Funding excellence

The strategy, programs and priorities that guide Heart & Stroke research

Research leads to impact. Since 1952, Heart & Stroke has invested more than $1.6 billion in vital heart and brain research. Over that period the death rate from heart disease and stroke has declined more than 75%. 

But there is much more to do. 

Our research strategy is founded on a commitment to excellence, and to investing in the best science as evaluated by competitive peer review. We fund investigator-driven research, build the capacity and strengths of Canada’s research community and invest in priorities that will have the greatest impact and benefit to people living with or at risk of heart conditions, stroke or related dementia.

The strategy is realized through a suite of research programs that enable individual and team-based research, allowing  researchers to generate their own projects as well as respond to priorities set out by Heart & Stroke.

We also invest in researchers themselves – as doctoral students, as young investigators and through their mid- and later-career stages.

Our commitment is unwavering – not only to creating new knowledge but supporting the application of this knowledge, to benefit people in Canada.

Research we fund

We push the boundaries of discovery and innovation to prevent, treat or better support those living with, or at risk of developing, heart conditions, stroke and related dementia. 

Heart & Stroke funds research across the four themes defined by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) , the federal research body:

  1. Basic Biomedical: Research with the goal of understanding normal and abnormal human function, at the molecular, cellular, organ system and whole body levels, including the development of tools and techniques to be applied for this purpose; developing new therapies or devices which improve health or the quality of life of individuals, up to the point where they are tested on human subjects. Studies on human subjects that do not have a diagnostic or therapeutic orientation.
  2. Clinical: research with the goal of improving the diagnosis and treatment (including rehabilitation and palliation) of disease and injury; improving the health and quality of life of individuals as they pass through normal life stages. Research on, or for the treatment of, patients.  
  3. Health Services/Systems Research with the goal of improving the efficiency and effectiveness of health professionals and the health care system, through changes to practice and policy. Health services research is a multidisciplinary field of scientific investigation that studies how social factors, financing systems, organizational structures and processes, health technologies, and personal behaviours affect access to health care, the quality and cost of health care, and ultimately our health and well-being.
  4. Social, Cultural, Environmental and Population Health Research with the goal of improving the health of the Canadian population, or of defined sub-populations, through a better understanding of the ways in which social, cultural, environmental, occupational, and economic factors determine health status.

Our Grant-in-Aid competition sparks the creativity of researchers and allows them to pursue projects in all research themes and across our mission: promote health, save lives, enhance recovery. 

Our Personnel Awards allow post-doctoral students and researchers in their first decade at a university to reserve time to conduct research as well as teach and provide care. Our goal is to help establish the next generation of best-in-class researchers across Canada committed to heart and brain research. 

Heart and Stroke donors also support strategic research initiatives in partnership with other agencies. These align with our priorities such as stroke rehabilitation or resuscitation. In addition to our world-leading group of Chairs and Professors, we fund two main strategic research initiatives:

• Through the Heart & Stroke Canadian Partnership for Stroke Recovery (CPSR),  we advance discovery, test new approaches, conduct clinical trials, and deliver new knowledge on stroke recovery to the people who can apply it. 

• We invest in the largest resuscitation research initiative in the world, the Canadian Resuscitation Outcomes Consortium (Can-ROC). This pan-Canadian research collaborative involves 10 provinces and looks at all of the factors in pre-hospital care after cardiac arrest (including bystander response and EMS techniques at the scene) to better understand which early interventions are most effective.

Your donations support innovative research across the continuum of care, including prevention, treatment and recovery. 

Priority focus: Women’s health

The evidence is clear: When it comes to heart and brain health, women are under-researched, under-diagnosed, under-treated, under-supported and under-aware of their risks. Heart disease and stroke are the leading cause of premature death for women in Canada, and yet two-thirds of heart disease and stroke clinical research focuses on men. 


Proportion of heart disease and stroke clinical research that is focused on men.

Our vision is to close the research gap. We will transform women’s heart and brain health through both targeted research by and about women as well as setting new expectations for all of our funded research — that it be relevant and applicable to women. 

With the support of Health Canada and contributions from donors, Heart & Stroke is increasing awareness of the unique realities of women’s heart and brain health, catalyzing focused action to advance knowledge, and changing our healthcare system.

Heart & Stroke currently funds five chairs in Women’s Heart & Brain Health across Canada and more than 15 research projects exploring unique aspects of heart and brain health for women.

In addition, we have transformed our research program so that all applicants must consider sex and gender in their research. This means changing the way they carry out research on cells, tissues, animals or humans, as well as theway they collect, analyze and report their findings. 

Learn more about sex and gender-based analysis and reporting and how Heart & Stroke is working to ensure women are equitably represented

Here is some of the exciting women’s health research that Heart & Stroke donors are funding:

  • Dr. Nathalie Dayan, the first McGill University and Heart & Stroke Early-Career Professor in Women’s Heart Health, is looking at how breastfeeding impacts women’s health after a pregnancy with heart-related complications.
  • Dr. Husam Abdel-Qadir, our Early Career Women's Heart and Brain Health Chair, is investigating the impact of chemotherapy on the heart and brain health of women with breast cancer.
  • Dr. Kara Nerenberg, our Mid-Career Women's Heart and Brain Health Chair, is studying ways to improve heart and brain health of new mothers.
Priority focus: Indigenous health

Heart disease rates for Indigenous people are as much as 50% higher than in non-Indigenous populations. And the death rate from stroke is twice as high. Addressing these complex issues requires bold teamwork and the translation of new knowledge into policy and systems change. 

Heart & Stroke funded research explores the social and cultural factors that have led to gaps in health promotion, diagnosis, and treatment.  

The findings from this work will support the training of healthcare professionals, the development of trusting relationships between practitioners and Indigenous communities and the transformation of approaches to knowledge translation so that research impacts are more accessible. It will lead to better self-management of heart disease and/or risk factors in Indigenous communities.  

Here are some of the researchers funded for this critical work:

  • Dr. Bernice Downey aims to understand how Indigenous women’s heart health has been negatively impacted by various cultural and social factors, and how to remedy this problem.
  • Dr. Heather Foulds, one of our Indigenous Early Career Women’s Heart and Brain Health Chairs, is studying ways to improve prevention, detection and treatment of cardiovascular disease among Indigenous women. 
  • Dr. Jeffrey Reading, Heart & Stroke and First Nations Health Authority Chair in Heart Health and Wellness, is working to develop health promotion strategies that incorporate Indigenous history, culture and spiritual traditions.

Heart & Stroke is a funder of the Canadian Alliance of Healthy Hearts and Minds First Nations cohort study. This is the first cohort study of First Nations communities across the country, and it involves First Nation community members working along with academic researchers across eight communities in Canada. Published results from Phase 1 revealed First Nations communities with greater socio-economic advantages, educational opportunities, social support of family members and greater trust between community members, have lower cardiac risk factors.

Early career researchers

Nurturing the next generation of researchers is key to building a strong and vibrant research community in Canada.

Heart & Stroke provides these unique opportunities to support researchers in their career development:

  • Research Fellows are new researchers who have completed their doctoral degree and are pursuing research training in cardiovascular or cerebrovascular fields. 
  • National New Investigator Awards provide salary support to individuals in their first faculty appointment at the assistant or clinical assistant professor level who have demonstrated excellence in cardiovascular or cerebrovascular research.
  • Grants-in-Aid are operating funds to support important, pertinent and novel research in all areas of heart disease and stroke.
Dr Davenport

The National New Investigator award allowed me to double my research time.

Dr. Margie Davenport University of Alberta

See current opportunities for early career researchers.

Meet Dr. Margie Davenport, National New Investigatory award winner. Dr. Davenport, with funding from Heart & Stroke donors, chaired a panel of Canadian experts that spent three years reviewing the latest scientific evidence on the impact of exercise in pregnancy. The result is the new 2019 Canadian Guideline for Physical Activity throughout Pregnancy.

Our research partners

Heart & Stroke’s funded research is propelled by the vision, collaboration and contribution of like-minded organizations. These partnerships advance knowledge in heart and brain health, support research excellence, innovation and capacity, and accelerate the translation of knowledge into action. All this equals meaningful impact for the people we serve. 

By bringing financial resources, expertise, networks or community connections, our research partners help amplify the impact of Heart & Stroke research.  

Research funding agencies 

Heart & Stroke has a long history of partnering with provincial and federal research funding agencies. Examples include:

• Canadian Institute for Health Research: partnership in Women’s Heart and Brain Health Chairs.

• Brain Canada: creating an innovative research award to explore the unique connection between the heart and the brain.

• Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation: partnering to create the Saskatchewan Research Chair in Clinical Stroke Research.


Thanks to Health Canada’s investment of $5 million, Heart & Stroke has funded innovative women’s heart and brain health research and invested in career development of 15 researchers across the country since 2017.

Universities and hospitals

Academic research centres like universities and hospitals are critical to research in Canada and valued partners. Through our chairs and professorships, Heart & Stroke and the university or hospital provide funding to protect dedicated time for research. This frees the individual from teaching or administrative duties – and enhances their heart or brain health research program.


Numerous corporations across Canada contribute to our research through partnerships.

Our Visionary Partner of Heart Health Research is Canadian Pacific (CP). After a successful partnership that funded 10 leading researchers through the CP Has Heart program, in 2019, CP renewed its commitment with a further $1.5 million for heart research over the next three years.

Learn more about Heart & Stroke research.

Donate now to support life-saving research.