Former senator, heart surgeon and University of Ottawa Heart Institute founder Wilbert Keon died on Sunday. He was 83.
“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 growing his beloved institute,” said Ottawa Heart Institute CEO and president Thierry Mesana. “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.”
Keon founded the University of Ottawa Heart Institute at the University of Ottawa in 1976 and served as its chief executive until 2004. In 1986, he became the first Canadian surgeon to implant an artificial heart — a Jarvik-7 — in a human.
“He was one of Ottawa’s greatest citizens,” said former Ottawa Citizen publisher Russ Mills, who knew Keon well. “The term ‘world class’ gets bandied around a lot in times when it probably shouldn’t be, but one thing we do have that is really world-class is the Heart Institute. And this was his vision; without his plans and his effort, it just wouldn’t exist, and I’m sure it saved many, many lives.”