On November 17, 1968, St. Michael’s Dr. Clare Baker led a 30-strong team of doctors and nurses in a three-hour surgery to save the life of Charles Perrin Johnston, a 54-year-old engineer disabled by heart disease. It was Canada’s first successful heart transplant. Dr. Baker went on to receive the Order of Canada for his work.

Sadly, Dr. Baker passed away in 2010. But Perrin Johnston’s cardiologist, Dr. John (J.K.) Wilson, still remembers the excitement of that night. Dr. Wilson was stuck at a conference in Montreal when the heart became available. “I was on the telephone all night,” he recalls. He got back 24 hours later to find his patient doing well after the surgery, with normal vital signs.

It was a breakthrough – for Canada and for the world. Before the surgery, Perrin couldn’t walk. Within months, he was jogging two miles a day and back at work full-time. He lived for more than six years with his new heart, becoming at the time the world’s longest-surviving male heart-transplant recipient.

“It was such an exciting time,” Dr. Wilson remembers. “This was new territory, and everyone doing heart surgery was excited about it.”

Half a century later, the relentless spirit of innovation continues at St. Michael’s. This month we launched a bold campaign in support of the Walter and Maria Schroeder BRAIN&HEART Centre.

Once again, it’s new territory. Throughout the world, medicine is organized in silos – surgeons with surgeons, radiologists with radiologists – instead of being designed around the patient. But people’s bodies don’t work in silos: heart disease and brain disease are often linked; surgery on the heart may affect the brain; symptoms of early heart and brain disease can be the same.

At St. Michael’s, our world-renowned cardiac and neurological experts believe that the deeper the collaboration within – and between – specialties, the better the patient care and the more robust the medical innovation. It sounds simple. In reality, it’s a transformational model of care that is at the vanguard of medicine. It’s a cross-disciplinary approach to treating the brain and the heart that has our cardiac, vascular and neuro experts already working in tandem on some of Canada’s toughest brain and heart cases.

Thanks to the remarkable $19.125 million gift of Walter and Maria Schroeder, legendary Canadian philanthropists, we have the opportunity to do what no one has done before: Create a hub for the world’s top brain and heart specialists – and create a platform for innovation that will put brain and heart care at the frontier of medicine.

It will enable patients to be diagnosed, tested and treated by a seamless team of relevant specialists – all in one spot. It will be a place where neuro technology and techniques are used across specialties, and where a global network of clinicians and researchers can share best practices and treatments and leverage their expertise. As our experts learn from one another and test their ideas, they will export their discoveries throughout the world.

To complete the campaign, St. Michael’s Hospital is allocating $5 million and we are raising another $11 million that will fund world-first neurosurgical imaging equipment, cutting-edge catheterization and echocardiogram labs, research chairs and innovation spaces and devices.

When all is said and done, the centre will be a global pioneer in brain and heart health. 

Be part of the next 50 years of health-care innovation at St. Michael’s. Make a donation today to the campaign in support of the Walter and Maria Schroeder BRAIN&HEART Centre. 

To donate, please click here, or contact Ashley Downey at

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