Organization works to support research initiatives and to educate

Liver disease is often stigmatized as being linked primarily to alcohol abuse — a misconception that the Canadian Liver Foundation is aiming to change.

The reality is that alcohol is only one cause of over 100 different forms of liver disease.

The foundation recently honoured two Calgarians for their contributions towards improving the understanding and awareness of liver disease.

Dr. Rob Myers and Don Wishart were among 30 Canadians awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal by the Canadian Liver Foundation. A ceremony was recently held in Calgary to present Myers and Wishart with their medals.

Todd Hebert, director of the foundation’s Calgary and southern Alberta office, said that Dr. Myers and Wishart were awarded the medals for their dedicated and ongoing support of the foundation’s mandate.

“It’s not only their contributions to the organization’s policies and programs, but also for research on liver disease and fibrosis, in Dr. Myer’s case, and Don’s efforts to provide funds for education programs here in Alberta,” Hebert said.Dr. Rob Myers is a hepatologist, a specialist who treats liver diseases, who was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.

Photo by Karry Taylor

Physician focuses on both patient care and liver research

Dr. Myers said it was a “great honour” to receive the award.

“The foundation does great things for raising awareness of liver disease, in raising money for research for liver disease and for patient advocacy,” Dr. Myers said.

An associate professor of medicine and director of the viral hepatitis clinic at the University of Calgary, Myers spends part of his time caring for patients in his clinic. The rest of his time is devoted to research, in particular helping to find new therapies for viral hepatitis and autoimmune liver diseases.

He is also involved with developing new methods of assessing liver damage.

“The traditional means of doing that was by liver biopsy, which is an invasive procedure and can cause complications,” Dr. Myers said. “Much of my work is focused on developing blood tests or imaging type tests that might avoid that.”

Executive donates time, money and energy

Wishart, TransCanada’s executive vice-president for operations and major projects, was unable to attend the award ceremony. His daughter accepted his Diamond Jubilee Medal on his behalf. He was recognized for volunteering his time and skills to help the foundation with its fundraising.

He was also acknowledged for providing ongoing assistance for educational and support programs, both in Alberta and across Canada — as well as being instrumental in TransCanada becoming a lead sponsor of those programs.

Foundation aims to education and offer support

The foundation aims to provide educational and support programs to both the public and to individuals who are affected by liver disease.

“As you can imagine, with anybody who is affected by a significant chronic illness, the support that they need is very significant,” Hebert said.

Another important component of the foundation’s work is its school-based programs.

“We go out to schools to teach about liver health and proper practices around sexual health, tattooing, drug use — those types of things,” Hebert said.

The foundation also raises funds to help support medical research programs. Currently four research projects in Alberta are benefiting from this support.

New public lecture series launched

The Diamond Jubilee Medals were awarded during the launch of a new free lunch-and-lecture series called “Let’s Talk.” The series is designed to get Calgarians thinking about both liver disease and healthy living in general.

Hebert said the series aims to be “a whole package.”

“Our goal is to provide a series that gives us an opportunity to go out into the community and provide general information about liver disease and liver health, as well as healthy living and lifestyle programs.

“So it’s not just about the liver.”

The next talk in the series will be held in early 2013. Hebert said the start of a new year provides a natural opportunity for the foundation to reach out to Calgarians.

“The new year sees everybody on a health kick, so it’s a good time for us to talk about healthy living,” Hebert said.

ktaylor@cjournal.ca