Dr. James Heyworth

A Life-Long Connection

Promise Magazine: Spring/Summer 2018

By Joseph Dube | Photography by Jeff Topham

Dr. James Heyworth was both a doctor and a patient at St. Paul’s. Despite his passing last fall, his commitment to the hospital will continue to be felt well into the future.

It is difficult to imagine someone more intimately connected with St. Paul’s Hospital than Dr. James Heyworth. He was born in 1937 at St. Paul’s, the very hospital where he would later become director of biomedical services.

Dr. Jim, as he was often called, knew St. Paul’s as few do, not only as a doctor but also as a patient later in life. He received a heart transplant there in 1997 (only a few months after St. Paul’s first started performing heart transplants in 1996), and when he passed away 20 years later, in September 2017, he left behind a substantial donation to ensure that St. Paul’s innovation and excellence will continue to benefit future generations. “I met him when he first started at the hospital,” says Bob Milton, a long-time colleague and friend of Heyworth’s, who worked alongside him in the department of biomedical engineering. “I remember that he was completely devoted to St. Paul’s, and he did everything he could to make things better for whoever needed the services there.”

A son of English immigrant parents, Heyworth came by his affinity for medicine and higher learning honestly; his father was a pharmacist and his mother was a teacher. Having initially earned a degree in engineering, he worked in that field for a few years, only to awaken a deeper interest in applying electrical engineering principles to medical problems.

Heyworth applied to the University of British Columbia medical school and was accepted in 1964. He spent his summers working in the department of physiology, which allowed him the opportunity to work with medical instrumentation while he was studying for his Doctor of Medicine. He spent many hours in clinical sessions at St. Paul’s and developed a deep respect for the atmosphere of the hospital and the quality of its teaching.

After graduating and completing his internship, he joined the medical staff at St. Paul’s in 1972, when renowned heart-pump designer Dr. Harold Rice chose Heyworth to be his successor as director of technical services. Heyworth’s 20-year tenure as director saw the department grow and evolve into a vibrant hub at the forefront of a burgeoning biomedical engineering field.

“When Jim started at St. Paul’s, there was no department of biomedical engineering. He actually started it. He was the first one to use that name,” says Milton. “There was a whole wave of innovation taking place at that time, transistors were being used in all kinds of new ways, and Jim really did pioneer the use of electronics in medicine.”

Bob Milton, Heyworth’s
long-time colleague and friend, pictured with one of Heyworth’s antique music boxes.

In his off hours, Heyworth enjoyed restoring and collecting self-playing musical instruments and antique music boxes. As a member of the Musical Box Society International and the Automatic Musical Instrument Collectors Association, he hosted a number of meetings at his home, where his collection included three player pianos and an extremely rare baby grand piano fitted with a Concertola self-playing mechanism.

Heyworth eventually retired from his position as director of biomedical services in 1992. Five years later, his deep connection with St. Paul’s took a new turn; he received a heart transplant there and was tremendously grateful for the new lease on life it afforded him. “He always called his heart transplant his ‘second birthday,’” says Milton. “He had a great sense of humour and he kept it right up until the end.”

Heyworth is remembered for his generosity as well—the final gift he left St. Paul’s Foundation of Vancouver, through his will, capped a lifetime of giving. “He also gave regularly to the foundation in life, as a monthly donor,” says Milton. “He wanted this last gift to go to ‘Greatest Needs’ – wherever the foundation thought the funds would be most needed. That’s the kind of guy he was.”

Over many years, Dr. James Heyworth made a huge difference by giving monthly to St. Paul’s Foundation. To learn more about becoming a monthly donor, please visit helpstpauls.com/monthly or contact Nadine Nickull, Manager of Annual & Online Giving at 604-806-8912 or nnickull@providencehealth.bc.ca.


Leaving a Legacy

St. Paul’s Foundation is so grateful for Dr. James Heyworth’s generous legacy gift in support of Greatest Needs. Heyworth’s gift to St. Paul’s Foundation of Vancouver (our legal name) was a percentage of the residue of his estate. “Residue” means the total value of the estate assets minus expenses like income taxes and funeral expenses, after any gifts of specific assets or sums of cash.

If you would like to learn more about making a gift in your will, please visit helpstpauls.com/legacy or contact Karen Brown, Director, Legacy & Estate Giving at St. Paul’s Foundation at 604-806-8271 or kbrown@providencehealth.bc.ca.