Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry's heart and stroke research excellence attracts $25 million dollar commitment

The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada is makes an unprecedented commitment to funding medical research at the U of A.

FoMD Staff - 25 June 2013

In 1956, University of Alberta heart surgeon John Callaghan performed the first open heart surgery in Canada. He co-created the pacemaker. Now another historical milestone is cementing the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry's reputation as an international centre of excellence in heart and stroke research and patient care.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada is making an unprecedented $25 million, multi-year commitment to funding medical research at the U of A - in support of advancing health through teaching, research and patient care. This transformative financial commitment is a major milestone in the Faculty's centennial year.

"We are honoured that the University of Alberta has been recognized for our national leadership in heart and stroke research," said U of A President Indira Samarasekera. "This generous commitment by the Heart and Stroke Foundation will allow us to build on the work we are doing, in partnership with Alberta Health Services, to translate research into practical prevention, care and treatment procedures for people."

The Foundation is providing the investment as part of a $300 million commitment to its newly formed Heart and Stroke Foundation Research Leadership Circle, which includes leading universities across the country. Their goal is to dramatically reduce the number of Canadians who die from heart disease and stroke by 25 per cent by 2020.

"Our Faculty is a cardiac research powerhouse where our researchers are renowned for making clinical advancements that have saved thousands of patients and improved the quality of life for scores of Albertans," said D. Douglas Miller, dean of the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry and a cardiologist.

"The work of our researchers impacts Albertans and Canadians, and the Heart and Stroke Foundation's financial commitment is a testament to that fact. From the first open heart surgery in Canada to creating the pacemaker, and a long list of other cardiac 'firsts,' our Faculty researchers are true pioneers in the field of heart research. The fact our researchers also work in one of the world's best academic health centres further enhances our work."

Over the next 10 years, the Faculty's highly skilled cardiovascular surgeons, cardiac care professionals, cardiologists, stroke specialists and educators, and researchers will work collaboratively across the health sciences disciplines to help the Heart and Stroke Foundation reach its goal to save lives through advancements in research. Heart disease and stroke account for almost 30 per cent of all deaths every year in Canada. Every seven minutes someone dies from heart disease and stroke - that's nearly 69,000 people annually.

"The time has come to establish a new, more aggressive and co-ordinated approach to ending heart disease and stroke, so we've partnered with some of the highest performing researchers in Canada to get the job done," said Irfhan Rawji, past chair of the Foundation.

Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry researchers Justin Ezekowitz and Gary Lopaschuk, two of the U of A researchers who have received Foundation funding, said the unprecedented financial commitment will allow them to make more advancements in heart research.

"Heart and stroke research is critical to improving the health of Albertans and Canadians," said Ezekowitz. "With a sustainable and stable financial commitment of this magnitude, we will be able to further the research into preventing heart disease, and treating those patients who already have suffered the burden of a heart attack, heart failure or heart rhythm problems. Canadians lead the way in the innovations required for the next generation of healthier people."

Lopaschuk added: "This is a transformative gift to medical research at the University of Alberta. With the expertise we have already attracted here, it's clear that the University of Alberta is building one of the world's leading heart research centres. It's a fantastic birthday gift for the centennial year of the U of A's medical school."