U of A experts honoured with prestigious national fellowship

Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry professors Justin Ezekowitz, Arya Sharma recognized among Canada’s top health experts by Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (CAHS).

Kirsten Bauer - 21 October 2020

University of Alberta professors Justin Ezekowitz and Arya Sharma, Department of Medicine, have taken their place among some of Canada’s leading health experts after being named fellows of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (CAHS) in September.  

Inspired by the National Academy of Medicine (formerly known as the Institute of Medicine) in the United States, the CAHS provides the Government of Canada independent, unbiased, expert assessments on health-related topics of major importance to the country. The organization has an early link to the U of A U of A cardiologist Paul Armstrong was the founding president. 

"With some effort and a lot of support from others at the University of Alberta, we transformed the Canadian Institute of Academic Medicine, a largely honorific group, to become CAHS in 2005,” said Armstrong. “We formed a working group to represent all of the health-care disciplines instead of just conventional medical backgrounds."

Also in this year’s cohort is Carole Estabrooks, Faculty of Nursing and School of Public Health. Please join us in congratulating the latest CAHS honorees. 

Dr. Justin Ezekowitz

Co-director, Canadian VIGOUR Centre

Professor, Department of Medicine

Director, Cardiovascular Research, University of Alberta

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

He and his team at the Canadian VIGOUR Centre at the U of A have exported lessons learned in the lab to caring for heart patients. For example, he and the team used a blood test (troponin) in the ambulance for patients with chest pain to test if early treatment would accelerate the process of care once they arrived at the emergency department.

Ezekowitz has developed a research program that bridges biomedical, clinical and population health. He primarily conducts clinical trials with end-stage heart failure patients. His research focuses on both existing and new therapies, including medications and non-pharmacological approaches for heart patients such as 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 a cardiologist at the U of A’s Heart Function Clinic, which cares for hundreds of patients with advanced heart failure. He says the uniqueness of each patient makes every day 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 says.

Dr. Ezekowitz’s work is currently funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, University Hospital Foundation, Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada, and the Servier Alberta Innovation in Health Fund (2018). He was named a Royal Society of Canada College Member in 2017.

Dr. Arya Sharma

Professor, Department of Medicine

Alberta Diabetes Institute



Arya Sharma is reshaping the way we think about, discuss and treat obesity in Canada. 

Sharma recently made headlines as co-author of the new Canadian Adult Obesity Clinical Practice Guidelines, revised for the first time since 2006. The new guidelines make strides to reduce stigma and shame experienced by patients, and instead addresses obesity as a chronic disease. According to Sharma, a person’s weight alone cannot define their health, so measures such as Body Mass Index (BMI) fail to provide a useful picture of wellness. 

“Most people falsely believe obesity is simply people eating too much and not moving enough, and so all you have to do is eat less and move more and you’ll be cured,” said Sharma. “In 25 years I have yet to cure a single case of obesity. There is no cure for this, which is why it’s considered a chronic disease.”

The former chair in Obesity Research and Management is author and co-author of more than 450 scientific articles, lectures internationally, maintains a widely read obesity blog and regularly makes headlines worldwide as the go-to medical expert on evidence-based prevention and management of obesity and its complications.

As a new fellow of the CAHS he hopes to broaden the reach of his work to public-health policy. 

“It is indeed an honour and privilege to be recognized by such an esteemed body of peers,” Sharma says. “I hope that this will provide me the opportunity to further my efforts to improve the lives of the millions of Canadians living with obesity by helping both public and private stakeholders make evidence-informed decisions about policy and practice.”