“I don’t like to focus on what I have done so far because it feels like I’m just getting started. We’re just on the cusp of so many new heart therapies.”
If you ever get heart surgery performed by Paul Fedak, there’s something you might want to know: after the anesthesia kicks in and you fall to sleep, he turns up the tunes, filling the operating room with anything from old-school Mötley Crüe to Rush or Van Halen. “Maybe it’s because I’m the MTV generation, but I need constant noise,” Fedak says. “It helps me and others to relax.”
Putting that easygoing gesture aside, Fedak is actually a very focused guy. Not to mention shy, driven and completely authentic.
Fedak performs 140 heart surgeries a year, has made 73 contributions to leading biomedical journals and is a well-known researcher pioneering cutting-edge techniques to treat a variety of heart problems. “I want to develop new therapies and translate that from the lab into real life,” he says.
One of Fedak’s most recent innovations is Kryptonite sternal-closure, a technique that uses a type of bone glue dubbed “Kryptonite” to close the breastbone after it has been opened to perform heart surgery. The previous procedure, which has been around for 40 to 50 years, uses metal wires like twist ties to bring the breastbone back together.
Since carrying out the first case of Kryptonite sternal-closure in 2009, Fedak has trained 50 physicians in the technique. He has also conducted a small Calgary trial of the procedure and is now in the process of undergoing a larger North American trial.
Outside the operating room, Fedak also logs in lots of time in the lab. Three years ago, he started the Don and Marlene Campbell Cardiac Lab at the University of Calgary. Since then, he has helped to land more than $1 million in funding over seven years to come up with a way of using stem cells to create a type of muscle patch that can be used to replace damaged or scarred heart tissue.
“I want to do new things and the best things possible for my patients,” Fedak says. “I don’t like to focus on what I’ve done so far because it feels like I’m just getting started. We’re just on the cusp of so many new heart therapies.”
As for his motivation, Fedak says that’s simple: “It’s getting a thumbs-up after a surgery when the patient knows they are going to be OK. It doesn’t get any better than that.”
Why he’s the top: He’s a heart surgeon and researcher pioneering cutting-edge techniques to treat heart conditions.
The key to his success: “You need to create the conditions for your own success. Find out what you want and what you need to get there — then create the conditions to make it happen.”