Dr. Maral Ouzounian ‘94, Alumni of Distinction Award Recipient 2018

"At TFS, we were encouraged to set strong academic goals, and above all, TFS taught us that we could achieve anything."

The beat of a healthy heart is music to her ears, and Dr. Maral Ouzounian happens to know a thing or two about hearts and music. An accomplished pianist who performed competitively, Maral simultaneously secured a bachelor of music degree in piano performance and a bachelor of science degree in anatomy and cell biology, a first for McGill University. Her love for music rivalled her passion for science until her exchange year in Paris. Not able to practise regularly, Maral recalled something a music teacher said: If you can see yourself doing anything else with your life, don’t pursue a career in music.
Maral went on to study medicine, obtaining her M.D., C.M. (doctor of medicine and master of surgery) from McGill and a Ph.D. in molecular biology from the University of Toronto. She completed her cardiac surgical residency at Dalhousie University. Keenly interested in cardiovascular surgery and aortic repair, she accepted a fellowship at the renowned Texas Heart Institute in Houston.
Today, Dr. Ouzounian performs hundreds of life-saving surgeries every year at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre (PMCC) in Toronto; she is also Assistant Professor of Surgery at the University of Toronto. She finds the dual role of research scientist and surgeon complementary. “As surgeons, we help one patient at a time; but hands-on clinical experience informs the research, which in turn changes what we can do for the patient.” Dr. Ouzounian thrives on the technical challenges of aortic surgery. However, when eloquently describing the similarities between music and surgery, she reveals a deeply personal connection that transcends technical expertise. “Both are complex, structured, highly technical disciplines, but within each there is room for creativity, individual expression, and the mental freedom to make it your own. Cardiac surgery is both a skill and an art.”

Delighted to be receiving the 2018 Alumni of Distinction Award, she recalls the stimulating demands of the International Baccalaureate (IB) and the excellence of her science courses at TFS. “We were encouraged to be academically ambitious, but, above all, TFS taught us that we could achieve anything.” TFS also encouraged students to form lasting bonds, she adds, and to this day she remains close to the friends she made at TFS.

The cardiac surgeon who once performed at Carnegie Hall has a message for the graduating Class of 2018: “You have choices. No career decision is final. Take your time, keep searching and always stay true to yourself.” Valuable advice from a remarkable alumna.