Forty years ago, Dr. David Murphy had an idea, a group of dedicated supporters, and $50 in a bank account to bring his vision to life. He saw a need to improve cardiac surgery and heart health for patients at the QEII Health Sciences Centre so he spearheaded the creation of the Maritime Heart Centre.
“The Maritime Heart Centre concept came from a colleague of mine who practiced in Seattle and had implemented a similar program at his hospital,” recalls Dr. Murphy, who retired from practice in 1999. “I gathered four respected colleagues of mine and I sprang for dinner to talk to them about the idea. It was a ‘paper building’ concept that would see huge changes to how cardiac care was delivered at the QEII. I drew a logo by hand and the Maritime Heart Centre began.”
It was the mid 1970s and cardiac services was classified as general surgery at the QEII. Dr. Murphy knew patients could benefit greatly from a dedicated cardiac surgery program, with its own ICU and specialized surgeons. With the Maritime Heart Centre behind him and focused training in heart health from Chicago, he was able to make the case for the QEII to begin a dedicated cardiac surgery specialty program.
The vision for improved cardiac care for patients has fueled the Maritime Heart Centre to make great strides in heart health over the years and raise funds to support better care. Dr. Camille Hancock Friesen, cardiac surgeon, has provided leadership to the Maritime Heart Centre for the past ten years.
“It’s an exciting time for heart health at the QEII,” says Dr. Hancock Friesen. “With demand for heart health services on the rise due to risk factors like high blood pressure and diabetes, we need to continue to improve how we deliver care. We have big dreams to transform heart health care. We have the expertise to embrace the entire continuum of prevention through intervention and rehabilitation.”
Those big dreams brought together the Maritime Heart Centre and the QEII Foundation to work on a shared vision to transform heart heath. This vision includes new technology and equipment, research activities, and expanded space and services for heart health patients. It also includes an alliance of the divisions of vascular surgery, cardiology and cardiac surgery in their academic and clinical mandates to create a true heart health program.
“In the Maritime Heart Centre’s first year of operation in 1977, we raised $67,” says Dr. Murphy. “Obviously that number rose over the years and the Maritime Heart Centre accomplished some wonderful things but now, by working closely together with the team at the QEII Foundation, the sky’s the limit.”
Heart health care at the QEII has become world-renowned with patients from across Atlantic Canada receiving life-saving care.
One of those patients is Eric Banks. Three years ago, young amateur golfer Eric suffered a major setback to his budding golf career when doctors discovered he was living with an atrial septal defect - a hole in his heart. The surprise diagnosis temporarily sidelined Eric from competitive golf as he underwent open heart surgery at the QEII.
Today, the MCA Men’s Amateur Champion credits his cardiac surgeon, Dr. Hancock Friesen, for saving his life — and enabling him to work towards his dream of establishing a pro golf career.
“It’s an honour to see patients thriving in life after receiving care at the QEII,” says Dr. Hancock Friesen. “I look forward to what the future brings for heart health in this province.”