Prestigious Canada Gairdner Award honours Dr. Antoine Hakim’s championing of stroke prevention and treatment

March 28, 2017

The extensive career of world-renowned neuroscientist Dr. Antoine Hakim has not only helped transform stroke from a devastating condition to one that is treatable; it has also now earned him a major international scientific prize, the prestigious 2017 Canada Gairdner Award.

Each year, the awards honour the world’s most significant biomedical and global health researchers. Today, Gairdner has awarded Dr. Hakim, emeritus senior scientist and senior neurologist at The Ottawa Hospital and professor of neurology at the University of Ottawa, the 2017 Canada Gairdner Wightman Award for “outstanding research into stroke and its consequences and championing stroke prevention and treatment in Canada and beyond.”

“We are pleased to bring Dr. Antoine Hakim into the Gairdner family of more than 360 laureates,” said Dr. Janet Rossant, President & Scientific Director of the Gairdner Foundation. “His leadership in the area of stroke research has completely changed attitudes about the condition from devastating to one that is preventable and treatable.”

Dr. Hakim’s work to better understand the mechanisms of strokes, establish the Canadian Stroke Network and develop a national strategy for stroke prevention and treatment has shifted the paradigm of the disease. Patients and caregivers now recognize the signs and have the tools and know-how to take swift action. With quicker action and better care, more patients are going home to lead normal lives.

“Over the last 25 years, Dr. Hakim has played a leading role in stroke care and research at The Ottawa Hospital,” said Dr. Duncan Stewart, Executive Vice-President of Research at The Ottawa Hospital and professor at the University of Ottawa. “He has saved countless lives, transformed our understanding of stroke and inspired a generation of researchers and physicians.”

“The University is proud to support Dr. Hakim’s leading-edge research on stroke prevention and treatment,” said Mona Nemer, Vice-President, Research at the University of Ottawa. “Dr. Hakim’s work demonstrates how research can have a direct and positive impact on outcomes for patients.”

The University interviewed Dr. Hakim about his research and winning this prestigious award.

What is it about your work and career that has caught the attention of the Gairdner Foundation?

Research has shown that the brain tissue surrounding a stroke’s core can ‘hold its breath’ and come back to life when a clot-busting drug is administered quickly. We needed to develop an action plan and educate people on how to recognize signs of stroke and act as quickly as possible to save lives. Assembling the Canadian Stroke Network and developing a national strategy, including toolkits, education programs, best practice guidelines and a better coordination of services, has played a tremendous role in reducing the devastating impact of stroke on citizens and society. I was very honoured to work with a very committed and effective team.

So your work is directly saving lives and health care dollars?

Within five years of coming out with the national strategy, referrals to stroke prevention clinics in Ontario increased by 34% and stroke patient admissions decreased by 11%. By 2015, eight Canadian provinces had implemented stroke strategies using our models, helping lower stroke mortality. Happily, thousands of people are regaining their normal lives, and billions of dollars are being saved by the Canadian health care system.

What else can we learn from your extensive career researching the brain?

A dreaded consequence of stroke and vascular disease is dementia. By reducing vascular risk factors in individuals and populations, we can actually reduce the incidence of dementia in society. Years of observing the interactions between these conditions have enabled me to write a book compiling solid advice for patients and the general public to help ward off dementia and keep their brains operating at full capacity.

Read more about Dr. Hakim’s research on the stroke-dementia connection.

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