When asked why the University of Ottawa Heart Institute is so widely recognized for outstanding cardiovascular education, Dr. Lyall Higginson doesn’t hesitate to reel off these reasons. As the first recipient of the Donald S. Beanlands Chair in Cardiovascular Education, he can speak with authority on the subject. “My career has been centred around education, from undergraduate to postgraduate and professional programs,” noted Dr. Higginson, clinical cardiologist at the Heart Institute and professor of medicine at the University of Ottawa. “This chair gives me the opportunity to focus on teaching much more than I could before.”
Announced in March, the chair was established to enhance the nationally recognized culture of excellence in training that was first cultivated at the Heart Institute under the leadership of Dr. Donald Beanlands, its first chief of cardiology.
“Don was the chief when I first came here in 1977,” said Dr. Higginson. “At the time, I thought the best educators I had seen were in America, but I soon found that was not true. Don was the best cardiologist I ever worked with. He was always an advocate of the patient and of education, and that’s his legacy: Patients come first, and take every opportunity to educate.
“Even at a time when research was considered the thing to back, he kept us grounded by emphasizing that all three—patient care, research and education—must be equally important,” he continued. “His trainees are now in institutions all across the country, and that reflects not only the quality of education and training but the innovation and outstanding expertise found at the Heart Institute.”
Dr. Higginson himself is recognized across Canada as both an outstanding clinician and a passionate and dedicated cardiovascular educator and mentor to trainees. His years of work in this area have been recognized by the Canadian Cardiovascular Society with both its Distinguished Teacher and Annual Achievement awards.
“I will be working to increase the educational profile of the Heart Institute at all levels,” he explained. “The undergraduate level; the medical school; the residency program, where I’m involved at the bedside, on the floors and in the clinic; and also the postgraduate level, reaching family physicians about the new and changing technologies and ways to treat heart disease.”
“We do a superlative job in almost all areas. Our training is second to none. If there is an area in which I think we can improve, it is in reaching out to the hospitals across our region. How do you help the family physicians that care for the majority of cardiac patients improve the way they do things?”
True to Dr. Beanlands dictum of “Make others as good as you are,” Dr. Higginson plans to help others enhance their teaching skills. “The chair will also give me the opportunity to stay current with teaching techniques. If you are going to teach, it is important to maintain your own knowledge base and teaching methods. At the University of Ottawa, I’m the mentor for the Gifted Teachers Program in the Faculty of Medicine. I have the opportunity to help those individuals become better educators—educating the educators.”
Commenting on the importance of the new Chair in Cardiovascular Education, current Chief of Cardiology Dr. Rob Beanlands remarked, “This Chair will help us build on Don Beanlands’ legacy by continuing to shape new generations of cardiovascular professionals and impacting cardiology practice throughout Canada and around the world.”