Nov. 17, 2020

Researcher recognized for lifetime of achievement in cardiovascular health research

Norm Campbell receives Hypertension Canada honour for career focused on reducing high blood pressure

Dr. Norm Campbell, MD, professor emeritus from the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine (CSM), spent 35 years working to improve the cardiovascular health of local patients in his clinical practice.

But that isn’t the only impact he's had. Thanks to his population-based research, advocacy and contribution to policy creation in hypertension, Campbell's work has reached national and international levels.

For his lifetime of achievement and dedication, Campbell, a member of the Libin Cardiovascular Institute and the O’Brien Institute of Public Health at the CSM, recently received a Senior Investigator Award from Hypertension Canada. Given to just one person each year, the award recognizes significant contributions to the advancement and extension of knowledge in research related to hypertension, or high blood pressure.

It’s quite an achievement for Campbell, who has been a member of Hypertension Canada since his days as a medical resident in 1982.

“I am very honoured to receive this award,” he says “This is an organization I have been involved with throughout my research career, which was focused on preventing and treating hypertension.

Dr. Paul Fedak, MD, PhD, director of the Libin Cardiovascular Institute, says Campbell is deserving of the honour.

“Dr. Campbell has been a strong advocate for a healthier population throughout his career,” says Fedak. “His impact is widely acknowledged, and this award is evidence of that. Speaking on behalf of the Libin Cardiovascular Institute, we couldn’t be more pleased that Dr. Campbell is being recognized.”

When Campbell began his career, hypertension was a huge issue in Canada. In fact, only 13 per cent of Canadians had their high blood pressure under control and the majority of people were unaware of their condition and/or not effectively treated.

Those low numbers motivated Campbell to look for ways to make a difference in controlling hypertension, a major risk factor for the development of cardiovascular disease like heart attacks and strokes.

“The light went on that we could do much better, and we should do much better,” says Campbell. “I started to examine how we could better control hypertension and realized that it is created by lifestyle and that we could prevent and control much of it by lowering sodium and eating healthy.”

From there, Campbell began population-level research looking at the impact of high sodium on Canadians and how to better assess and control hypertension. Campbell formed and transformed several research coalitions and contributed to national and international guidelines and policies with the goal of preventing high blood pressure.  

His contributions, and those of his colleagues, helped raise the national hypertension control rate from 13 to 66 per cent in less than a decade, making Canada a world leader in this area.

“A lot of that was working with primary care,” says Campbell, adding leaders in the field worked with primary care doctors and their patients to raise awareness about the need for blood pressure screening diagnosis and control.

In the last decade, Campbell has retired from his clinical practice, but remains involved in research and policy creation nationally and internationally. His work, mostly volunteer, with the World Health Organization, World Hypertension League — of which he is past president — Pan-American Health Organization and Resolve to Save Lives takes him around the globe consulting on policies.

“I flew over 50,000 miles in the first three months of 2020,” says Campbell, noting the COVID-19 pandemic has since kept him closer to home. “It is a great privilege to a be a doctor and a great opportunity to help individuals and the greater community.”