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Libin Life Research


Care Delivery

The Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta Magazine

Libin Celebrates 10 Years of Heart Excellence in 2014 SR Wayne Chen’s Research Published in Nature Medicine Reveals What Triggers Heart Arrhythmia

Spring 2014



CHAMPION Libin heart procedures keep Justin Warsylewicz’s speedskating career on track

TAVI Milestone Q&A with Harvard’s Dr. Peter Libby Meet the new Co-Directors of APPROACH Research

Libin Life


The Best Is Yet To Come


e are delighted to be celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta in 2014. The inception of the Institute on January 27, 2004 was the result of visionary thinking by Alvin and Mona Libin on behalf of the Libin Foundation, Dr. Eldon Smith and leadership within the University and Alberta Health Services (formerly Calgary Health Region). Dr. L. Brent Mitchell, the inaugural director, also did a masterful job in setting up the infrastructure and early priorities of the Institute. The growth and scope of the membership has been impressive and something we can all be proud of. Our strength has been our people and their passion for the academic pursuit of cardiovascular care and knowledge acquisition, and translating these into leading care delivery. In a short period of time, we have built a world-class cardiac magnetic resonance program at The Stephenson CMR Centre, achieved the best survival rates after myocardial infarction in the country and expanded an already outstanding electrophysiology group, to name but a few accomplishments. Utilizing the backbone of the APPROACH (Alberta Provincial Project For Outcome Assessment In Coronary Heart Disease) database, our health services researchers have also been able to link patient data from many sources to provide important insights into processes of care. This has become a resource used throughout Canada and I’m proud to announce the web-based version of APPROACH going Our strength has live this year in Alberta. This follows a successful rollout been our people and in British Columbia, and is a precursor to several their passion for the additional implementations slated over the next year academic pursuit of across the country. cardiovascular care Still, I believe that the best is yet to come. and knowledge acquiWe are continually seeking further engagement and sition, and translating partnership with the community. Working closely with these into leading our community partners, the University of Calgary and care delivery. Alberta Health Services, we aim to provide our people with the leading-edge tools they need to succeed. Great clinical care requires outstanding research and education and our integrated mission will ensure this success. The key to our future will be the recruitment of young people with a desire to make the system better, and to create new knowledge. We will work hard to grow our base of researchers and clinicians to create the next generation of Libin cardiovascular scientists. We will lead and be actively involved in provincial, national and international collaborations that are at the heart of the future of discovery. The future is very exciting. I look forward to seeing what the next decade brings.


Dr. Todd Anderson Director Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta

Libin Life is published twice a year by the Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta, an entity of the University of Calgary and Alberta Health Services (Calgary Zone). The Libin Life mission is to share news and information about the Institute’s impact in research, education and patient care. Institute Director Dr. Todd Anderson @LibinDirector Director of Research Dr. Ed O’Brien @EDOBrienYYC Education Council Chair Donald Welsh, PhD Associate Director Al-Karim Walli @aswalli Editor Lynda Sea @lyndasea Editorial Committee Amber Arsneau, Barb Jones, Nadia Maarouf, Sharita Manga, Shannon Perry, Judy Siu, Al-Karim Walli, Susan Wilmot, Suzanne Welsh Copy Editors Judy Siu @judesiu Susan Wilmot @SusanWilmot Contributors Amber Arsneau, Marta Cyperling, Gregory Harris, Bruce Perrault, Judy Siu, Steven Tov, Al-Karim Walli, Suzanne Welsh, Susan Wilmot Design and Layout Steven Tov @madebysteventov Printer McAra Printing @mcaraprinting Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta Foothills Medical Centre C830A, 1403 29 Street NW Calgary, AB, T2N 2T9 P 403.210.6271 E W Twitter @libininstitute Editorial Inquiries Lynda Sea Communications Coordinator Send comments, requests for magazine copies, digital magazine issue subscriptions or change of mailing address notifications to Please request permission to reproduce any part of this publication. All rights reserved. © 2014 Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta

contents // SPRING 2014


10 features

10 13

2 Message from the Director 5 Awards & Accolades 7 News & Highlights 17 Community Engagement 20 Spotlight on Trainees 22 Libin Abroad

Heart Of A Champion

Former Olympian Justin Warsylewicz credits heart procedure at the Libin Institute for keeping his speedskating career on track

The Power Of 10

In honour of the Libin Institute’s 10th Anniversary, 10 prominent figures in the cardiovascular sciences community reflect in their own words on the Institute’s last decade



care delivery

8 8

Libin Team Celebrates 100th TAVI


Foothills Cardiac Surgery Celebrates Silver Jubilee Looking back at the 2012-2013 year in clinical cardiac care delivery

New Recruits Meet the newest members of the Libin Institute



Dr. Matthew James & Dr. Stephen Wilton: New Co-Directors of APPROACH Research


Life-saving Benefits of Heart Procedures May Extend to People with Kidney Disease

17 17

Dr. Derek Exner: Refining the use of life-saving heart tech Dr. Paul Fedak: 4D-MRI Technology Shaping Future of Surgery for Bicuspid Aortic Valve Disorders

9 18


19 19 21

Q&A: Dr. Peter Libby, ER Smith Lectureship Awardee 2014 Libin Research Day ISRA 2014: From Molecular Machinery to Clinical Challenges



Upcoming events 22 May i n 2 01 4 11April

4th Annual Heart and Stroke Career Development Workshop The Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta, The Hotchkiss Brain Institute, The Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute, and The Heart and Stroke Foundation (Alberta, NWT & Nunavut) are hosting this one-day workshop for heart and stroke research trainees. Bringing together trainees and mentors from Alberta’s outstanding heart and stroke research community, the aim is to enhance career training of our future generation of investigative leaders. It’s an opportunity for various aspects of career development such as sharpening career plans, exchanging ideas and networking with well-established mentors and colleagues. (The Westin Calgary, 320 4 Ave. SW) —Shannon Perry

17-19 April Calgary Youth Science Fair

Each year, approximately 800 students from in and around Calgary gather at the University of Calgary’s Olympic Oval for Canada’s largest youth science fair. This annual event’s purpose is to encourage and promote an ongoing interest in science for students in Grades 5 to 12. Members of the public are invited to stop by the Libin Institute’s booth on April 19 to meet our team. (Olympic Oval, UCalgary, 2500 University Dr. NW; Public Event April 19, 9 am – 12 pm; Formal Presentations and Awards Ceremony 12 - 1 pm) —Susan Wilmot

Heart and Stoke Lab Tours Libin Institute and Hotchkiss Institute researchers host invite-only lab tours to inspire Heart and Stroke Foundation’s donors, volunteers and fundraisers. Participants will be provided an opportunity to tour labs, attend researcher presentations and mix and mingle with Institute clinicians, researchers and their teams. —SW

16 May

Bridging the Gap: The 22nd Annual Faculty of Medicine Symposium Presented by the Faculty of Medicine Grad Students, this event features speakers Dr. Gerry Wright from McMaster University, Dr. Stefen Lohmander from Lund University, Dr. Evangelos Michelakis from the University of Alberta, and Dr. Sandosh Padmanabha from the University of Glasgow, Scotland. Topics will range from sub-cellular to global issues. (Libin Lecture Theatre, Health Sciences Centre, UCalgary Foothills Campus, 9 am - 3:30 pm; wine and cheese from 3:30 - 5:30 pm) —SW

26-28 May

ICRH-IRSC Young Investigators Forum The Young Investigators Forum is the major training and education initiative of ICRH (Institute of Circulatory & Respiratory Health) and its many partners. The Libin Institute is sponsoring the YI Forum, which focuses on early career development, provides young investigators (e.g. graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, clinician trainees, and junior faculty) with the opportunity to showcase their research, and develop professional networks with both peers and mentors from across Canada. (Westin Edmonton Hotel, 10135 100 St. NW) —Lynda Sea

7 June

4th Annual Canadian Council of Cardiovascular Nurses Spring Nursing Conference (CCCN) The Libin Institute is a sponsor at this year’s CCCN conference “Prevention and Intervention: Untangling Cardiovascular Disease.” Themed around “Update Your Nursing Toolkit,” the CCCN will focus on two streams. The first stream is devoted to prevention topics; the second to intervention including surgery, cath lab, and ICU. Greetings will be provided by Sue Morris, CCCN President. Dr. Todd Anderson, Director of the Libin Institute, will be closing the conference with his presentation on the new cholesterol guidelines. Prices are $75 for student nurses, $125 for members and $200 for non-members. Register online at (Calgary Marriott Downtown, 110 9th Avenue SE, Calgary, 8 am - 3:30 pm) —SW

ABOUT THE COVER Canadian long-track speedskater Justin Warsylewicz was diagnosed with Wolff-ParkinsonWhite Syndrome (WPW) when he was 18. WPW is a condition where an irregular electrical current can cause the heart to beat extremely fast. In 2004, with the help of Dr. L. Brent Mitchell and Dr. Katherine Kavanagh at the Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta, he eventually underwent two catheter ablations to fix the problem. Warsylewicz won a silver medal in the men’s team pursuit at the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics. Follow him on Twitter at @jmwarsy and check out his blog Read full story on page 10.


Photo by Riley Brandt. Shot on location at the Olympic Oval, University of Calgary.


Brenda Hemmelgarn Receives Killam Honour Dr. Brenda Hemmelgarn, Professor in the Departments of Medicine and Community Health Sciences, was awarded a Killam Research Leader Award at the Killam Research and Teaching Awards last October. This award recognizes an individual who has made outstanding contributions to research, who is an acknowledged international leader, and who has earned distinction for themselves and for the University of Calgary. Hemmelgarn’s research is focused on the study of chronic kidney disease and end-stage renal disease using computerized databases. She is the Director of the Alberta Kidney Disease Network and holds the Roy and Vi Baay Chair in Kidney Research. —Lynda Sea

Hemmelgarn photo by Photographik. Wyse photo by Harry Palmer. Kuriachan photo by Jared Sych, courtesy of Avenue Magazine.

JACC Bestows Dr. George Wyse with Simon Dack Award On March 30, 2014, Dr. D. George Wyse MD, PhD, FACC receives the Simon Dack Award for Outstanding Scholarship from the Journal of American College of Cardiology (JACC) for his support of the JACC Journals. As a leader in its field, JACC publishes original peerreviewed clinical and experimental reports on all aspects of cardiovascular disease. Simon Dack was the founding editor of JACC. This award is given to those who work tirelessly in the role of peer reviewer to ensure that the journals meet their primary mission—the timely publication of important new clinical information. Wyse is an Emeritus Professor with the University of Calgary’s Department of Cardiac Sciences. He is a recognized and decorated international expert in cardiac arrhythmias. He was a graduate of the Faculty of Medicine Class of 1974 and joined the Faculty of Medicine at UCalgary in 1978. He is chair of the Institute’s International Experts Advisory Committee of the Strategic Advisory Board. In 2012, he co-authored Hearts, Minds & Vision: Roots of the Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta. —LS

CAHS Fellow: Dr. L. Brent Mitchell Dr. L. Brent Mitchell, clinical cardiac electrophysiologist and former director of the Libin Institute, was amongst the 54 Fellows inducted into the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (CAHS) in September 2013. The CAHS recognizes individuals of great achievement in the academic health sciences in Canada. Mitchell has made significant contributions to cardiovascular health in Calgary. His research interests focus on clinical arrhythmology including the investigation and management of ventricular tachycardia and ventricular fibrillation, prevention of sudden death, prevention of post-cardiac surgery atrial fibrillation, and prediction of antiarrhythmic drug efficacy and proarrhythmia. In addition to his research career, he has long served as a leader and mentor to colleagues and students, and a dedicated provider of care to his patients.

Avenue Top 40 Under 40: Dr. Vikas Kuriachan Last November, Avenue Magazine named Dr. Vikas Kuriachan a Top 40 under 40 for 2013. Kuriachan was the first physician in Calgary to perform a percutaneous epicardial ablation, a tricky, but minimally invasive, procedure that uses a needle to treat arrhythmias outside the heart without having to open the chest. Arrhythmias are electrical problems of the heart. He’s a cardiac electrophysiologist and Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Calgary. Out of the 10 cardiac electrophysiologists at the Libin Institute, Kuriachan is the only one who performs both ablations and device procedures—up to 300 procedures each year. Avenue Calgary’s Top 40 Under 40 Awards celebrate Calgarians under the age of 40 who excel in their respective fields, who give back to their community and raise the profile of the city. —LS


CCS Presentations Garnered Awards for Libin Trainee and Nurse Christina Sheppard, RN BN, a Cardiac Surgery nurse, won the Student Presentation Award for an Oral Presentation at the 2013 Canadian Cardiovascular Congress. It was awarded by the Canadian Council of Cardiovascular Nurses (CCCN). Her presentation “A Case Study Examining the need for Advanced Wound Care within a Tertiary Care Centre” profiles a case study of a postoperative cardiac patient and highlighted the need for advanced wound care education within cardiovascular surgery, as well as appropriate screening and subsequent antibiotic prophylaxis strategies. She has been a cardiac surgery nurse on Unit 91 at the Foothills Hospital since 2007. Dr. Janet Ngu MD, MSc, won the Canadian Cardiovascular Society Trainee Research Award – Basic Science 2013. Ngu used to train under the supervision of Dr. Paul Fedak. She is now training in Cardiac Surgery at the University of Ottawa. Her presentation “Role of Tissue Inhibitor of Metalloproteinase-2 In Human Cardiac Fibroblastmediated Extracellular Matrix Remodeling” was recognized for its scientific merit and excellence of presentation and

Dr. Norm Campbell Gets Guenter Award for International Health Dr. Norm Campbell was awarded the Guenter Award for International Health. He was nominated by the Department of Medicine for his tireless work, nationally and internationally, in promoting the importance of hypertension, and ways to mitigate prevention of disease progression through clinical practice guidelines, including promotion of healthy eating and other healthy choices.

Dr. Hude Quan Receives Faculty Citation Classic Award The University of Calgary Faculty of Medicine’s Citation Classic award recognizes faculty members who have had a single manuscript cited more than 1,000 times. Dr. Hude Quan MD, PhD, was the only recipient in 2013 for his paper “Coding algorithms for defining comorbidities in ICD-9-CM and ICD-10 administrative data” (Medical Care. 43(11):1130-1139, November 2005). In receiving this award, Dr. Quan enters an illustrious club, joining the likes of fellow Libin Institute awardees Dr. D. George Wyse MD PhD and Dr. Todd J. Anderson in the highest echelons of research achievement. —Al-Karim Walli

research work. It was based on her MSc thesis work completed in Fedak’s lab in Calgary. —LS

Last October, cardiac surgery resident Dr. Holly Mewhort won the 2013 Association of Women Surgeons (AWS) STARR Award which recognizes an outstanding resident who has demonstrated excellence in innovative research. Her presentation “Epicardial Infarct Repair with bFGF-Enhanced CorMatrix SIS-ECM biomaterial attenuates Post-Ischemic Cardiac Remodelling preventing Heart Failure” received first prize in the Annual Starr Poster Contest for Medical Students and Residents. —LS 6 LIBIN LIFE

Quan photo by Bruce Perrault.

Cardiac Surgery Resident wins AWS STARR Award


Researchers Discover How Heart Arrhythmia Occurs Finding at Libin Institute unmasks triggering mechanism, opening door to new drug interventions

SR Wayne Chen studies the ryanodine receptor at the King Family Experimental Arrhythmia Laboratory

By Marta Cyperling • Photo by Bruce Perrault


ibin researchers at the King Family Experimental Arrhythmia Laboratory have discovered the fundamental biology of calcium waves in relation to heart arrhythmias. The findings published in the January 19 edition of Nature Medicine*, outline the discovery of this fundamental physiological process that researchers hope will one day help design molecularly tailored medications that correct the pathophysiology. Using a combination of molecular biology, electrophysiology, and genetically engineering mice, scientists at the Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta have discovered that a calcium-sensing-gate in the cardiac calcium release channel (ryanodine receptor) is responsible for the initiation of calcium waves and calciumtriggered arrhythmias. “The calcium-sensing-gate mechanism discovered here is an entirely novel concept with potential to shift our general understanding of ion channel gating, cardiac arrhythmogenesis, and the treatment of calcium-triggered arrhythmias,” says SR Wayne Chen PhD. Chen is the study’s senior author and the Heart and Stroke Foundation/Libin Cardiovascular Institute Professor in Cardiovascular Research at the University of Calgary.

Utilizing a genetically modified mouse model, they manipulated the sensor and completely prevented calcium-triggered arrhythmias. Heart arrhythmias cause the heart to beat irregularly, resulting in symptoms such as dizziness and fainting, or in severe cases, sudden arrhythmic death. While many factors contribute to the development of arrhythmias, including genetics, scientists know that a common mechanism of cardiac arrhythmias is calcium overload in the heart, i.e. calcium-triggered arrhythmias that can lead to sudden death. The underlying mechanism of these calcium-triggered arrhythmias has remained a mystery for decades. “These findings open a new chapter of calcium signaling and the discovery fosters the possibilities of new drug interventions,” he says. This work was supported by research grants from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the National Institutes of Health, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Alberta, the Canada Foundation for Innovation and donors of the Libin Institute. * Chen

W, Wang R, Chen B et al. [Incl. Gillis AM, Duff HJ & Chen SR] The ryanodine receptor store-sensing gate controls Ca2+ waves and Ca2+-triggered arrhythmias. Nature Medicine. 2014 Jan 19. doi: 10.1038/nm.3440. [Epub ahead of print]

All In A Heart’s Day Work

Forget wearing your heart on your sleeve— these brand-new, limited edition Libin Institute t-shirts are a chance to literally wear your heart where it belongs. The artwork was provided by our very own Jennifer Maclean, administrative assistant to Drs. George (Yorgo) Veenhuyzen and Vikas Kuriachan. She has been working in cardiology for the last six years but is also a natural artist whose hobby is art and drawing. ($15, Health Sciences Centre bookstore at the Foothills Campus, University of Calgary)



Libin Team Celebrates 100th TAVI

ABOVE The TAVI (transcatheter aortic valve implantation) procedure fixes aortic stenosis. TOP RIGHT A team of cardiologists, cardiac surgeons, nurses, technologists and anaesthesiologist work in the operating room. RIGHT Dr. Faisal Al-Qoofi conducted the first TAVI in Calgary in February 2011.


Meet the newest members of the Libin Institute Compiled by Amber Arsneau


In December 2013, the Libin Institute completed its 100th TAVI (transcatheter aortic valve implantation) procedure. Previously, open-heart surgery used to be the only option to replace the valve in patients with aortic stenosis (calcification of the aortic valve). But for the sick, elderly and others who are not good candidates for open-heart surgery, TAVI allows these patients a chance to live longer and to improve their quality of life. Dr. Faisal Al-Qoofi, Clinical Assistant Professor, conducted the first TAVI in Calgary in February 2011. He says the Libin Institute usually completes four TAVI procedures per month. “This modality is providing a good alternative to highrisk surgery,” he says. Over the last couple of years, he has noticed the percutaneous valve technology improving, getting a variety of sizes and smaller delivery systems. By default, this reduces complications of the surgery and shortens hospital recovery times. Al-Qoofi attributes this success to the team of cardiologists, cardiac surgeons, nurses, technologists and anaesthesiologist which include other Libin members such as Drs. Bill Kidd, Francois Charbonneau and Dean Traboulsi. He says all the cardiac units at the Foothills Hospital play important roles in terms of patient care before and after the procedure. “Clearly, the great thing about our experience is working as a team and how we’ve improved over the two to three years,” he says. “We as a team, stood through a lot of challenges and complex cases.” Moira McRae, 86, says she’s proud to be the 100th TAVI patient. She says: “They don’t cut you open at all and it makes a big difference. I had no problems and couldn’t believe I was up and walking just days after being in the hospital. It has given me a longer life and given me hope that I can live another few years and enjoy life.”—Lynda Sea

DR. PATRICK CHAMPAGNE POSITION Clinical Assistant Professor, Cardiologist, Total Cardiology PROVENANCE Abitbi-Temiscamingue, QC DEGREES Clinical

Echocardiography, Jewish General Hospital, affiliate of McGill University (2012); Internal Medicine and General Cardiology Residencies, University of Calgary (2006-2012); MD, University of Ottawa (2006); PhD, Experimental Medicine, McGill University (2003); B.Sc, Microbiology and Immunology, McGill University (1996) WHAT I DO, IN 10 WORDS Clinical cardiology and echocardiography WHAT INSPIRED MY CAREER CHOICE My patients. Caring for them through acute, life-threatening illness as well as thereafter, when life has normalized again. MY ULTIMATE GOAL To make a difference in other people’s lives. To always appreciate the privilege I have to do what I do. HARDEST LESSON LEARNED Perseverance. Never quit. HOBBIES Family time. Hiking. Camping. WHAT PEOPLE DON’T KNOW ABOUT ME During my residency training, I learned to get rest whenever there was a lull in duties; no matter where, no matter how brief. Echo lab beds are comfortable. Stress lab beds are comfortable. Cath tables are not comfortable. I never tried a tilt table.

The Foothills Hospital Cardiac Surgery Team. Photo by Hiroaki Kobayashi.

Foothills Cardiac Surgery Celebrates Silver Jubilee


n July 1988, the Cardiac Surgery Unit at the Foothills Hospital opened its doors with two surgeons: Dr. Teresa (Terry) M. Kieser and Dr. Andrew Maitland. At that time, approximately five heart operations were performed per week. In 1990, Dr. Baikunth Bharadwaj was recruited to assume the role of chief of the division of cardiovascular and thoracic surgery at Foothills. Since then, the program has grown substantially, especially after the amalgamation with the Holy Cross program in 1996. Presently, the team, led by Dr. Imtiaz Ali, Section Chief, Cardiac Surgery, consists of nine cardiac surgeons and numerous staff who perform 26 operations weekly. On November 16, 2013, the Foothills Hospital Cardiac Surgery Unit hosted a Silver Jubilee Black Tie Gala at the Palliser Hotel to celebrate 25 years of service. It was a glamorous occasion enjoyed by approximately 250 cardiac surgery staff, colleagues, patients and patrons. During dinner, Dr. Maitland welcomed everyone and thanked guests for their support of the program over the years. Special guest speakers Dr. D. George Wyse MD, PhD and Mrs. Muriel Shewchuk entertained guests with historical accounts, photos and tributes. A 19-piece Prime Time Big Band then kicked into gear and prompted everyone to take to the dance floor until midnight. It was fun to see some of our senior cardiologists join the conga line! —Angela Waleski

DR. NOWELL FINE POSITION Cardiologist, Clinical Assistant Professor PROVENANCE Toronto, ON DEGREES MS, Clinical Epidemiol-

ogy, Harvard School of Public Health (2013); Heart Failure/Transplant and Echocardiology Fellowships, Mayo Clinic (2010-2013); Internal Medicine and General Cardiology Residencies, University of Western Ontario (2004-2010); MD, University of Western Ontario (2004); B.Comm, McGill University (2000) WHAT I DO, IN 10 WORDS Heart failure and Transplant/LVAD patient care, echocardiologist, and collaborative research. WHAT INSPIRED MY CAREER CHOICE Transplant/LVAD presents a unique opportunity to be part of a patient’s complex cardiac and psychosocial care. MY ULTIMATE GOAL A productive career as an academic cardiologist. HARDEST LESSON LEARNED The more experience you gain, the more you realize how little you know. HOBBIES Spend time with my wife and three children. WHAT PEOPLE DON’T KNOW ABOUT ME I’m a big science fiction fan.

DR. WILLIAM KENT POSITION Clinical Assistant Professor, Cardiac Surgery PROVENANCE Sarnia, Ontario DEGREES Fellowship in valve surgery and

mechanical circulatory support, Northwestern University (2013); FRCSC, Cardiac Surgery, University of Calgary (2012); FRCSC, General Surgery, Queen’s University (2008); MD, Queen’s University (2003); MSc, Neuroscience, Western University (2001); BA (Hon), Psychology, Huron College, Western University (1996) WHAT I DO, IN 10 WORDS I perform operations on the heart. WHAT INSPIRED MY CAREER CHOICE Cardiac surgery provided me the greatest intellectual and technical challenges and it rewards hard work and attention to detail. MY ULTIMATE GOAL My goal is to have a long and fulfilling career helping patients, contributing to my institution, and supporting my colleagues. HARDEST LESSON LEARNED The most important lesson in surgery is to accept and learn from your mistakes. HOBBIES I go skiing with my family. WHAT PEOPLE DON’T KNOW ABOUT ME Before becoming interested in medicine, I was an average student at best, with a principle focus on windsurfing. LIBIN LIFE 9



CHAMPION Former Olympian Justin Warsylewicz credits heart procedure at the Libin Institute for keeping his speedskating career on track

By Lynda Sea • Photos by Riley Brandt 10 LIBIN LIFE


rom growing up in Regina idolizing Olympic speedskaters to becoming an Olympic medalist himself, Justin Warsylewicz has sure come a long way.

Even moreso considering that at 18, the long-track speedskater was diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome, a condition where an irregular electrical current can cause the heart to beat extremely fast. Warsylewicz was training for his second World Cup season in 2004 at the Olympic Oval at the University of Calgary when at a regular checkup, his sport doctor heard something abnormal with his heartbeat. He was immediately referred to the Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta where he underwent tests and ECGs and eventually had two ablations to fix the problem. “When I was diagnosed and explained what it was, it was shocking,” says the now28-year-old third-year student at the Faculty of Kinesiology. “I was always very active and never had a problem. I was scared. I was scared about my skating career and my general health for the rest of my life.” WPW is essentially an extra electrical pathway in the heart, says Dr. Katherine Kavanagh, cardiologist and associate professor at the Faculty of Medicine. “We had to find out what Justin’s pathway was like and in order to do that, we had to put catheters up into the heart,” she says. “In Justin, it was rather close to the normal conduction system so we had to have the discussion with him about the potential risk that he could end up with a pacemaker.” On November 17 that same year, Dr. L. Brent Mitchell, clinical cardiac electrophysiologist and former director of the Libin Institute, performed a routine catheter ablation to eliminate the extra electrical pathway in his heart. “I remember Dr. Mitchell sitting with me, my mom and dad and drawing diagrams, showing us exactly what he was going to do and outlining and putting it in layman’s terms,” recalls Warsylewicz. “He was really confident and that made me feel really good.”


‌ atch a video interview with W Warsylewicz & Kavanagh at the Olympic Oval at

A second procedure on December 8 that year fixed the problem entirely. A few weeks later, Warsylewicz was back on the ice and even went on to win his second consecutive men’s all-round long-track championship. Less than two years later, he realized his Olympic dreams when he took home a silver medal for the men’s team pursuit in the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy. “Looking back, it has been such a crazy ride to go through all that and to be able to go to the Olympics and get a medal,” he says. “I feel extremely lucky. The Libin Institute has been amazing. I credit them with helping me to get my skating career and health back on track.” Kavanagh says she was extremely proud to watch Warsylewicz win that medal in Turin. “I’m sure there weren’t too many more people aside from his parents and coaches that were more proud of him,” she says. “We really felt a part of that medal and it was so great to see him win.” While Waryslewicz came close to making the Canadian speedskating team for Sochi 2014 (he placed second in the 5,000 metre Olympic Trials, but only the first place winner qualifies), he still went to Russia to support his wife, Brittany Schussler, who is on the Canadian Olympic Speed Skating team. “It was a rollercoaster what I went through [in 2004],” he says. “But it gave me some perspective to take a step back and evaluate what’s important.” One thing I’ve learned through all of this is that anything is possible if you really put your mind to it.” 12 LIBIN LIFE

ABOVE Justin Warsylewicz and Dr. Katherine Kavanagh reunite after 10 years since his ablation at the Libin Institute. BELOW The Libin Institute is a proud sponsor of the longtrack speedskater this year. Here, he is seen training at the Olympic Oval.










In honour of the Libin Institute’s 10th Anniversary on January 27 this year, 10 prominent figures in the cardiovascular sciences community reflect in their own words on the Institute’s legacies and future Compiled by Al-Karim Walli • Photo Illustration by Steven Tov

“One of the major goals that drove our efforts to create the Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta was to establish a regional centre of excellence that maximized the interactions between health promotion, clinical care, research, and education related to the heart and its blood vessels. This model anticipated that integration of these spheres of activity would each strengthen the others. We should be extremely proud of our successes in achieving this goal. The Libin Institute is now the largest, fully-integrated, region cardiovascular enterprise in Canada and the only fully-integrated cardiovascular health care region in a Canadian city with a research-intensive University. Evidence of our successes in each sphere include the best clinical cardiovascular care outcomes in the country according to the Canadian Institute of Health Information, national awards for contributions to health promotion, national and international awards for health-related research, and international awards for teaching. However, the journey is not yet over. The administration of the Institute is well aware of the areas of our health promotion, clinical care, research, and education pursuits that need to be fostered through actions that are always challenging in periods of resource constraint. Nevertheless, I have every confidence that the successes of the past 10 years will be outstripped by those of the next 10 years. It has been a delight to have contributed to the process.”

Dr. L. Brent Mitchell Inaugural Director, Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta


“I feel pride in being part of Libin when I see the accomplishments of our members—when someone tells me what good care they or a loved one received at Libin; when I see that a Libin member has received a prestigious research grant; when I see an important publication in a high quality peer-reviewed journal written by a Libin member; and when I see Libin members as invited participants on programs of major medical and research meetings. The establishment of city-wide cardiovascular services is an important “impact” accomplishment/milestone. It is unique in Canada. It is troublesome and unruly at times and one can have a love/hate relationship with it, but it is an important tool in ensuring a consistent standard of citywide excellence in care across the city. Four things with the most impact so far are the Stephenson Cardiovascular MRI Center; interventional cardiology program; APPROACH project in health care research, and the cardiac arrhythmia program. Future milestones, assuming their success, will be completion of the Hybrid OR; secure, long-term funding for the continued success of the APPROACH project; creation of a functional and productive Cardiovascular Health Outcomes Research Center and evolution of the Stephenson Cardiovascular MRI Center into the Stephenson Cardiovascular Multimodality Imaging Center. Real success of Libin will come from our members achieving their personal goals. Thus the success of the institute therefore depends on recruitment of good people and providing them what they need to achieve their personal goals.”

Dr. D. George Wyse MD, PhD First Cardiac Electrophysiologist in Calgary

“What I value most about the Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta are the several matured collegial relationships based on many years of collaboration and friendship. These relationships have been based on mutual respect, trust, and affection. The excitement of the Institute stems from continuing opportunities to guide and influence brilliant, energetic, superbly skilled young people who come to share our enthusiasm for cardiovascular science.”

Dr. John V. Tyberg, MD PhD Professor, Cardiac Sciences, Physiology and Pharmacology, University of Calgary 14 LIBIN LIFE

“It is hard to believe that 10 years have slipped by so quickly. However, the anniversary date of the Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta is easy for me to remember—the institute was officially formed on my birthday. The formation of the Libin Institute was, and is, one of the most important changes in cardiovascular care in Calgary and within the province. By forging a direct partnership between the clinical and academic structures, the Libin Institute has provided the foundation for mutual accountability in research, education and clinical excellence. It has increased the communication and networking from bench to bedside and helped bring about new and innovative partnerships among clinicians and scientists. Through the formation of the International Expert Advisory Council, the Libin Institute has sought the expertise of world-class leaders in cardiovascular medicine to review and advise on programs of research and care. Through this support, the Libin Institute has ensured Calgary has a place as one of the leading cardiovascular centres, both nationally and internationally. This reputation for excellence has attracted the best and the brightest clinicians and scientists to make Calgary their home.”

Janice Stewart Former Director, Cardiac Sciences (city-wide), Alberta Health Services

“The Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta took on a daunting task at its inception – a decade ago – to create an organization that would encompass and foster a broad range of research, education and clinical care, and would appeal to the needs of communities in the University, Hospital and the general public. Over the past 10 years, the Libin brand has certainly attained significant prominence. During that time, the Libin Institute was the real driver behind coalescing an intellectually and physically disparate collection of researchers and helping to foster a collaborative community. One of the notable achievements in this regard was the development of new contiguous space on the ground floor of the HRIC and TRW buildings for our researchers. The Libin Institute has also helped support and promote research through the development and distribution of studentships and fellowships for trainees, funds for core collaborative equipment, and pilot grants for collaborative research projects. The challenge for the future will be to continue strengthening our research team so our work can have real impact. As I look back, my best Libin memories are being able to work with a diverse group of people, all inspired to contribute in their own way toward furthering research excellence.”

Jonathan Lytton, PhD Inaugural Libin Institute Scientific Director (2006-2009) Head, Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

“I left my clinical career in cardiac anesthesia some years before the Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta was established. I went on to lead the operations of large health organizations in the Calgary Region and provincially. That experience led me to appreciate those things that are especially fragile in a complex healthcare system. One of these vulnerable yet critical areas is the value of integration of advanced clinical care with both basic and clinical research. It is surprising how much this interface is taken for granted, if considered at all, in the daily hubbub of managing a complex system. The Libin Institute champions and advances this interface and has done so for the past 10 years. By doing so, it has made a unique contribution to the advancement of cardiac care in Alberta and far beyond and will continue to do so for years to come.”

“I have had the opportunity to be a part of the Libin Institute for the last nine years. As a Medical Cardiac Nurse, I have felt that Libin has supported my ongoing learning through sponsoring Cardiac Rounds at the Rockyview General Hospital. This excellent opportunity has allowed me and many others to learn at work during lunch rounds. Being a part of Libin also means unity, through the family event that Libin holds every year. It can be difficult to create a sense of team when there are cardiac units at the different hospitals in Calgary [but] these yearly events are a time for all cardiology staff, physicians and families to come together and celebrate. I feel proud to be a part of such a great organization that is so supportive to patients, staff and the community.”

Dr. Chris Eagle

Michelle Biegler

Former CEO, Alberta Health Services

Unit Manager, Unit 71, Rockyview General Hospital

Dr. Katherine Kavanagh First Electrophysiology Fellow at University of Calgary Program Director, Cardiology Training Program

“As I reflect on the Institute’s first 10 years, I liken it to the birthing process (not that I have direct experience). It was as difficult pregnancy with a very prolonged labour. But with nurture from a lot of individuals, the child has grown, developed its own personality and now is a healthy adolescent. There are still lots of challenges but the Institute has had the benefit of strong parenting—first from Brent Mitchell and latterly, from Todd Anderson. This leadership will have lasting influence on future success. With the continued strong support from Dr. Alvin Libin and the Alvin and Mona Libin Foundation, I foresee continued growth and success. There is still much to be achieved. The basic science research base needs to be nurtured and renewed and there is a need for more young clinicianscientists to help create our academic future. Quality patient care should remain an important pillar of our success. The Libin Institute has considerably increased its visibility across Canada in recent years but much hard work is still required for us to assume the leadership position that is possible. I believe that the future looks very bright for the Libin and I will continue to observe, contribute where I can and take pride in the accomplishments.”

Dr. Eldon R. Smith Emeritus Professor, Former Dean of Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary Chair, Strategic Advisory Board, Libin Institute

“It invokes a great feeling of pride to see the name Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta. I am proud that the Libin Institute can offer individuals the full gamut of cardiovascular services that can be found anywhere in the world when they present on our door step with a cardiac problem. To have cardiovascular clinicians and scientists together in the same institute not only allows us to offer the best care available today, it also allows us the ability to make advances in the cardiovascular care and management for our future patients. Over the past 10 years, our faculty has grown significantly. The Libin Cardiovascular Institute has allowed us to add a world-class MRI imaging centre and to also have a cardiac geneticist. Those two particular entities have not only significantly added to the care of our patients but have also significantly added to and strengthened our training program. It is truly gratifying to know that we can offer our future cardiovascular specialists the training they need in all areas of cardiovascular medicine.” “Libin has been generous in supporting Global Health [Nicaragua, Project Zamboanga in the Philippines, Guyana Echo Program]. This is a distinct addition (as far as I am aware) towards extending efforts towards Global Health—a very progressive change towards our role in the community which would have been focused mostly in Canada, with some spread beyond in the first world, before Libin. Being part of Libin engenders a stronger sense of belonging to an easier-to-identify with-group of clinicians and scientists with common interests without weakening ties with other non-Libin colleagues. Libin appears to provide a structure that supports activities/collaboration that wasn’t there when we weren’t any more than a division of Internal Medicine. I have only seen the development and growth of Libin as a positive change with no negative features; a rare thing to move forward without paying a price.”

Dr. Israel (Sonny) Belenkie First full-time cardiologist at the University of Calgary





New Co-Directors of APPROACH Research By Judy Siu • Photo by Lynda Sea


n March 2013, Dr. Matthew James and Dr. Stephen Wilton assumed the roles of Co-Directors of APPROACH (Alberta Provincial Project for Outcome Assessment in Coronary Heart Disease) Research. Together, they will work with Dr. William Ghali, APPROACH’s Research Director, to strategize the project’s future research direction. James, Assistant Professor in the Departments of Medicine and Community Health Sciences, is a nephrologist, with training in epidemiology and health services research. Wilton, Clinical Assistant Professor in the Departments of Cardiac Sciences and Medicine, is an electrophysiologist, with training in epidemiology and clinical trials. Despite their unique backgrounds, the pair has a keen interest in heart disease, and is looking forward to bringing their expertise and skills to APPROACH to enhance its capabilities. “We are keen to support projects already in place,” says James. “We want the APPROACH initiative to continue to be as successful as it has been, and at the same time grow in new directions.” Going into its 19th year operating within Alberta, the APPROACH database has expanded geographically across Canada. It continues to expand conceptually, capturing more data on more patients. “We’re very excited to be able to roll out APPROACH to patients getting cardiac rhythm management devices, to patients that are coming to some of our specialty clinics like our atrial fibrillation clinic and heart function clinic,” says Wilton. “We are working on developing those and linking all of the APPROACH databases together, along with linking them with other types of data such as ECG (electrocardiogram) databases and imaging in the future. This will give us a very powerful tool for charting patients’ journeys through the cardiovascular care system.” Their newest venture is developing ‘dashboards’ which will

Life-saving Benefits of Heart Procedures May Extend to People with Kidney Disease


provide real-time knowledge translation. This will aid in clinical decision support that will help either at the bedside, with patients, or with administrators making care decisions using the best The APPROACH database was evidence available. created in 1995 by Dr. Merril “We are working on ways Knudtson, OC. The database to enhance the role of currently tracks more than 175,000 APPROACH as a tool that patients with chronic disease in can support clinical care” says Alberta, including hospital readmission James. “To do that, we’re really rates, death rates, and quality of life. interested in developing tools APPROACH software is currently used that can use the information in 15 sites providing cardiac care from APPROACH in real time across Canada. ( to guide decisions in the care of people with heart disease.” The web-based version of the APPROACH database is now up and running in Alberta. This follows a successful rollout in British Columbia, and is a precursor to several additional implementations slated over the next year across the country.

• • •

1 in 10 Canadians have kidney disease (among the strongest risk factors for heart disease) Heart disease remains a number one killer in Canada 400,000+ adults in Alberta have kidney disease—28,000 of them will suffer a heart attack over the next 10 years

People with kidney disease who have a heart attack are 40 per cent less likely to receive life-saving heart procedures such as angioplasty or bypass surgery because of fears it could worsen their kidney disease. A research study by Dr. Matthew James published in the July 2013 edition of the British Medical Journal suggests that the benefits of these procedures in patients with kidney disease may outweigh their risks. “Our study suggests that the benefits of angioplasty and bypass surgery following a heart attack may extend to people with kidney disease, without increasing the risks of progression to kidney failure,” says James, lead author of the study. “After matching people based on their kidney function and with similar propensity to receive a heart procedure, we found that these procedures were associated with a modest increase in the risk that their kidney function could get worse following the procedure, yet no increase in the risks they would require dialysis or progress to kidney failure later in life. Importantly, the use of these procedures was, however, associated with improved survival.” “A key component of quality care for patients with heart disease is timely access to cardiac procedures when necessary. This knowledge will help patients with kidney disease and their doctors decide on the best treatment options following a heart attack”, says Dr. Merril Knudtson OC, cardiologist and coauthor of the study.

4D-MRI Technology Shaping Future of Surgery for Bicuspid Aortic Valve Disorders Photo by Bruce Perrault


new research initiative on bicuspid aortic valve disorders at the Don and Marlene Campbell Cardiovascular Translational Research Laboratory is using cutting-edge imaging technology with the aim to give individuals their lives back. Individuals with bicuspid aortic valve disorder are born with two flaps rather than three in the aortic valve – one of four valves which allow blood to pump through the heart. Over time, the stress and strain of the condition can lead to leaks or blockages and prevent blood from easily leaving the organ. It’s often discovered in patients around 40 and 50 years of age. Using 4D-MRI technology and combining the strengths of his team at Northwestern University and his lab in Calgary, Dr. Paul Fedak, MD, PhD, cardiac surgeon and Associate Professor in the Department of Cardiac Sciences at the University of Calgary, is working toward shaping the future of surgery for the condition. “We can actually look into you with this imaging technology and see where those stresses and strains are during the cardiac cycle, and how we can best treat those patients before a catastrophic complication occurs,” he says. Thanks to the support of Don and Marlene Campbell, Dr. Fedak and his team are exploring innovative new surgical therapies. Fedak provides an outstanding training environment for students at the undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate levels in an effort to promote and foster the development of future clinician-scientists. “This generous gift has allowed us to train the next generation of surgicalscientists while granting us the freedom to explore innovative new surgical therapies for patients at risk of heart failure,” says Fedak.

Refining the Use of LifeSaving Heart Tech By Gregory Harris • Photo by Lynda Sea Each year doctors in Alberta implant about 800 ICD (implantable cardioverter defibrillator) devices. However, these life-saving devices are mostly used for people with very poor heart function. While that has some impact, three out of four people who could benefit from an ICD are not identified using the present selection method. Researchers at the Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta are hoping to enhance the guidelines used to determine who should receive an ICD. “Our present approach to prescribing ICD therapy identifies only one in four people at risk,” says Dr. Derek Exner, cardiologist and principal investigator of the study. “Hence, most of the 50,000 or so people at risk of sudden death are not identified. The goal of this research is to better identify those at risk in order to save more lives.” The REFINE-ICD (Risk Estimation Following Infarction Non-Invasive Evaluation-ICD Efficacy) study recently completed its proof-of-concept phase and is now recruiting participants at 65 sites across the world. The overall goal of this research is to include 1,400 patients from 25 sites in Canada and 125 other sites worldwide over the next three to four years. “Sudden death from heart rhythm abnormalities is far too common,” says Exner. “It’s important to ensure this life-saving technology is reaching those who need it.”


Science On Tap On February 5, the Libin Institute hosted its inaugural CIHR Café Scientifique at Shelf Life Books, an independent book retailer in the trendy Beltline district. The topic of the night was “The Future of Pacemakers: Miniaturization vs. Microbes.” Members of the public turned out for an informal and intimate dialogue about pacemakers and other advanced life-saving therapies and devices. The event was moderated by Dr. D. George Wyse, cardiologist and Professor Emeritus. Panelists Dr. Vikas Kuriachan and Dr. Hank Duff presented along with pacemaker patient Pauline Orton. The discussion provided insights about pacemakers and leading pacemaker research. This event is the first of three Science Cafes scheduled in 2014 and the new initiative is a staple community engagement project during the Libin Institute’s 10th Anniversary year. We thank those who participated and look forward to seeing you at our next Science Café on April 29 at Gravity Espresso and Wine Bar, 909 10 St. SE, 5:30 – 8 pm. For more details, check—Susan Wilmot


Medicine’s Digital Revolutionary From Big Data to the creative destruction of medicine with technology, Dr. Eric Topol delivers a crowd-pleasing 2012 Libin/AHFMR Prize for Excellence in Cardiovascular Research lecture


their blood pressure and other vitals daily, he says that people can n October 1, 2013, world-renowned cardiovascular take charge of their own healthcare in more meaningful ways to researcher Dr. Eric Topol visited Calgary to receive the work with their healthcare providers. 2012 Libin/AHFMR Prize That evening, approximately fifty people for Excellence in Cardiovascular from the Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Research. The global leader in wireAlberta, its Board, Committees and Donors, less medicine is a as well as other guests, gathered in the HRIC renowned cardiologist and director Atrium of the Health Sciences Centre for of the Scripps Translational Science a reception. In addition to Dr. Topol, the Institute in La Jolla, California. CEO of Alberta Innovates Health SoluHe delivered a Grand Rounds tions Dr. Cy Frank, founding donor of the lecture on “Digitizing Human BeInstitute Dr. Alvin Libin and President of ings: How the Digital Revolution Will the University of Calgary Dr. Elizabeth Change Medicine.” To the clinicians Cannon were present. and researchers in the room, he Nearly 250 people packed the Libin posed big questions like why use a Lecture Theatre and were riveted by Dr. stethoscope when there are better Topol’s public lecture discussing technology imaging devices that provide more (L-R) Dr. Todd Anderson, Dr. Eldon Smith, Dr. Cy Frank, and medicine, the impact of Big Data and data. He also questioned the fuDr. Eric Topol, President Elizabeth Cannon, Dr. Alvin Libin. the necessary role of the patient/consumer in ture of large randomized clinical trials driving this “creative destruction” of medicine. and posed how smaller trials of 1,000 patients or so could be more effective. With developments such as Watch the full video of “Medicine’s Gutenberg: The Consumer-Driven Health digitizing pills, being able to conduct lab tests via smartphones and Care Revolution” at patients using wearable sensors and utilizing mobile apps to monitor

The Family that Runs Together Stays Fit Together


magine getting a birthday gift that keeps on giving. That’s exactly what retired nurse Lois Hagen received on her 75th birthday in 2012 when 19 members of her family signed up to run the Scotiabank Calgary Marathon 5K in her honour. In 2005, Hagen had survived a heart attack. After completing the 12-week cardiac rehab program at Cardiac Wellness Institute of Calgary (now renamed TotalCardiology Rehabilitation and Risk Reduction Centre), Hagen was so convinced of the program’s merit that she started volunteering every week with the exercise program to provide support to other heart attack survivors like herself. Hagen’s children noted the idea came from wanting to give back to a cause that was close to Hagen’s heart. In 2012, the entire family trained together for the race and fundraised more than $9,000 for Alberta Heart and Stroke. Family members ranged in age from a three-year-old to 60 and they all completed the race. She says even the original non-runners have now adopted healthier lifestyles. In 2013, the family participated again, but on behalf of the Canadian Diabetes Association, and raised close to $10,000. “It moved me to tears—what they did,” says Hagen. “I thought it was amazing it they could raise that much money and put all this effort in. It 18 LIBIN LIFE

Canadian Cardiovascular Congress Dr. Todd Anderson, Director of the Libin Institute, is the Annual Meeting Chair for the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress (CCC). Dr. Anderson holds this position for a two-year-term and presides over the 2014 and 2015 meetings which are hosted by the Canadian Cardiovascular Society and Heart & Stroke Foundation. CCC is the largest gathering of cardiovascular and allied health professionals in Canada. The Libin Institute has been a Gold sponsor for the last five years and we are proud to be a part of the largest medical conference in Canada. Look for our booth at the Community Forum and come to the annual Libin Institute reception. Canadian Cardiovascular Congress Ideas in Motion October 25-28, 2014 Vancouver, BC

has been very heart-warming.” “The Calgary Marathon was a great opportunity,” says Kerry Graham, Hagen’s daughter. “Part of doing the event amongst our families is to raise our own awareness and educate ourselves. To be mindful of the fact that as children of a mom who has had a heart attack, we need to get moving. We need to be active, paying attention to our heart health and cardiovascular health and so that was a way to honour her but also continue to take care of ourselves. That’s a legacy we felt was important.”—Lynda Sea On June 1, the family is running the Calgary Marathon 5K again to support the Calgary Health Trust for the Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta and cardiac rehabilitation program. Join them and take part in the Charity Challenge. Sign up at


Q&A: Dr. Peter Libby

Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s Chief of Cardiovascular Medicine Named 2014 Dr. ER Smith Lectureship Awardee Dr. Peter Libby, Chief of Cardiovascular Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Mallinckrodt Professor of Medicine at the Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, is visiting the University of Calgary for a free public lecture April 8. He is the recipient of the Dr. E. R. Smith Lectureship in Cardiovascular Research and hosted by the Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta. He will deliver the keynote lecture, titled “Inflammation in Atherogenesis: A Translational Tale” on Libin Research Day. He is a leading expert on cardiovascular medicine and atherosclerosis; his discoveries have changed the way atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease is understood. His current major research focus is the role of inflammation in vascular diseases such as atherosclerosis. How did you choose cardiology as a career path? “I was fascinated by coronary artery disease. I was fortunate to be in on the early days of development of this field of vascular biology when we were understanding that the artery wall was made up of living cells that had very highly regulated functions. I quickly became fascinated by the idea that inflammation was the link between many of the traditional risk factors for atherosclerosis such as high cholesterol and hypertension and that they altered behaviour of the artery wall cells.”

2014 Libin Research Day April 8, 2014 8:30 am to 5:30 pm Libin Lecture Theatre and HRIC Atrium, Foothills Campus, University of Calgary 11:30 am Lunch & Posters 2:45 pm ER Smith Lecture 4:15 pm Reception Speakers Donald Welsh, PhD Chair, Libin Education Committee Dr. Todd Anderson, Director, Libin Institute Dr. James White, Director, The Stephenson Cardiac Imaging Centre Dr. Richard Frayne, Professor, Departments of Radiology and Clinical Neuroscience Dr. Ed O’Brien, Research Director, Libin Institute Dr. Merril Knudtson, Founder of APPROACH (Alberta Provincial Project for Outcomes Assessments in Coronary Heart Disease) Dr. Peter Libby, Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s Chief of Cardiovascular Medicine and Mallinckrodt Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School Abstract submission deadline 4 pm, Wednesday, March 19, 2014. For more details, visit

Your mentor was Dr. Eugene Braunwald [then founding chair of the Department of Medicine at University of California]. What lessons did you learn from him? “Dr. Braunwald has been my professional mentor since the beginning of medical school. He taught me how to work on hard, important problems and he had an intense commitment to academic medicine. He was a role model of the kind of professional I wanted to model myself after: someone who did scientific research but was also a physician and a teacher.” What’s your philosophy on mentorship? “There’s no real recipe for mentoring but it’s very important to serve as a model of passionate dedication and ethical conduct. A successful mentor can devise an approach to each individual that will reinforce their weaknesses and amplify their strengths. Some mentees need to be boosted up and others need to be taken down a notch. You can’t have a single approach.” What about your approach to leadership? “Dr. Braunwald is my example; I have always tried to emulate some of those qualities that I think make him a successful leader. One is that you need to have a clarity of vision, you need to know where you’re going. Second, you need to have some courage to tackle things that are hard to confront. You need to have the patience to deal with what you can’t change, but the courage to take on what you can change. You have to choose your battles, but you must not shrink from those that you join.” What’s next in the field of inflammation and vascular disease? “A lot of the work is centered around very specialized experimental preparations of genetically altered mice. I’m a little bit bored by all the “mouseology.” It’s time to call the question in people. One of the missions I have is to get some of the hypotheses that have emerged from laboratory studies tested in people. I think that takes some courage because you have a high chance of failure. Human experiments take years to organize, years to complete, and you generally can’t do them again. So you don’t have many shots on goal. But I feel an obligation to put my own efforts to get these concepts moved to the clinic, not just with biomarker studies, but clinical endpoint trials.” What’s your take on the whole controversy around the American Heart Association new cholesterol guidelines that recommend more people should be put on statins? “I agree with the thrust of the new guidelines. We now have a huge amount of new data from the last dozen years that emerged from large-scale clinical trials. The focus on statins as the mainstay treatment to dyslipidemia is a very appropriate reflection of the data. Most of the brouhaha with the release of the guidelines surrounded the risk calculator, which I think is a tempest in a teapot, that will be resolved with time.” You were the principal medical advisor to the PBS series The Mysterious Human Heart and you currently blog for “Ask the Cardiologist” section of Brigham’s website. Why do you feel public education in health is so important? “Part of our role as physicians has to be teachers for the public. I am afraid we medical professionals have been as good at communication as we should. A lot of cardiovascular disease can be mitigated by lifestyle measures. We physicians and cardiologists need to step beyond the traditional “medical model”, and assert our roles as community leaders as to try and promote healthier lifestyles. Although we have great drugs and interventional therapies for cardiovascular disease — these approaches don’t nip the problem in the bud. Public advocacy for healthy lifestyles is fundamental.” What is your ultimate end goal? “Two words: Change medicine.” —As told to Lynda Sea



Bright Minds, Bright Futures Libin Scholarship Winners Compiled by Amber Arsneau • Photos by Lynda Sea

HAWORTH The Tine Haworth Scholarship in Cardiovascular Research supports PhD students in the first two years of their program.

KERTLAND The Kertland Scholarship is awarded to vascular trainees in their first two years of training.


Maarouf (Left) and Heiss


Candidate S.R. Wayne Chen, PhD (“The greatest mentor and researcher I have ever met.”) DEGREES BSc (Dublin Institute of Technology), MSc (University of Vienna) RESEARCH INTERESTS Physiological and pathological relevance of ryanodine receptor 2 (RyR2) in cardiac and brain tissue ABOUT ME “Only two things are important to me. Science: It is my life; the rest is just detail! And my family and friends—they are my strength and support, who I can share highs and lows with.” SUPERVISOR

THOMAS (TOM) WHITESELL PhD - Second Year Childs, PhD DEGREES Bachelor of Science, University of Alberta (2010); Master of Science Applied, McGill University (2012) RESEARCH INTERESTS Angiogenesis, blood vessel development and stabilization in zebrafish, vascular mural cells ABOUT ME “I’m from Alberta. I’ve lived here my whole life except for my Master’s in Montreal and during my third year of undergrad where I lived and studied in Jyväskylä, Finland. I’m excited to back, living in Calgary, attending a great university and being a part of great research. I’ve previously done meat quality research for the Government of Canada, in Lacombe, where we were trying to improve the quality of beef and pork meat. I have also used rat aortic arch explants to experiment with angiogenesis in 3D culture matrices, and my interest for angiogenesis led me here to Calgary, to study angiogenesis in zebrafish with Dr. Childs.” CURRENT PURSUIT




Cardiovascular & Respiratory Sciences Welsh, PhD DEGREES MSc. Clinical Pharmacology, University of Glasgow, Scotland (2011); BSc. Biomedical Science, Oxford Brookes University, England (2010) RESEARCH INTERESTS How smooth muscle-endothelial cells in the cerebral resistance arteries electrically and diffusionally communicate with one another; this communication process is central for tuning blood flow delivery to critical organs. ABOUT ME “I have been practicing Tae Kwon Do for 22 years. I was travelling around the world competing and chasing the Olympic dream until three and a half years ago when my dad suffered a myocardial infarction and had an angioplasty. The circumstance enhanced my interest in cardiovascular research and made me pursue a career in this field. I still practice [Tae Kwon Do] regularly and I am planning to go back to Korea to undertake my 3rd Dan grading whenever my PhD allows it.” SUPERVISOR Donald

CHILD The Arthur J.E. Child Cardiology Fellowship supports exceptional cardiology fellows during subspecialty training.

ISRA 2014: From Molecular Machinery to Clinical Challenges

DR. KATHRYN BECKER Adult Cardiology - PGY6 Dr. Katherine Kavanagh DEGREES BSc (Hons) University of Victoria (2005); MD, University of Calgary (2008) RESEARCH INTERESTS Referral methods and impact on attendance at cardiac rehabilitation post-first presentation myocardial infarction ABOUT ME “I am originally from Victoria, BC. After moving to Calgary in 2005, I have been in climate shock ever since. Luckily I love the mountains and the city. I survive winter by snowboarding as often as I can with my husband and friends and by dreaming of new running/hiking routes to explore in the summer. Frequent travel escapes to scuba dive internationally also help. My future plans include a fellowship in Adult Echocardiography at UCSF in San Francisco and exploring the California coast.” CURRENT PURSUIT SUPERVISOR

DR. JORGE WONG Adult Cardiac Electrophysiology Fellowship Vikas Kuriachan DEGREES Bachelor of Science (Hons), Biochemistry, McGill University (1999); Master of Science, Cell Biology, University of Toronto (2003); MD, McMaster University (2006); FRCPC Internal Medicine & Adult Cardiology, University of Western Ontario (2010, 2012) RESEARCH INTERESTS Inherited arrhythmias, sudden cardiac death, atrial fibrillation and Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy. Under the supervision of Drs. Duff and Gerull, he is currently studying the phenotypic characterization of heterozygous desmocollin-2 carriers in Hutterites. In July, he is starting a research fellowship at the Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston with Dr. Christine Albert to study risk factors of atrial fibrillation progression. ABOUT ME “When I am not working, I enjoy running, photography and spending time with family and friends.” CURRENT PURSUIT SUPERVISOR Dr.


By Suzanne Brett-Welsh The 11th International Symposium on Resistance Arteries (ISRA 2014), sponsored in part by the Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta, will bring together trainees and scientists focused on the mechanistic basis of arterial tone development in health and disease in the heart of Banff National Park this September 7-11 at The Banff Centre. Libin members organizing this international meeting include Donald Welsh PhD, who is leading the local organizing committee, and Michael Walsh PhD, William Cole PhD, Andy Braun, PhD and Richard Frayne PhD. The conference “From Molecular Machinery to Clinical Challenges” builds on the many previous successful ISRA meetings, which have traditionally provided opportunities to discuss and exchange novel data and ideas related to resistance artery research. Themes of the symposium will include calcium imaging and EC coupling, clinical vascular pathology, unique vasculature, smooth muscle ion channels, genetic regulation of the arterial wall, adiposity and vascular control, cell-cell communication and endothelial structure and function. The scientific programme includes a keynote address by Dr. Costantino Iadecola MD from Weill Cornell Medical College, invited and trainee presentations and posters presentations and awards. September 12, 2014 Libin – Hotchkiss Special Workshop Event (HRIC, Foothills Campus) The ISRA Organizing Committee is pleased to announce a special workshop event, co-sponsored by the Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta and Hotchkiss Brain Institute. This special workshop includes a number of international speakers and local trainees.


ISRA 2014 (011)403.836.5631 @ISRA2014 irsa2014

Previously featured in Libin Life, Anna is also a recipient of the Arthur J.E. Child Fellowship. She will complete her Interventional Cardiology Fellowship in June 2015.




Clinical Assistant Professor San Francisco, CA Denver, CO Montreal, QC Hamilton, ON Toronto, ON Ottawa, ON

F. RUSSELL QUINN Clinical Assistant Professor Toronto, ON Denver, CO Banff, AB Montreal, QC


From conferences and research collaborations to speaking invitations at universities and humanitarian outreach, here are places some of our members travelled to in 2013 Compiled by Judy Siu Illustration by Steven Tov

TODD ANDERSON Director, Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta Vancouver, BC Edmonton, AB Toronto, ON Montreal, QC Dallas, TX Ottawa, ON Victoria, BC

MICHAEL WALSH Professor AIHS Scientist Canada Research Chair, Vascular Smooth Muscle Research Debrecen, Hungary Kyushu, Japan Asahikawa, Hokkaido, Japan Edmonton, AB Philadelphia, PA Miami, FL Puerto Varas, Chile Marrakech, Morocco

ANNE M. GILLS Professor of Medicine Washington, DC Las Vegas, NV San Francisco, CA Denver, CO Toronto, ON Athens, Greece Kansas City, MI Hong Kong, China Aomori, Japan Dallas, TX Paris, France Nice, France

DONALD WELSH Professor Research Scientist Chair, Libin Education Committee

Results captured from an online survey sent out to Libin members January 2014.

Boston, MA Loma Linda, CA Otago, New Zealand Barossa Valley, Australia Adelaide, Australia Hyannis, MA London, ON

LAWRENCE DE KONING Clinical Assistant Professor Clinical Biochemist, Calgary Laboratory Services New Orleans, LA Houston, TX


DARRELL BELKE Assistant Professor, Human Performances Lab Cambridge, MD

L. BRENT MITCHELL Professor, Cardiac Sciences Amsterdam, The Netherlands

ELDON R. SMITH Emeritus Professor Chair, Strategic Advisory Board Montreal, QC Mbarara, Uganda

DEBRA ISAAC Clinical Professor Georgetown, Guyana


Miami, FL Washington, DC Billings, Montana Sydney, Australia Geneva, Switzerland Istanbul, Turkey Washington, DC

Healthy Child Uganda – This project has been ongoing for 10 years and has had a very large impact on the wellbeing of pregnant women and the mortality rate for newborns and children under five. The program is sponsored by grants from various international organizations including CIDA and supports work in the southwest region of Uganda. This was Dr. Smith’s second visit to Mbarara and he feels that a great deal is being accomplished there.

KATHRYN KING-SHIER Professor AIHS Scholar Kolkata, India Changchun, China Glasgow, Scotland Florence, Italy

ISRAEL BELENKIE Professor Managua, Nicaragua Manila, Phillippines



Share your heart stories with us via social media or by contacting us via Use the hashtag #Libin10 so we can collect and share your heart stories all through 2014. Visit for more.


Libin Life Spring 2014  
Libin Life Spring 2014  

Official Magazine of the Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta