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Former patient seeks out the man behind “the voice”

Gary Davis and Pierre Charbonneau

For patients undergoing treatment or receiving care, comfort can come from the most unexpected places.

This was certainly the case for Gary Davis, who was diagnosed five years ago with acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL), a rare and aggressive form of blood cancer. At one point during treatment, the doctors didn’t think he would make it through the night. Thanks to the leukemia specialists at The Ottawa Hospital, he pulled through and is now living cancer free.

Ever since, Gary has attended regular follow-ups. Before each visit, he receives an automated phone call from The Ottawa Hospital reminding him of his appointment.

Every call has the same deep, welcoming voice.

“When I first started to hear this voice, I was in a very vulnerable period in my life,” explains Gary. “There was something in his tone and manner that infused me with comfort, so I loved it when he would ‘call’ me.”

Even though the voice on the other end of the line is pre-recorded, something about it resonated with Gary—so much so that eventually he felt the need to solve the mystery of “who is this man?”

Gary Davis
Over the past five years, former patient Gary Davis has found great comfort in the voice that he hears on our telephone recordings.

If you know, you know: The Ottawa Hospital’s “voice”

If you have ever called the hospital’s main phone line, you will be familiar with the smooth baritone greeting, “Welcome to The Ottawa Hospital.” For many patients, this voice is their first point of contact with the hospital. For patients like Gary, it has been a constant companion since his diagnosis, providing regular reminders for upcoming appointments.

Curious about the identity of this stranger, Gary started to investigate. He soon came to learn that the person on the other end of the phone recording is actually a staff member at The Ottawa Hospital.

Listen to The Ottawa Hospital’s “voice”

After five years, the mystery is finally solved

Pierre Charbonneau is a technical systems analyst who has been with the Civic Campus since 1995. “I’m a telephone technician who happens to do voice recordings,” Pierre says with genuine humility.

“What I do with my voice is thought out and on purpose,” says Pierre. “I do change my voice. I have a certain posture and a smile I put on when I’m recording.”

Pierre’s voice has been part of The Ottawa Hospital’s telephone system for 25 years. When he was first asked to take on this important role, he was already well prepared, having worked part time as a disc jockey at parties and weddings since the age of 12.

Though Pierre’s smooth baritone is the result of years of practice, he never really knew the kind of comfort it brought to some patients–that is, not until recently, when Gary reached out and asked to meet the man behind the voice.

Pierre Charbonneau
Technical systems analyst Pierre Charbonneau has been the voice of The Ottawa Hospital for the past 25 years. Pierre was touched to learn that he had made such a positive impact on Gary’s patient experience.

Face to face with the man behind the voice

As the old adage goes, you should never meet your favourite rock star because they might let you down. We can confirm that this was not the case for Gary, who got the chance to meet Pierre in the spring of 2022.

“I wasn’t apprehensive on my way over to see you,” Gary says to Pierre, “but I wondered what this was going to be like. It isn’t with everybody that I feel as at ease as I did with you. You had a mask and visor on, and even as we were walking upstairs, I thought, ‘I don’t feel awkward.’”

Sitting in Pierre’s office at the Civic Campus, the two chatted for nearly two hours.

“We just hit it off,” recalls Pierre. “I was more than happy to chat with Gary and build this rapport with him.”

“There is some innate profound kindness in Pierre as a person that allows him to bring out what I hear,” explains Gary. “That kindness isn’t something that can be manufactured. There is kindness in his whole being, and I think that’s what I relate to. And when I met him, I saw it.”

Though Pierre is approaching retirement, he has no plans to retire his voice.

“I will keep doing this as long as they let me,” says Pierre. “If it’s a small part, it’s a small part of the bigger picture that Gary went through.”

Pierre’s voice is now getting airtime outside of The Ottawa Hospital… If you ever call Gary and reach his voicemail, you will be greeted by Pierre’s smooth baritone!


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