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In memoriam of Dr. Jack Tu: Impact without boundaries

May 31, 2018

Dr. Jack Tu Dr. Jack Tu Dr. Jack Tu

Dr. Jack Tu changed cardiac care. He made lives better for countless people. He set out in his professional life to make a difference, and he did. It is because of his research that we now know that where someone lives can have an impact on their cardiovascular health. It is because of his research that we now know that “good” cholesterol is not an effective marker for heart health. It is because of his research that there is now a tool to predict mortality in patients who present with heart failure in the emergency room.

These are but a few of many such examples of research that not only filled in gaps and advanced crucial knowledge, but also had an impact on the health care system and patients. Indicative of his humility and the leader he was, he would be the first to say that none of his accomplishments were his alone, that they belong to and reflect the work, dedication and creativity of teams of colleagues.

Such teams showcase Jack’s wide and deep roots in the Toronto academic medicine community. He joined Sunnybrook as a staff physician in the division of internal medicine in 1996, the same year he was appointed to the University of Toronto as assistant professor of medicine. Sunnybrook Research Institute welcomed him in 1999, where he was a scientist in Evaluative Clinical Sciences and the Schulich Heart Program. He joined the faculty of ICES as a scientist in 2000, where he led the cardiovascular and diagnostic imaging research program. In 2004, he was promoted to professor of medicine at U of T and to senior scientist at ICES. Two years later, in 2006, he became a staff physician in Sunnybrook’s Schulich Heart Centre. Across all these years and as an integral, highly respected member of all these families, he enriched many lives as a physician, researcher, mentor, colleague and friend.

The pursuit of excellence was a defining characteristic of Jack, and no less than when it came to his science. Even with his demanding schedule as a clinician, he was a tirelessly prolific researcher. He published more than 130 articles in peer-reviewed journals in the last five years alone. Awards speaking to his eminence are many. In 2007, he was awarded a Canada Research Chair in Health Services Research, the most prestigious salary award the federal government bestows, which he held continuously. In 2010, he received the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Article of the Year award for a randomized controlled trial showing that public report cards do not improve the quality of cardiac care, thus suggesting to policy-makers that this was not an effective systems-level intervention.

Amid challenging times for health research, Jack consistently was awarded highly competitive CIHR grants to advance his research program. An early proponent of the use of “big data” as a research tool, Jack secured CIHR investment for the CANHEART study, a network of investigators across the country dedicated to transforming the prevention and management of cardiovascular diseases. He recently secured another investment from CIHR to amass a multidisciplinary team to exploit big data to develop new and better methods of leading innovative cardiovascular clinical trials.

The effects of his unwavering clarity of focus on making a difference reverberate far beyond local levels. Jack was driven to change the state of cardiac care, not just here at Sunnybrook, or even regionally, but writ large—to ensure access to and provision of the best quality of care for everyone, everywhere—a legacy of impact without boundaries.