The Honourable Wilbert Keon

O.C., Retired Senator and Cardiac Surgeon

Dr. Keon was born and raised in Sheenboro, Quebec. He received his primary and secondary education locally, and his M.D from the University of Ottawa. His post-graduate education was from McGill, Toronto, and Harvard universities. Upon completion of his medical and scientific training, Dr. Keon moved to Ottawa in 1969, and founded the University of Ottawa Heart Institute. Dr. Keon was the Chief Executive Officer of the Institute until April 2004. His vision and leadership built the Institute to an international centre of excellence for cardiac care, research and education; an enterprise budget exceeding $190 million a year.

During his tenure at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute, Dr. Keon established international standards in clinical programs and research and also technology development. A passionate spokesman for the rights of Canadians to quality cardiac care, and to the community benefits of leading-edge research, he communicated his message a relentless fundraiser to garner millions of dollars for the Heart Institute.

Innovation has been a hallmark of Dr. Keon’s career, having drawn research grants totalling $66 million dollars during his career. His clinical innovations are numerous, but most notably include the pioneering of surgical reperfusion in acute heart attacks during the early 1970s, the first use of the Jarvik 7-70 artificial heart in Canada in 1986, and the first Canadian infant heart transplant in 1989.

Dr. Keon’s academic leadership is evidenced by over 475 presentations, over 200 publications, including authorship or contributions to 22 books, and 16 visiting professorships. He was a member of 72 national and international societies. He developed Canada’s largest research and clinical artificial heart development program that spun out into World Heart Corporation in 1996. He led early demonstration projects and advocacy for telehealth. These innovations also required new approaches to industrial collaboration, while maintaining scientific leadership through peer-reviewed grants.

Dr. Keon has received numerous medical scientific awards, as well as many scientific awards. They include the Order of Ontario, the Order of Canada and membership in the Order of Saint Gregory the Great from Pope John Paul ll. He was appointed to the Senate of Canada in 1990, where he served until mandatory retirement in May 2010. In this latter capacity, he has participated in numerous major health and science-related reports.

In 2007, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) presented him with their highest award, the F.N.G. Starr Award. He was inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame in recognition of his enormous contributions to the understanding of disease and the improved health and well-being of people everywhere. He was awarded the Canadian Health Institute Research (CHIR) Champion of Health Research Award.

In February 2011, he was appointed Chairman of the Board of the Champlain LHIN.