Calgary doctor who founded country's first stroke, ALS research programs, named to Order of Canada

The founder of Canada's leading stroke research program has been named to the Order of Canada alongside six other Calgarians.

Dr. Tom Feasby says science has 'just scratched the surface' of the human brain

Dr. Tom Feasby, right, has been named to the Order of Canada for his work developing Canada's leading stroke research facility. (CBC)

The founder of Canada's leading stroke research program has been named to the Order of Canada alongside six other Calgarians.

A neuromuscular specialist, Dr. Tom Feasby's helped establish the first stroke prevention and intervention clinic in Canada.

Feasby says he helped create Quality Improvement & Clinical Research – Alberta Stroke Program (QuICR) out of desperation in the early '90s due to a lack of available treatments for people suffering from acute stroke.

"It was a time when there were developments taking place in imaging, and potentially in treatment, and we decided we had to be in the stroke business," Feasby told theHomestretch.

"I was the head of the department of clinical neuroscience [at the University of Calgary]. We made a commitment to build a stroke program so we got on with it."

A career of firsts

Feasby is also a founding member of Calgary's first neuromuscular and ALS clinics, as well as the O'Brien Institute For Public Health in Calgary.

He says his fascination with the human brain began decades ago in medical school, thanks in part to an inspiring neurosurgeon.

"We know an enormous amount [about the brain] but of course we've really just scratched the surface," he said. "There's so much we don't know about the way individual cells function and we have a rough idea but there's so much more to know."

Not content to bask in the glory of his past accomplishments, Feasby is currently working on a health-care project in Airdrie aimed at preventing illness through healthier living.

"The idea is not to focus on sickness care, which is what our system does now, [but] to move upstream and focus on preventing sickness by helping people lead healthier lives and helping facilitate that," he said.

Medicine in the future

As for what scientific research is grabbing Feasby's attention, he says breakthroughs in the use of stem cells are already saving lives.

"There recently have been discoveries that are allowing us now to intervene and treat spinal muscular atrophy, a degenerative disease often affecting kids, which was invariably fatal," Feasby said.

"Now it's possible to do some genetic engineering to change that and these kids will survive. It's amazing."

With files from the Homestretch