Mar 2017

Dr. Antoine Hakim

Stroke champion Antoine Hakim wins 2017 Gairdner Wightman Award

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Dr. Antoine Hakim, one of Canada’s truly inspirational medical leaders, is this year’s winner of the Gairdner Wightman Award.

Dr. Hakim is a long-time friend of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation. He founded and led the Canadian Stroke Network that, in its early years, shared resources at The Ottawa Hospital with the Stem Cell Network — from which the Foundation sprang.

“We truly admire Tony Hakim for the amazing job he has done to advance stroke prevention and treatment,” said James Price, Foundation President and CEO.  “He has served as a model for us all in working to improve Canadians’ lives.”

In today’s Ottawa Citizen, health writer Elizabeth Payne describes how, after working as a chemical engineer in Alberta, Dr. Hakim switched to medicine because he wanted to do something “more relevant.”  On completing his residency in neurology at the Montreal Neurological Institute, he took up stroke as a research interest.

He became North America’s strongest advocate for increased use of the clot-busting drug TPA that, when administered in time, can greatly reduce the effects of a stroke.

“The revolution in stroke treatment,” the Citizen reports, “is seen in the many ‘miraculous’ recoveries he has witnessed in patients who come into the hospital severely handicapped and unable to speak and, within 48 hours, walk out of the hospital talking.”

At 74, Dr. Hakim continues his to enjoy his work, which gives him the opportunity to “keep pushing frontiers the best way I can.”

The other Gairdner 2017 laureates include:

  • Japan’s Akira Endo for the first discovery and development of statins that have transformed the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease.
  • California’s David Julius for determining the molecular basis of somatosensation — how we sense heat, cold and pain.
  • Toronto’s Lewis E. Kay for the development of modern NMR spectroscopy.
  • Italy’s Rino Rappuoli for pioneering the genomic approach, known as reverse vaccinology, used to develop a vaccine against meningococcus B.
  • Texas’s Huda Y. Zoghbi for the discovery of the genetic basis of Rett syndrome and its implications for autism spectrum disorders.
  • Brazil’s Cesar Victora, for outstanding contributions to maternal and child health and nutrition in low and middle income countries (John Dirks Canada Gairdner Global Health Award).

Winning a Gairdner, Canada’s top medical price, is often a precursor to even bigger things:  83 Gairdner laureates have gone on to win the Nobel Prize.

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