John Cairns obtained his MD from the University of British Columbia (1968) and was awarded the Hamber Gold Medal. He trained in the teaching hospitals of McGill University, obtaining his FRCPC in Cardiology (1973) and Medicine (1974). Following research training at the Royal Victoria Hospital (MRC Fellowship), he joined the Department of Medicine at McMaster University where he directed the ICU at MUMC, then the Regional Cardiovascular Program and was chair of the Department of Medicine from 1988-1996. He was Dean of the Faculty of Medicine of UBC from 1996-2003 where he led efforts resulting in dramatic increases of provincial funding and culminating in agreements to double the enrolment of medical students and residents and substantially expand facilities. During an 18 month period from 2004-05, he led the CIHR Clinical Research Initiative, which developed recommendations for strengthening clinical research in Canada. He is currently a Professor of Medicine in the Division of Cardiology at UBC.
John has served on the executives of several academic societies and on several editorial boards, including CSCI and CIM. He has been Chair of the Research Development and Review Committee of the HSFO, President of the Canadian Association of Professors of Medicine, and President of the Association of Canadian Medical Colleges. He holds elected fellowships in the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons (London), and the American College of Cardiology and is a member of the International Society for Heart Research.