UAlberta cardiologist honoured as Royal Society New Scholar

Justin Ezekowitz says collaboration and clinical trials at the heart of better health for Canadians.

Kirsten Bauer - 15 September 2017

Justin Ezekowitz, University of Alberta associate professor of cardiology and co-director of the Canadian VIGOUR Centre, will be honoured with membership in the Royal Society of Canada's College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists on Friday, November 24, 2017 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The college inducts high-achieving early-career scholars for a seven-year term, to develop interdisciplinary knowledge on Canada's up-to-the-minute research topics.

Thought leader in heart failure research and care

Ezekowitz is internationally recognized for his contributions to delivering better heart-failure care using creative real-world solutions. Heart failure is a common chronic disease resulting in frequent emergency room visits, hospitalizations and a reduced quality of life.

He and his team have exported lessons learned in the lab to caring for heart patients, demonstrating that using a blood test (troponin) in the ambulance for patients with chest pain would accelerate process of care once they arrived at the emergency department.

He has developed a research program that bridges biomedical, clinical and population health. He primarily conducts clinical trials on end-stage heart failure involving patients with this chronic disease, that has possible links to other diseases throughout the body.

The uniqueness of each case makes recruitment for clinical trials a challenge.

"Every time we see a patient there's a new gap in knowledge and new questions we have to answer. How do I make this patient better in the long term? There are infinite questions I'd love to answer," Ezekowitz said.

The trials test existing therapies, as well as new therapies including medications and non-pharmacological approaches like systems of care, salt intake, and getting the right amount of oxygen.

Ezekowitz takes a "save lives with simple solutions" approach to his work as the director of the Heart Function Clinic at the U of A that cares for hundreds of patients with advanced heart failure.

Early career, high achievement

When Ezekowitz was recruited to the U of A's Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry in 2006, he already had earned a peer-reviewed Canadian Institutes of Health Research grant with his mentor Paul Armstrong. He has subsequently been the recipient of an Alberta Heritage Foundation Medical Research Population Health Investigator award and published more than 200 peer-reviewed manuscripts, placing him in the top five per cent of his academic peers.

In 2016, Ezekowitz was awarded the University of Alberta Annual Excellence in Mentoring Award.

Future Plans

Bringing research to the bedside is a priority for Ezekowitz.

"Clinical research is often underrepresented in traditional scientific venues," he said. "We're very much focused on discovery or basic science, but sometimes the translation into clinical research is forgotten and it plays an important role in human health. So I hope to highlight that more at the Royal Society."

Ezekowitz also emphasizes that research is a team effort, and it is important to be a good global scientific citizen.

"Science is about collaboration. Being a good partner and collaborator, inside and outside your field, is important to further your own or other people's science, including everyone from within your departments and divisions to outside the university, and more importantly the general public who volunteer their time and trust―because that's really who it's for."

Ezekowitz's research has been supported by many sources including the University Hospital Foundation, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Heart and Stroke Foundation.