Community Partner of the Year Award: Dr. Joseph Rea

An advocate for mental health awareness, the late Dr. Joseph Rea is being awarded the Community Partner of the Year Award

A well-known family physician in the London area, the late Dr. Joseph Rea is being recognized with a 2022 Lawson Community Partner of the Year Award for his advocacy and passion to improve mental health outcomes.

“My brother in his life experienced mental illness and for him it was very important that others received early treatment and proper diagnosis,” says Julie Rea, Joseph’s sister. “He wanted to make sure people could receive the care he received. It was important to him that everyone was given the gift of wellbeing.”

In 2003 through his advocacy and philanthropy, he founded the Dr. Joseph Rea Chair in Mood Disorders at St. Joseph’s Health Care Foundation. 

Dr. Joseph Rea
Dr. Joseph Rea

“He did something that no one had done, by creating a sustainable research chair for mental health, with the goal to advance our care, knowledge and treatments,” says Michelle Campbell, President of the St. Joseph’s Health Care Foundation and nominator for the award. “He has done these things very quietly, but the impact has been enormous in our community. His vision combined with his pioneering spirit in championing new treatments in mental health is why we felt he deserved this award.”

Currently Dr. Elizabeth Osuch, founder of the First Episode Mood and Anxiety Program (FEMAP) at London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC), has been appointed as the Dr. Joseph Rea Chair in Mood Disorders.

“Through the Rea Chair we have been able to develop and evaluate a model of mental health care for youth age 16-25 that identifies and treats the most common mental illnesses (mood and anxiety disorders) in the early stages,” says Dr. Osuch. “The goal of this model is to help them return to their normal developmental trajectory and achieve their utmost in life by building a strong foundation during the critical years between adolescence and young adulthood.”

Philanthropy is very important for the Rea family. Joseph was also the Director of the Arcangelo Rea Family Foundation, created by his parents, which supports a large number of local charitable organizations.  

Julie Rea and Arcangelo Rea
Arcangelo Rea and Julie Rea 

“That is what is in our hearts, to help people,” say Arcangelo Rea, Joseph’s father. “People need help and Joe understood that. He always tried to help as many people as he could.”

The family lost Joseph suddenly last year, but his advocacy and philanthropic goals will continue. He has left a very generous gift to the St. Joseph’s Health Care Foundation, which will support Dr. Joseph Rea Chair in Mood Disorders for a number of years. 

“We are thrilled that Joseph is receiving this award. It is greatly deserved and I know it will be a comfort for his family who are still grieving the loss of their son and brother,” adds Campbell. “We also know Joseph would’ve been humbled because it sheds a light to the changes he had been working on making in mental health care.”

“It is a total and complete honor for our family to accept this award on behalf of my brother,” says Julie. “Joe wanted to make sure people understood that the stigma needs to be erased, and that people need to be more empathetic and not judgmental. That was the most important thing for my brother.”

Rea family and Dr. David Hill
Julie Rea, Arcangelo Rea and Dr. David Hill 

The Lawson Impact Awards celebrates hospital-based research that makes a difference by advancing scientific knowledge and applying it directly to patient care. With Awards in eight categories, the annual event honours Lawson scientists, staff, trainees and partners who demonstrate excellence.

Congratulations to the Rea family, and all our 2022 Lawson Impact Award winners.