Preventing heart attacks and more

Introducing the Heart & Stroke coronary artery and vascular disease council

Coronary artery disease happens when the arteries in your heart are narrowed or blocked. It’s the most common kind of heart disease and causes most heart attacks as well as angina (chest pain). Vascular disease refers to abnormalities in blood vessels, which reduce blood flow and compromise the function of your heart.

Together these diseases can have devastating consequences. Heart disease is the second leading cause of death in Canada.


Estimated number of heart attacks in Canada each year.

That’s why Heart & Stroke has identified coronary artery and vascular disease as one of six disease areas where we see the greatest potential for impact (scroll down to learn more). By supporting the development of new solutions to prevent, treat and help people recover from these conditions, we’ll save more lives and give more precious moments back to hundreds of thousands of Canadians.

Council will guide action

The Heart & Stroke coronary artery and vascular disease council, — half researchers and half community members — bring a range of backgrounds including lived experience of these diseases (either themselves or in a loved one), policy, technology, philanthropy, and health care. 

The group, led by 2 co-chairs, also reflects geographical representation (rural vs urban and provincial/regional), cultural diversity and first language (English/French). Additional considerations for research members included career stage, research focus and research/work setting, while work experience and specific skillsets were considered for community members. 

Starting in January 2018, they will spend two years considering priorities and opportunities in detecting, treating, and managing coronary artery and vascular disease.

Their knowledge and input will guide Heart & Stroke in determining how we can deliver the greatest impact for Canadians affected by coronary artery and vascular disease, and their families.

Meet our council co-chairs

Dr. Robert Hegele, research co-chair: Robert Hegele is a distinguished professor of medicine and biochemistry at Western University in London, Ont., and director of the Lipid Genetics Clinic and the London Regional Genomics Centre at Robarts Research Institute. He holds the Jacob J. Wolfe Distinguished Medical Research Chair and the Martha Blackburn Chair in Cardiovascular Research. 

Robert’s studies focus on the genetics of lipids, diabetes and heart disease – his lab has discovered the molecular genetic basis of 20 different human diseases! Given the key role that lipids play in plaque formation, coronary heart disease and changes in vascular functions, Robert’s knowledge and expertise will be invaluable in examining the critical issues and gaps in coronary artery and vascular disease.


Ms. Wendy St. Denis, community co-chair: Wendy St. Denis has served in the not-for-profit worlds of Skate Canada and Skate Ontario for more than 20 years. She was elected into the North Bay Sport Hall of Fame for her executive work in the sport of skating.

At the age of 48, Wendy was experiencing angina. After an angiogram/plasty, a stent was inserted, but the symptoms returned a few weeks later; eventually she had bypass surgery. About a year later Wendy lost part of her vision for a day. She wasn’t diagnosed with a mini-stroke at the time, but a year later she convinced her family doctor to send her for an ultrasound: her left carotid artery was fully blocked. With her leadership skills and lived experience, Wendy will enhance the work of the coronary artery and vascular disease council.


Dr. Sonia Anand (Ont.): vascular medical specialist and director, Population Genomics Program, Hamilton Health Sciences, McMaster University

Mr. Emil Boychuk (Ont.): retired Toronto teacher and guidance/career counsellor, continues to counsel and mentor youth; lives with heart disease

Dr. Keith Brunt (N.B.): lead translational scientist, New Brunswick Heart Centre; executive director, IMPART investigator team Canada

Dr. Davinder Jassal (Man.): principal investigator, cardiovascular imaging; Cardiology, University of Manitoba

Ms. Amie Kelsey (Ont.): retired critical care educator and nurse; volunteer grief counsellor; survivor of open heart surgery

Dr. Donna May Kimmaliardjuk (Ont.): Canada’s first Inuk heart surgeon; accepted in 2014 at University of Ottawa Heart Institute as one of only 10 cardiac surgery residents in Canada

Dr. Kara Nerenberg (Alta.): General internist – obstetrical medicine, clinical researcher, Mid-Career Women's Heart and Brain Health chair, University of Calgary

Dr. Katey Rayner (Ont.): scientist and director, Cardiometabolic microRNA laboratory, University of Ottawa Heart Institute

Mr. Alexander Smith (Ont.): government relations specialist; survivor of heart attack living with arrhythmia and a pacemaker

Mr. Charles Tam (Ont.): medical device industry expert, specializing in regulatory affairs of combination drug-devices, cardiovascular implants, and biological-tissue devices

Ms. Carol West (Que.): Non-profit executive leader; past chair, Private Sector Consultative Group; member and patient partner, CanVECTOR Scientific Steering Committee; living with venous thromboembolism (blot clots in veins)  

About Heart & Stroke mission critical areas

Heart & Stroke has adopted a new framework that will drive progress in what we are calling mission critical areas or MCAs. These are the six heart and stroke disease states that together represent the biggest burden — on Canadians’ health, on the economy and on society. 

The MCAs are not the only areas where Heart & Stroke works, but they reflect where we believe we can have the greatest impact. The six MCAs are:

The work of our six MCA councils will also feed into a strategic planning process underway at Heart & Stroke, to determine our direction as an organization.

More information