Dr. Wilbert Keon to receive the CMA's highest honour

    OTTAWA, Aug. 15 /CNW Telbec/ - On August 22, the Canadian Medical
Association (CMA) will present the 2007 F.N.G. Starr Award to the
Honourable Wilbert Keon, MD a renowned cardiovascular surgeon from Ottawa,
    Named for Frederic Newton Gisborne Starr (1867-1934), a former Secretary
General of the CMA, the F.N.G. Starr Award has been described as the "Victoria
Cross of Canadian Medicine." First given in 1936 to Sir Frederick Banting,
Dr. Charles Best and Dr. James Collip, this medal represents the highest award
that the CMA can bestow upon one of its members in recognition of outstanding
    "I am very honoured to receive this award, especially since I'm being
recognized by my own profession," said Dr. Keon. "It means a great deal since
I gave my life to medicine and made many sacrifices, it's something that I
will always treasure," said Dr. Keon.
    Born in Sheenboro, a small town in Quebec's Outaouais region, Dr. Keon
graduated from the University of Ottawa's medical school in 1961. He then did
his postgraduate study in experimental surgery and concluded his surgical
residency at Montreal General Hospital.
    In 1966, he went to Toronto as senior cardiovascular surgery resident,
first at Toronto General Hospital and then at the Hospital for Sick Children.
Receiving his specialty certification in cardiovascular and thoracic surgery
in 1968, he spent a year at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital and Harvard Medical
Centre as a research and clinical associate.
    While at Harvard he was approached about returning to Ottawa to establish
a heart institute. He agreed, and in 1969 joined the Ottawa Civic Hospital as
chief of its Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, with appointments as chairman
of the Ottawa General's Division of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery and
associate professor in the University of Ottawa's Department of Surgery.
    Dr. Keon envisioned a facility associated with a major hospital, but with
the autonomy to manage its own clinical and research activities. A property
near the Civic Hospital was chosen, and by 1970 a building plan was in place.
    In 1984, Dr. Keon performed the first heart transplant at the Ottawa
Heart Institute. The recipient, Jean-Guy Villeneuve, became one of the
Institute's most ardent supporters.
    Two years later, Dr. Keon and his surgical team made Canadian history by
performing the first artificial heart implant, extending the life of
Noella Leclair until a donor heart became available. Villeneuve and Leclair
each survived more than 20 years after their pioneering surgeries.
    Today the University of Ottawa Heart Institute is a complete cardiac
centre that encompasses prevention, diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation,
research and education. It was Dr. Keon's concept that cardiology and cardiac
surgery should work more closely together in the prevention and care of
cardiovascular disease. He situated the patient investigative unit, surgical
unit and medical care unit on the same floor believing this would improve
patient care. Indeed, this was true and many lives have been saved as a
result. This insightful strategy enabled the University of Ottawa Heart
Institute to grow and develop into a world leader in reperfusion of acute
heart attacks which has been an enormous contribution to the field.
    Dr. Keon, who retired from his academic appointments in 2001, was
director general of the Institute from 1983 until 2004. During his tenure at
the University of Ottawa Heart Institute he trained some of Canada's finest
cardiac surgeons.
    "Dr. Will Keon has been a creative teacher from the early days of his
training at McGill University, the University of Toronto and Harvard
University. He has been an inspirational mentor for many men and women
interested in careers in cardiovascular medicine and surgery," says
Dr. Hugh Scully, former student of Dr. Keon and former president of the CMA.
"His intellectual curiosity and quietly effective leadership style have earned
him a well deserved reputation as a world leader in the advancement of the
treatment of cardiovascular diseases."
    In 1990 Dr. Keon was appointed to the Senate of Canada by then-prime
minister Brian Mulroney, bringing his considerable leadership skills to the
political arena. Since 1992 he has been a member of the Senate Standing
Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, of which he now is deputy
chair; in 2006 this committee produced a landmark report on mental health,
mental illness and addiction services. He also is deputy chair of a Senate
special committee on aging, and chairs a Senate subcommittee on population
    His public service in the Senate has not kept him from undertaking other
activities. From 1998 to 2000 he was a member of the federal health minister's
Science Advisory Board. He has been an expert advisor on pediatric cardiac
services to the Ontario Health Minister, was a member of Ontario's expert
panel on SARS and disease control, and chaired Ontario's internal cardiac
defibrillator task force.
    He has held appointments and been elected to office in dozens of national
and international professional associations, including being a founding member
of the Canadian Association of General Surgeons, president of the Canadian
Cardiovascular Society, and vice-president of the Medical Research Council of
    His many honors and recognitions include the Order of Canada (1985); the
Order of Ontario (1990); the Canadian Cardiovascular Society Career
Achievement Award (1997); and the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal
(2002). He will be inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame in
October 2007.
    Perhaps as gratifying as national honors are the establishment of the
W.J. Keon Award for Excellence in Cardiac Research by the Heart Institute
Alumni (1988); the Keon Chair of Surgery at the University of Ottawa (1991);
the Wilbert Keon Annual Lectureship by the Medical Research Council of Canada
and the University of Ottawa (1998); and the Wilbert J. Keon Building at the
University of Ottawa Heart Institute (2003).
    This year Dr. Wilbert Keon will become the 42nd recipient of the CMA
F.N.G. Starr Award at a special ceremony at the Vancouver's Westin Bayshore
Hotel, BC as part of the CMA's 140th annual meeting.

    (Visit cma.ca for biographical notes on Dr. Wilbert Keon.)

For further information:

For further information: Lucie Boileau, Manager, Media Relations,
1-800-663-7336, (613) 731-8610, ext. 1266, Mobile: (613) 447-0866

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