Our History


David Rattray

Hugh McDowell

Our Founders



Two members of our group David Rattray and Hugh McDowell had known each other for years being long time residents of Barrhaven and cub leaders in the community; they found themselves at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute (UOHI) rehabilitation centre after experiencing a heart event.  Hugh and David felt that following “graduation” from the rehabilitation program they would benefit from continuing support to maintain healthy lifestyles and current knowledge of cardiovascular research.  They also felt that this could be done in a group support environment.  David Rattray started negotiations with Dr Andrew Pipe UOHI Minto Prevention Centre for space for a first gathering of patients that thought they might be interested in starting a group  was successful.

Hugh McDowell started in a stress management course with approximately 9 others and when he had a chance, would ask the rest of the class members what their thoughts were for this support group venture.  Three members of that group stayed with the project and still remain members; unfortunately we lost one member to cancer. This is where the OHSG was born with Laura Cuppers Stress Management Class which finished in 2004. We believed many others would welcome such a support group environment however; nothing was available at the time. Recruiting for members from graduating classes from the Rehabilitation and Prevention Centre a group of 26 people met at the Heart Institute on the Thursday just prior to the 2004 Heart Institute Annual March Telethon.

The Start

At the first meeting Hugh McDowell was voted president and with a small group (9) volunteered to meet the next month to establish a name for the group and establish goals for the direction ahead. The name of the group was confirmed to be The Ottawa Heart Support Group (OHSG).  The first monthly meeting was held at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute (UOHI) with Dr Andrew Pipe of the Minto Prevention and Rehabilitation Centre as our first presenter. Following meetings were held at the Jewish Congress Centre for approximately 14 months and which proved difficult for members and guest presenters. Once again negotiations commenced that were successful with the Patient and Wellness Centre to return to the University of Ottawa Heart Institute. With our monthly meeting location set, our Executive Committee discussed programs, memberships, group promotion.  We maintained having a guest speaker at our meetings after initial meeting in March 2004.

Growing Pains

During the first few years we continued having our monthly Executive Committee Meetings and Members Monthly Meetings. Our executive meeting had many members which varied anywhere from 4 to 12 at one time. All had different visions on what direction our group would take. However we did maintain a guest speaker at each monthly meeting. Having a medical professional guest presenter kept us together. We have maintained our posture of having guest presenters from all divisions of the Heart Institute for each month since conception.

Steady as we go

Our meetings started out with a small audience and to increase attendance we published an activity notice and called it “The Pulse.” This one pager notice helped. We also started to call members three days prior to our monthly meetings which gave a personal touch to our group. We maintain recruiting at the Rehabilitation Centre and added the names of the interested to our call list to inform them of the next meeting and who guest presenter will be. We placed speaker posters through the Heart Institute each month which increased our visibility. We have excellent support from all the Division Heads for our program.

Patient Alumni Membership system changed December 2015 to encompass all former patients of the Heart Institute. The new president of the Patient Alumni Jean Bilodeau has put together a great team to run the organization. The OHSG works well with the Patient Alumni.

The initial vision for the OHSG was to provide the best possible support to any individual who had been a patient of the UOHI. The group was never envisioned as a fund raising organization, which was the field of the UOHI Foundation.  The OHSG does help out with Foundation events when requested.  Many OHSG members do donate to the Heart Institute.