Cardiovascular surgery in Canada began on Ward "C" of the Toronto General Hospital (TGH) with the pioneer surgery of Dr. Gordon Murray. Soon after joining the staff in 1929, he developed an interest and expertise in arterial embolectomy. He immediately saw the value of Heparin when it was purified in Toronto in the mid 1930's. In the late 1930's Murray had a virtual world monopoly on this drug and was able to pioneer many vascular operations. When the Blalock-Taussig shunt was introduced in 1945, his results were unparalled. He trained the next generation of vascular and cardiac surgeons - Bigelow, Mustard, Wilson, and Heimbecker. His last major contribution was the performance of the world's first homograft aortic valve transplant in 1956.

The heart-lung pump was introduced in the late 1950's in Toronto by Dr. Wilfred G. Bigelow at TGH and Dr. William T. Mustard at the Hospital for Sick Children (HSC). Dr. Bigelow is internationally recognized for the introduction of the technique of general body hypothermia in 1953 and Dr. Mustard for his operation for Transposition of the Great Vessels in 1963. By 1960 the Cardiovascular Surgery Divisions at TGH and HSC had trained several residents in this Specialty. The units at St. Michael's Hospital (SMH) and the Toronto Western Hospital (TWH) opened a few years later. All four units were combined into the University of Toronto Program with the cardiovascular surgery residents rotating amongst the services. The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada recognized the Specialty of Cardiovascular Surgery in 1962. Sunnybrook Medical Center (SMC) joined the program in 1988.


Dr. Wilfred G. Bigelow & Dr.William T. Mustard

Following the introduction of coronary artery bypass in 1968, there was a dramatic rise in the need for cardiac surgery. By 1980 this had led to the formation of separate divisions for cardiac and vascular surgery at TGH and SMC. In 1988 the Cardiac Divisions at TGH and TWH were merged into one division, that of the Toronto Hospital (TTH). Currently, the “University Health Network” is made up of the Toronto General Hospital, Toronto Western Hospital, Princess Margaret Hospital and Toronto Medical Laboratories. Each hospital retains its identity and name within the Network.

The four cardiac surgery centers in Toronto form Canada's largest teaching center in this specialty and the program is internationally renowned for its academic productivity and clinical excellence.

The University of Toronto Residency Division of Cardiac Surgery was Chaired by Dr. Wilfred G. Bigelow from 1960 to 1977, Dr. Ronald J. Baird from 1977 to 1987, Dr. Tomas Salerno from 1987 to 1992, Dr. William G. Williams from 1992 to 1997 and Dr. Richard Weisel from 1998 to 2009. Dr. Christopher Caldarone has chaired the Division since 2009.