against Multiple Sclerosis Luncheon, held at the Ottawa Conference and Event Centre on Friday, February 28, 2020. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Attendees of the luncheon heard how Corkery-Dooher likes to keep a fast pace and always be moving. She's an avid runner, skier and kayaker. While participating in the cycling fundraiser last summer, between Ottawa and Cornwall, she peddled 87 kilometres — on a cumbersome mountain bike.

Corkery-Dooher plans to do all 200 kilometres this year, although she’s first going to upgrade her wheels. “I’m getting a new bike,” she vowed.

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From left, Heather Meek, Annik Casey, Sylvia Patterson and Stefanie Couture, all with PwC, were out to support their colleague Ellen Corkery-Dooher, who was honoured during the Women Against Multiple Sclerosis Gala Luncheon. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Andrew Press, who lives with multiple sclerosis and formerly worked with The Ottawa Hospital Foundation, with Jennifer Molson at the Women Against Multiple Sclerosis Luncheon, held at the Ottawa Conference and Event Centre on Friday, February 28, 2020. Photo by Caroline Phillips

— caroline@obj.ca