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A Lifetime of Achievement in Vascular Surgery

Wayne Johnston
Wayne Johnston

K. Wayne Johnston received the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Society for Vascular Surgery in Denver, Colorado in June. The SVS is an international organization that "seeks to advance excellence and innovation in vascular health through education, advocacy, research and public awareness". The award is the highest honour that the Society and specialty bestows. Selection recognizes an individual's outstanding and sustained contributions both to the profession and to the Society for Vascular Surgery. Wayne is the tenth recipient of this award and the first Canadian. Previous recipients include Michael DeBakey, Robert Rutherford and Jesse Thompson.

Wayne's contributions to vascular surgery education are outstanding internationally and locally. He served as editor for the Journal of Vascular Surgery for six years, raising its impact factor by 40%. He served as co-editor of the seventh edition of the iconic Rutherford Textbook of Vascular Surgery. With his colleagues, Wayne founded one of the first vascular training programs in Canada. The program has produced 37 trainees; 24 hold university positions. With his engineering colleague and co-investigator Richard Cobbold, Professor Emeritus, Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering, he has cosupervised 43 masters or doctoral level graduate biomedical engineers.

Wayne's clinical and basic research contributions include the reference standard Toronto series of 997 consecutive peripheral arterial balloon angioplasties. This was the first critical evaluation of this innovation; it gained the respect that has established angioplasty as a standard component of vascular surgery. The vascular lab at the Toronto General Hospital was one of the first established in North America. With Richard Cobbold, Wayne maintained national level MRC and CIHR funding for 31 years, establishing the effectiveness and standards of ultrasound evaluation of vascular disease and developing an understanding of the basic ultrasound and hemodynamic principles involved. The Canadian aneurysm study was a nine-month blitzing snapshot of 834 consecutive patients treated by open repair of abdominal aneurysm by 72 surgeons across Canada. This study defined the results and safety of the procedure and predictors of results.

A meticulous and gifted surgeon, Wayne is described by nurse practitioner Sue DeVries, his colleague for 19 years: "Dr. Johnston was always available, very respected by the nurses, and fun to work with. He speaks to patients at their level of understanding, finds and mobilizes the resources they need, and never leaves any loose ends. An awesome teacher and an expert in everything he does."

During his 25-year commitment to the Society for Vascular Surgery, Wayne rose from membership chairman to Recorder to President. As 62nd president of the society, he did strategic planning and prioritization of the society's programs. Wayne was very involved in the logistics and political solutions to merging the Society for Vascular Surgery, an exclusive and academic body, with the larger International Society for Cardiovascular Surgery, a more inclusive cohort of practicing vascular surgeons. The thoughtful solution was to incorporate the criteria for the original SVS into a new category called Distinguished Fellows. This helped to maintain the academic eclat that is important for university advancement. The merger was very helpful for increasing the influence of vascular surgery in negotiation with governments and making the change in the nature of the specialty as vascular surgeons learned how to incorporate minimally invasive endovascular techniques into their practice.

In accepting the honour, Wayne thanked his wife Jean, a practicing clinical neurologist at St. Michaels Hospital, his vascular colleagues in the Toronto General division, his mentors Ronald Baird, Bernard Langer and Bruce Tovee, and the outstanding cadre of volunteers in the SVS. Wayne has been impressed how enthusiastic and diligent the members of the Society have been in accepting organizational responsibility. There are currently 250 surgeons involved in the volunteer activities of the society. Writing groups are currently working on more than 20 policy and practice guidelines that are being produced under Wayne's supervision. On the day I interviewed him, he was actively engaged in this important work.

As he looks back on his surgical career, the two most satisfying aspects are "resident education and our basic research contributions." In accepting the award, Wayne closed with thanks and praise for volunteers. "What is the reward for volunteer service? The payback has been expressed in an epitaph which reads: 'what I spent is gone, what I kept is lost, what I gave working for others will be mine forever'. I salute you, the volunteers, who are making a difference. Thank you for this humbling honour."



"Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote the opera Don Giovanni in one sitting, and it was played the following day without any rehearsal. Innate talents do exist, and your achievements in Vascular Surgery obviously are another demonstration of them.

The demands of our profession often exhaust us as we strive to create opportunities from challenges. The satisfaction that we draw from within ourselves, for a job well done, is enough to prepare us for the next goal. However, professional recognition and respect are equally important. I am pleased to hear that the Society for Vascular Surgery has honoured your achievements with its prestigious Society's Lifetime Achievement Award. It really could not be bestowed on a more deserving recipient. Vascular surgeons in Canada and in the States must appreciate your unrelenting efforts to help with the progress of our discipline."

Claudio Cina, Vascular Surgery, St. Michael's Hospital,
Professor of Surgery, University of Toronto

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