The Canada Gairdner Awards


Canada Gairdner Wightman Award

The Canada Gairdner Wightman Award recognizes a Canadian health researcher who has demonstrated extraordinary leadership paired with exceptional science. Successful nominees will demonstrate research excellence in the health sciences at an international level as well as superior leadership among their peers, with local, national and international impact. Outstanding candidates at varied levels of career development are eligible.

Quality nominations are essential to the evaluation process for this award. Packages should be accurate, current, and complete throughout the five year period of consideration. The nomination portal is open each year from mid-April- October 1 for edits, changes or additions by nominators.


The recipients will be announced in April 2021, and presented  in October of 2021. Nominations for the 2022 awards are due by 11:59 pm PDT on Friday, October 1, 2021.

Featured Winners

Allan R. Ronald
Canada Gairdner Wightman Award
For his leadership in developing the specialty of clinical infectious disease in Canada and for his exceptional international contributions in Africa.
Professor Emeritus, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Dr. Ronald has had an outstanding career as a leader at the University of Manitoba, as the physician who provided the leadership in launching the subspecialty of infectious diseases in Canada, and as a leader in the fight against HIV/AIDS in East Africa. He is known in both the developed world and in East Africa for his research as a clinical scientist and as a humanitarian who has given selflessly in nurturing others. He mentored 70 infectious diseases Fellows who have gone on to populate Canadian academic institutions. He began a shared program with the University of Nairobi where over 80 Africans have received MSc or PhD degrees, and in collaboration with major universities over 300 peer-reviewed papers have been published. Central to these have been studies on the epidemiology of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Dr. Ronald was born in Manitoba and graduated in medicine from the University of Manitoba (1961). He trained in Internal Medicine at the University of Maryland (1962-64) and was a Fellow in Infectious Diseases at the University of Washington (1965-68). He joined the Faculty of Medicine in the Department of Microbiology and Internal Medicine at the University of Manitoba in 1968, rising to the rank of Professor (1977) and Distinguished Professor (1986). Dr. Ronald was head of the Department of Medical Microbiology (1976-1985), and H.E. Sellers Professor and Head of Internal Medicine (1983-1990).

Dr. Ronald has held many international appointments including: founding member University of Manitoba/University of Nairobi/WHO Research and Training Program on Sexually Transmitted Diseases and Chair, Diagnostics Committee (1989-2004) and President of the International Society for Infectious Diseases (1996-98). He is an Officer of the Order of Canada, Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, member of the American Association of Physicians, and recipient of the International St Boniface Hospital Award and the F.N.G. Starr Award (CMA).

Alan Bernstein
Canada Gairdner Wightman Award
For his outstanding contribution to Canadian health research as a scientist, research institute director and as the inaugural President of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.
Executive Director, Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise, New York, NY, USA

Dr. Bernstein is currently the President of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR), one of Canada’s major global research assets. From 2008-2011, Dr. Bernstein was the executive director of the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise, an international alliance of researchers and funders charged with accelerating the search for an HIV vaccine. Previously, he served as the founding president of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (2000-07), Canada’s federal agency for the support of health research. In that capacity, he led the transformation of health research in Canada.

After receiving his PhD from the University of Toronto, and following postdoctoral work in London, Dr. Bernstein joined the Ontario Cancer Institute (1974-1985). In 1985 he joined the new Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute in Toronto, was named Associate Director (1988) and then Director of Research (1994-2000). The author of over 225 scientific publications, Dr. Bernstein has made extensive contributions to the study of stem cells, hematopoiesis and cancer. He is a member and/or chair of advisory and review boards in Canada, the US, UK, Italy and Australia. Dr. Bernstein has received numerous awards and honorary degrees for his contributions to science, including the 2008 Canada Gairdner Wightman Award. He is a Senior Research Fellow of Massey College and was inducted into the Order of Canada in 2002.

Salim Yusuf
Canada Gairdner Wightman Award
For his exceptional leadership in global clinical trials and population studies of cardiovascular disease that shaped best guidelines for prevention and treatment.
Professor of Medicine & Executive Director of the Population Health Research Institute, McMaster University; Vice President for Research, Hamilton Health Sciences, Hamilton, ON, Canada

The work: Dr. Yusuf’s epidemiological work in over 60 countries in all the inhabited continents of the world shows the majority of risks of both cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease are attributable to the same few risk factors. He currently leads the largest ever study revealing the role of societal changes in cardiovascular disease (CVD) among 155,000 people from 700 communities in 22 high, middle and low income countries. Dr. Yusuf led the HOPE Trial that demonstrated that Ramipril (an ACE inhibitor) saved lives, prevented heart attacks and strokes among patients with stable heart disease.

The impact: Dr. Yusuf’s trials (such as SOLVD, HOPE, OASIS, CHARM, ON-TARGET, TRANSCEND, etc.) on the prevention and treatment of CVD and related conditions (such as
4 hypertension and diabetes) have improved the care of patients. His research and insights have produced substantial changes in guidelines for the prevention and treatment of disease. His large trials have led to more effective treatments for acute heart attacks, congestive heart failure, heart rhythm abnormalities and chronic heart disorders. These studies have led to better understanding of the role of societal changes on behaviours and risk factors, and how they lead to CVD. Over the last three decades he has built capacity for clinical and population research across Canada and the world by establishing networks at over 1,500 sites in 85 countries.

Salim Yusuf’s work over 35 years has substantially influenced prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease globally. Medically qualified in Bangalore 1976, he received a Rhodes Scholarship and obtained a DPhil from Oxford, during which he (along with Richard Peto and Peter Sleight) initiated the concepts of large, simple trials, and meta-analysis. He coordinated the ISIS trial (which set the structure for future international collaborative work in cardiovascular disease) that demonstrated the value of beta-blockers in myocardial infarction, and sat on steering committees for all subsequent ISIS trials.

In 1984, he moved to the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, USA, where he was a leader in their SOLVD trial (establishing the value of ACE-inhibitors on LV dysfunction) and DIG trial (clarifying the role of digitalis). In 1992 he moved to McMaster University, where he has established an international program of research in cardiovascular diseases and prevention, culminating in the creation of the Population Health Research Institute, which he founded and heads. His therapeutic trials have established the roles of ACE-inhibitors in CVD prevention (the HOPE study), dual antiplatelet therapies in acute coronary syndromes (the CURE study), and the roles of novel antithrombotics and invasive interventions. The PHRI was recently cited by SCImago as possessing the highest impact of Canadian Centers and the 7th highest impact in the world.

His epidemiologic work in over 60 countries in all the inhabited continents of the world shows the majority of risks of both cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease are attributable to the same few risk factors. He currently leads the largest ever study revealing the role of societal changes in CVD among 155,000 people from 700 communities in 22 high, middle and low income countries. These studies have led to better understanding of the role of societal changes on behaviours and risk factors, and how they lead to CVD.

Over the last 3 decades he has built capacity for clinical and population research across Canada (first through the Canadian Cardiovascular Collaboration, and more recently through CANNeCTIN) and the world by establishing networks at over 1500 sites in 85 countries, spanning all inhabited continents of the world. He has trained over 50 researchers, many of whom are nationally or internationally renowned leaders in medical research. He has helped develop major research institutes or programs in Canada, India, Argentina, Brazil, S. Africa, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, and China.

He holds a Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario Research Chair, was a Senior Scientist of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (1999-2004), and has received over 35 international and national awards for research, induction into the Royal Society of Canada, an appointment as an Officer of the Order of Canada, and in 2014 he will be inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame.

He has published over 800 articles in refereed journals, rising to the second most cited researcher in the world for 2011. He is President-elect of the World Heart Federation, where he is initiating an Emerging Leaders program in 100 countries with the aim of halving the CVD burden globally within a generation.

† 1951-2020
Frank Plummer
Canada Gairdner Wightman Award
For his groundbreaking research in Africa in understanding HIV transmission and his leadership at the Canadian National Microbiology Laboratory with pivotal roles in SARS, influenza and Ebola epidemics.
Special Advisor to the Chief Public Health Officer, Public Health Agency of Canada; Distinguished Professor, Medical Microbiology, College of Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB, Canada

The work: In the 1980s, HIV/AIDS was largely viewed as a homosexual disease. Throughout the 1980s, Dr. Frank Plummer conducted research, facilitated by the University of Manitoba, on a large cohort of Nairobi sex workers which found that two thirds of them had HIV/AIDS which was astonishing at the time. He also showed that about ten percent of these sex workers remain HIV uninfected despite multiple exposures. This identification of natural resistance to HIV has guided vaccine development strategies. He further went on to conduct work on mechanisms of resistance to HIV, risk factors for heterosexual transmission of HIV, mother-to-child transmission of HIV and developed public health strategies for control of sexually transmitted infections. Further research showed that many groups in addition to these female sex workers are immune to HIV. Over the next 16 years, Dr. Plummer remained in Nairobi, and this led to a series of investigations, international collaborations and some very important discoveries about the susceptibility to HIV infection and transmissibility.

The impact: His original and sustained contributions in this field have led to innovative strategies for HIV prevention at an internationally recognized level, and are being used around the world to prevent many thousands of HIV infections. Dr. Plummer, Distinguished Professor, University of Manitoba, is a pioneering HIV/AIDS researcher thanks to not only his ground-breaking work but also his leadership as Scientific Director General at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg leading their response to numerous outbreaks including his support and contributions to the development of the Ebola vaccine programs in Canada, SARS treatment in 2003 and the 2009 H1N1 pandemic influenza outbreak.

Dr. Plummer is a native Manitoban and received his medical degree from the University of Manitoba in 1976. He trained in internal medicine and infectious diseases at the University of Southern California, the University of Manitoba, the University of Nairobi, and the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. He joined the University of Manitoba faculty in 1984 and spent 17 years in Nairobi as the leader of the world-renowned Manitoba Nairobi collaboration. From 2000-2014 he was Scientific Director of the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, building it into a globally preeminent public health laboratory.

Dr. Plummer is recognized internationally for his work in public health and science, having published over 375 high impact original articles. He has received numerous honors, including; Officer of the Order of Canada, Order of Manitoba, Killam Prize; Prix Galien; two honorary degrees.; Rh Institute Award; Achievement Award from the American Venereal Disease Association; I.S. Ravdin Award, American College of Surgeons; St. Boniface Hospital Research Foundation International Award; Canadian Institutes of Health Research Researcher of the Year 2007; Scopus Award, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He has been elected to the American Society of Clinical Investigation and the Association of American Physicians and advised has the National Academy of Sciences in the US, the World Bank, the World Health Organization, and the Governments of Kenya, India and Lesotho.