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How Dr. George Wyse's perseverance and desire to make a difference shaped his distinguished career, helped save lives

World-renowned cardiac arrhythmia clinician-scientist to deliver 2017 Lecture of a Lifetime May 16
April 11, 2017
Dr. George Wyse will present the 2017 University of Calgary Lecture of a Lifetime May 16. Photo by Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

Dr. George Wyse will present the 2017 University of Calgary Lecture of a Lifetime May 16. Photo by Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

George Wyse, left, receives the Charles E. Frosst Company Scholarship and Medal in pharmacy, 1963, University of British Columbia, from a Charles E. Frosst Company representative. Wyse’s first mentor, J.E. Halliday, is on the right. Photo courtesy of George Wyse

George Wyse, left, receives the Charles E. Frosst Company Scholarship and Medal in pharmacy, 1963, University of British Columbia, from a Charles E. Frosst Company representative. Wyse’s first mentor, J.E. Halliday, is on the right. Photo courtesy of George Wyse

Dr. George Wyse at the Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta, 2017. Photo by Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

Dr. George Wyse at the Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta, 2017. Photo by Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

Dr. Wyse, standing, second from left, as Chair of the International Experts Advisory Committee (IEAC), 1982. Photo courtesy of George Wyse

Dr. Wyse, standing, second from left, as Chair of the International Experts Advisory Committee (IEAC), 1982. Photo courtesy of George Wyse

As a high school student trying to figure out which career path to take, David George Wyse tossed around a number of ideas, like many students do when contemplating how to approach their future. He liked science and had received good grades, so considered medicine as a career. But when a guidance counsellor said to him, “Only very smart people ever make it into medical school,” he assumed he wouldn’t make the cut.

That guidance counsellor’s comment caused a detour for what would nonetheless become the path to a brilliant medical career for Wyse. Instead of entering medical school right away, he decided to pursue pharmacology, where he excelled in foundational science research and earned his PhD. And when he lost his young mother due to a stroke from poorly controlled high blood pressure, Wyse knew he wanted his work to make a difference for people.

“I felt a need to conduct research on high blood pressure, so I initially became a vascular biologist — long before I was ever a cardiologist or arrhythmia specialist,” he says.

Wyse's history with University of Calgary runs deep

After completing postdoctoral work at the University of New Mexico, Wyse returned in 1971 to enter Calgary’s brand-new medical school, now the Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary. He became one of the first two Heart and Stroke Foundation (HSF) medical scientists, a fellowship he held while completing his MD degree from 1971-74. From 1976-78, he was a HSF research fellow during his training in cardiology in Portland, Oregon.

He then returned to Calgary to become assistant professor of medicine and pharmacology at the University of Calgary in 1978 and remained a physician and scientist until his retirement from clinical practice in December, 2016. He continues to be actively involved in patient-based research.

“The support I received from the Heart and Stroke Foundation allowed me to do research while I was going through med school and residency training, and this was a really important factor in my career,” says Wyse. “Both the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the University of Calgary were extremely helpful in starting me on my way, and I wanted to return some of that generosity and support, so I chose to return and work with both of them in Calgary.”

Internationally recognized leadership, research span decades 

Thirty-nine years later, Wyse is acclaimed as Alberta’s first clinical cardiac electrophysiologist, and has attracted international recognition for his leadership and research in randomized controlled clinical trials involving clinical arrhythmia (also known as heartbeat irregularities). He has left his mark on numerous ground-breaking research studies that continue to impact the clinical treatment of cardiac arrhythmia.

“An important part of medicine is the interaction between people. I’m fortunate that I’ve been able to help many patients, and to educate students, some who have become leaders in this field,” says Wyse.

His record of published work places him among the most productive of Canadian clinical scholars: he is responsible for more than 260 research publications, approximately 100 book chapters and invited publications, over 360 abstracts, and was lead author of Hearts, Minds & Vision: Roots of the Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta, a fascinating history of cardiovascular sciences in southern Alberta. His work has been cited more than 11,000 times.

Inspiring as an educator and administrator, Wyse has held numerous academic leadership positions at UCalgary, including director of the Cardiology Training Committee, head of the Division of Cardiology and associate dean at the Cumming School of Medicine. He is an emeritus professor and member of the Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta.

Strong belief in community service benefits Heart and Stroke Foundation, among others

Wyse is a strong believer in community service, and has served for many years with the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Alberta, also volunteering on their national board of directors. He continues to make a positive impact by chairing the International Expert Review Committee of the Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta and contributing as a board member for more than 10 years. In all, he has served in a variety of capacities with more than 49 organizations in the health sector, and he has been the recipient of 34 awards and honours for his scholarship.

“Looking back, I guess I shouldn’t have listened to that high school guidance counsellor who said medical school is only for very smart people,” he says with a smile. “I could have completed my medical training in less than 18 years. But I would have missed a lot of important experiences, so I’m glad I took the path that I did.”  

Lecture of a Lifetime scheduled for May 16

Hosted by the University of Calgary Senate, the Lecture of a Lifetime Series showcases the talent and achievements of leading academics and celebrates outstanding service to the university, its students and the greater community.

Please join the University of Calgary Senate for a fascinating evening with Dr. George Wyse. His lecture will include a glimpse into his research, teaching, and his perspective on the future of research and education in medicine.

Event details: Lecture of a Lifetime