Faces of our story: Dr. Paul David, medicine of the heart


Since its founding in 1954, the Montreal Heart Institute has received and cared for thousands of patients. The institution on rue Bélanger is the main legacy of Paul David, who trained in medicine from the 1930s in Paris, then at the University of Montreal where he obtained his doctorate in 1944. Paul David is concerned about eating of the two great traditions, European and American. He pursued specializations in the United States, in Boston, in particular, before returning to Quebec at the end of the 1940s. The David line will clearly have given great names to the history of Quebec. Paul David, born in Montreal in 1919, is the son and grandson of Athanase David and Laurent-Olivier David, prominent politicians of their time. He is also the father of former deputy Françoise David and deputy and former minister Hélène David as well as political scientist Charles-Philippe David.


Dr. Paul David receives honors from South African cardiologist Christiaan Barnard, pioneer in heart transplantation, 1968.

Photo archives of the Montreal Heart Institute

Dr. Paul David receives honors from South African cardiologist Christiaan Barnard, pioneer in heart transplantation, 1968.

The Heart Institute was born in the context of the transition from a private health system to a public system. Prior to 1960, the state was only involved in destitute services. In 1960, 58% of hospitals were owned by female religious communities. Then, the Hospitals Act of 1962 stripped the communities of their ownership and management rights. They become a minority within the boards of directors and they are prohibited from chairing them. From a medical point of view, it is also an important period when the first heart transplants are attempted all over the world. In 1967, the first successful heart transplant was performed by Dr. Christiaan Barnard, in South Africa. The feat certainly has something to impress Paul David, himself already a renowned cardiologist. The Institute he directed became a major heart transplant experimentation center in Quebec and ranked among the first ten in the world to try the experiment, which in turn earned him the recognition of his peers.


Montreal Heart Institute, March 25, 1968.

City of Montreal archives photo, VM94-Ad041-019

Montreal Heart Institute, March 25, 1968.

The Sisters of Charity – or Gray Nuns – entrusted Paul David with the management of the cardiology department at Maisonneuve Hospital. In 1954, he founded with them the Institute of Cardiology. At the time, religious communities showed great seriousness in the training of their administrators. As proof, Sister Rachel Tourigny, the first administrator of the Heart Institute, was a member of the American College of Hospital Administrators. In 1966, the institute moved to ultra-modern premises on rue Bélanger. From 1968, under the direction of Dr. David, cardiologist Pierre Grondin attempted nearly a dozen heart transplants which, unfortunately, failed. It was in the 1980s that the program was resumed, with better scientific knowledge and more effective anti-rejection drugs, such as cyclosporine. On April 24, 1983, 21-year-old Diane Larose survived a new heart transplant. Paul David will remain at the head of the institute until 1984. In addition to various awards and honorary doctorates, he served from 1985 to 1994 as a senator.

– Research and writing by Éliane Bélec, historian, with the kind collaboration of the Montreal Heart Institute


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