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From L-R: Dick Vollet, President and CEO, St. Paul’s Foundation; Dr. Don Sin, Director, Centre for Heart Lung Innovation; Carmelina De Lazzari; Michael De Lazzari; Fiona Dalton, President and CEO, Providence Health Care

Science, innovation, and compassion play in the big leagues at St. Paul’s

August 27th, 2019
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Story originally appeared in The Globe and Mail

By Kris Wallace

Sports fans know it can be a challenge for Canadian teams to recruit and retain the world’s best athletes. Top prospects want more than money; they’re looking for organizational leadership, talented colleagues, and a culture that fosters collaboration and success.

It’s no different in medicine. Consider the Centre for Heart Lung Innovation (HLI) at Providence Health Care – a UBC-affiliated research facility focused entirely on cardiac and respiratory medicine. Right now, behind the humble brick façade of St. Paul’s Hospital, those factors have brought together a team of globally-esteemed scientists in pursuit of some of the world’s most promising and ambitious research.

Who are these superstars? Here’s a glimpse.

Dr. Zach Laksman is a rising star in cardiac research (he was recently recognized by BNN Bloomberg as one of Canada’s Top 40 under 40). By using stem cells to grow heart-specific cells in a petri dish, Dr. Laksman is recreating a patient’s specific cardiac disease, applying medicines to it, and studying the effect of the treatment.

Dr. Liam Brunham is looking for a genetic link to early-onset cardiovascular disease, and providing a BC-wide screening platform to identify at-risk individuals as early as possible. Thanks to his work, families may not have to live with the terrible burden of passing their hereditary cardiac disease to their children.

Dr. Don Sin is a brilliant lung specialist ranked second in the world in the field of asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). HLI itself is ranked first in Canada and third in the world. This is a big deal: COPD affects more than 3 million Canadians and is the number one cause of hospital admissions. Thanks to Dr. Sin and his team, HLI is on the cusp of a golden age in lung research with the promise of not only treating COPD, but one day preventing it.

Underpinning all of these remarkable efforts are the often-unsung heroes of research: donors including Michael and Carmelina De Lazzari, who recently made a $3 million gift to create the De Lazzari Family Chair in Heart Lung Innovation. Gifts like this create momentum, giving organizations like St. Paul’s the ability to attract, recruit, and retain world-class scientists and clinicians. They fund the space, the staff, and the resources these health care superstars need to pursue their life-changing research. And they give hope to patients and their families right across BC.

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