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Dr Ruth Collins-Nakai to receive the CMA 2008 Medal of Service


Ottawa, ON – Dr Ruth Collins-Nakai, from Edmonton (Alberta), will receive the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) 2008 Medal of Service for her long and distinguished record of service to the medical profession, to medical and research organizations, to Canada’s health care system, and to the care of patients around the world.

“I was astonished that I had been nominated, let alone selected, as there are so many deserving people in medicine who provide service above and beyond what is expected, both to patients and to the profession,” said Dr Collins-Nakai.

Born in Pincher Creek, AB, she earned her medical degree at the University of Alberta in 1972 and pursued postgraduate study in Edmonton, Montreal and Boston. After being awarded RCPSC fellowships in pediatrics (1976) and pediatric cardiology (1977), she began her career at the University of Alberta as assistant professor of pediatrics and joined the staff of the University of Alberta Hospitals.

In 1979 she established and became director of the Heritage Pediatric Cardiology Program, where her research interests included congenital heart disease, epidemiology and cardiac metabolism. As a pediatric cardiologist she introduced ultrasound of the heart to western Canada and initiated innovative catheterization procedures. In recent years she has been a strong advocate for prevention of cardiac disease and for improvement in the diagnosis and care of women with heart disease.

Dr Collins-Nakai was associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Alberta (1980-88) and professor of pediatrics (1988-2000). She also was director of the pediatric cardiology training program (1990-93) and associate dean in the faculty of medicine (1993-96). In 1998 she completed a master’s degree in business administration at the University of Alberta. A long-time consultant at hospitals in Edmonton and at clinics she established in northern Alberta, she retired from active practice in 2007. Currently she works part-time as chief medical officer for Valens Pharma, and as a consultant to biotech companies, and as a consultant in health care, post-secondary education, and research.

She has participated in professional societies at the local, national and international levels. As committee chair she oversaw the transformation of the Canadian Cardiovascular Society annual meeting into a collaboration of 13 professional societies that today is the largest annual medical meeting in Canada; she subsequently was president of the CCS. She also headed the Alberta Cardiovascular Society, Alberta Medical Association, and Inter-American Society of Cardiology. As the president and 4th woman to head the CMA (2005/06), she proved on the very public and national stage that she was a passionate advocate for patients, physicians and health care reform. Currently she is the CMA’s representative at the World Medical Association and has led the effort to create a Child and Youth Health Charter for Canada. A former director of the Alberta chapter and Canadian governing body of the Heart and Stroke Foundation, she was influential in changing the way the foundation supports research in Canada. She chaired the board of governors and served on the executive and board of trustees of the American College of Cardiology, and for many years she was Canada’s representative on the Global Heart Forum.

In Alberta she has been a member of the Premier’s Commission for Future Health Care, and the Council on Science and Technology. A strong supporter of education and science, she has worked to increase research funding in the province and in Canada. Through her work on the management board of the Alberta Science and Research Authority, and more recently through consulting in the biotechnology sector, she has helped to promote knowledge-based industry in the province.

A founding member of the governing council of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, she also chaired the scientific advisory panel of the Canadian Coordinating Office for Health Technology Assessment.

Dr Collins-Nakai is also an honorary member of the Mexican Society of Cardiology and the Federation of Medical Women of Canada; a Master of the American College of Cardiology; and recipient of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta Certificate for Meritorious Service. In 2002 the International Academy of Cardiovascular Sciences presented her with its Distinguished Achievement Award for promoting cardiovascular education and research throughout the world.

Dr Ruth Collins-Nakai is the 38th recipient of the CMA’s Medal of Service. She will receive the award on August 20 at a special ceremony in Montreal, QC during the 141st annual meeting of the CMA.