April 8, 2019 12:20 pm
Updated: April 8, 2019 3:05 pm

Founder of world-renowned University of Ottawa Heart Institute dies at 83

Sen. Dr. Wilbert Keon poses with his induction panel at the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame in London, Ont., Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2007. Keon passed away Sunday at 83.


The founder of the University of Ottawa Heart Institute has died, the organization confirmed on Monday. He was 83.

Dr. Wilbert Keon founded the institute in 1976 and served as CEO of the organization until his retirement in 2004.

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Keon performed the first heart transplant in Ottawa and was the first doctor in Canada to transplant an artificial heart in a “bridge transplant” in 1986. The patient received a transplant heart, which was also done by Keon, soon after.

Keon was born in Sheenboro, Que., part of the Outaouais region. He attended both Carleton University and the University of Ottawa during medical school. He also trained at the Harvard Medical Centre before returning to Ottawa in 1960.

“Together with the Heart Institute staff, including those who worked alongside him for decades, I pledge that we will live up to his legacy and his dream to continue building and growing his beloved Institute,” said Dr. Thierry Mesana, president and CEO of the University of Ottawa Heart Institute.

“This is a colossal task as he has touched so many of our lives as a surgeon, as a mentor, as a community leader and as a friend.”

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In 1990, Keon was appointed to the Senate of Canada, where he served until 2010 when he reached the mandatory retirement age of 75.

Keon is survived by his wife of 59 years, Anne, and his children Claudia, Neil and Ryan as well as eight grandchildren.

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