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St. Michael’s heart surgeon receives prestigious Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada Gold Medal in Surgery

Toronto, January 25, 2013

By Leslie Shepherd

Dr. Subodh Verma
Dr. Subodh Verma

Dr. Subodh Verma, a cardiac surgeon at St. Michael’s Hospital, is this year’s recipient of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada Gold Medal in Surgery.

The medal, considered to be one of the most prestigious prizes in surgery, is given each year to one surgeon in Canada whose groundbreaking work has led to important new insights with the potential of improving patient outcomes.

Dr. Verma, who is also a scientist in the Keenan Research Centre of the hospital’s Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute and the Canada Research Chair in Atherosclerosis, received the award for his work that discovered a critical role of the breast cancer gene BRCA1 as a regulator of heart function and survival that was published in the journal Nature Communications in 2011.

“Dr. Verma is one of the world’s most recognizable cardiac surgeons,” said Dr. David Latter, chief of cardiac surgery at St. Michael’s. “Not only is Dr. Verma a skilled operating surgeon who has a direct impact on the patients on whom he performs life saving surgery, he is an important scientist whose contributions to our knowledge of cardiovascular disease impacts hundreds of thousands of patients now and in the future.”

In a series of additional studies, Dr. Verma’s team discovered that other breast cancer genes such as BRCA2 may also be important in the heart and may in fact be determinants of the degree of cardiac damage caused by chemotherapeutic drugs. Subsequently, Dr. Verma has shown an important role of BRCA1 in regulating how the heart utilizes energy efficiently.

The research may indicate that individuals who are at risk of breast cancer may also be at a previously unrecognized risk of heart attacks and cardiac failure.

“Dr. Verma is an excellent surgeon, but he’s also an inspiring educator and a superb researcher focusing on translational research,” said Dr. Arthur Slutsky, vice-president of research at St. Michael’s.

About St. Michael’s Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in more than 23 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, and care of the homeless are among the Hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael’s Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.