2007 INDUCTEE The Honourable Wilbert Keon, MD Heart & Vessels, Leadership in Organizational Development, Health Policy


May 17, 1935

(Sheenboro, Québec )


April 7, 2019


MD, University of Ottawa

MSc, McGill University

Awards & Honours:

2012: Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal

2007: FNG Starr Award, Canadian Medical Association

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Picture of Keon Wilbert

Performed some of the earliest heart transplants in the world

Dr. Wilbert Keon

Renowned Heart Surgeon and Long-time Senator

A visionary, Dr. Keon turned his dream to build a cardiovascular institute into a magnificent reality as the founder of the University of Ottawa Heart Institute in 1976. The Institute which now bears his name has risen to an international standard of excellence. It was Keon’s concept that cardiology and cardiac surgery should work more closely together in the prevention and care of cardiovascular disease. He situated the patient investigative unit, surgical unit and medical care unit on the same floor believing this would improve patient care. Indeed, this was true and many lives have been saved as a result.

Key Facts

Implanted the first Jarvik 7-70 artificial heart in the world

Performed more than 10,000 open-heart surgeries between 1969 and 2001

Played a key role in two landmark reports, “The Health of Canadians: Recommendations for Reform” and “Out of the Shadows at Last,” which led to the creation of the Mental Health Commission of Canada.

Authored 200 publications, gave over 475 presentations and completed 16 visiting professorships

Professional timeline

Impact on lives today

Dr. Keon’s impact lives on today both physically and emotionally in the hearts of his former patients. As a pioneer in cardiology and in transplant surgery, he saved countless lives in his career and paved the way for many to follow in his footsteps. Dr. Keon’s insightful strategy of bringing together multiple elements of patient heart care under one roof enabled the University of Ottawa Heart Institute to grow and develop into a leader in the field of cardiology. The repercussions of this development made Canada a world centre of cardiovascular research and draws people from all around the world who eager to learn from the Institute’s insights. In 2018, the Institute opened an expanded facility to better serve Canadians and to extend the reach of Dr. Keon’s legacy.

Picture of Keon Wilbert


  • Wilbert Keon inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame

    London, Ontario

  • Honorable Wilbert Keon

    Dr. Keon was appointed to the Senate by Governor General Ray Hnatyshyn

    He served as a senator until 2010, when he reached the mandatory age of retirement.

  • The Ottawa Heart Institute’s first heart transplant was performed by Keon and his team

    Heart & Vessels

    Two years later, Dr. Keon was the first Canadian to implant an artificial heart into a human as a bridge to transplant.

  • OHI opening in 1976

    Dr. Keon founded the University of Ottawa Heart Institute at the Ottawa Civic Hospital

    Leadership in Organizational Development

    He led the Institute for almost the next thirty years until his retirement in 2004.

  • Dr. Wilbert Keon perfected a life-saving emergency bypass operation that restores blood supply to dying heart muscles

    Heart & Vessels

  • University of Ottawa Dean of Medicine, Jean-Jacques Lussier travelled to Houston for cardiac treatment.

    This experience highlighted Canada’s lack of cardiac facilities. In 1968, he secured $5 million dollars and recruited Dr. Keon, who dreamed of opening a cardiac institute, back to Canada

  • Following medical school, Dr. Keon pursued further training at Montreal General Hospital, Toronto General Hospital and the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children.

    He then pursued international experience, working at Harvard Medical Centre in Boston.

Late 1960's

He was the essence of the caring spirit in medicine.