Dr. Magdi Yacoub to get Nobel Prize
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Greatness lies, not in being strong, but in the right using of strength; and strength is not used rightly when it serves only to carry a man above his fellows for his own solitary glory. He is the greatest whose strength carries up the most hearts by the attraction of his own
Written by : Peter A. Alivizatos, MD FACS, FACC,founder of cardiothoracic transplantation at Baylor University Medical Center and the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center, 3600 Gaston Avenue, Suite 404, DallasTX 75246 (email:moc.liamg@3102zivilap)
The second half of the 20th century witnessed the emergence and the triumph of cardiac surgery. One of the legends of the period is Sir Magdi H. Yacoub (1935–), pioneer surgeon, scientist, master craftsman, and philanthropist. Yacoub established heart transplantation in the United Kingdom and introduced a variety of new concepts and new operations. His recent work focuses on molecular cardiology. This personal reminiscence highlights his personality, his surgical dexterity, and his many accomplishments and honors.
Magdi Yacoub (“M.Y.” to his colleagues), an Egyptian and a Christian Copt (b. 1935), came to England to train as a surgeon in 1962, because the Muslim regime in his country would not have allowed him to develop his talents. He worked first with Sir Russell Brock, well known for his pulmonary valvotomies at Guy’s Hospital. The two most famous students of Sir Russell, afterward Lord Bock, were Donald Ross, a South African surgeon and fellow student of Christiaan Barnard, and Magdi Yacoub. As Ross wrote, their boss, although a genius in the development of new ideas, was technically not particularly good.1 To the same category belong Owen Wangensteen, the famous professor at the University of Minnesota, teacher of Lillehei and Shumway, and Alfred Blalock of Johns Hopkins, professor of Denton Cooley.2 This bears out an American colleague’s pithy comment: “Great surgeons do not have ‘good hands,’ they’ve got ‘guts.’”
At the end of the 1960s, Magdi applied for a position at the historic Royal Brompton Hospital. Unfortunately for the Brompton, instead of the budding genius they chose an English surgeon with a historic name. And so only in 1973 was Magdi made a consultant at Harefield Hospital, west of London, which, due to its position in the country, was also a sanatorium. Built during the First World War, Harefield is a complex of small houses connected by long corridors. In this insignificant, anachronistic environment, Magdi Yacoub was to make major contributions to cardiac surgery and then create the greatest service for heart and lung transplants in the world, with more than 2500 cases up to the end of his career. Of course, no one could have predicted his meteoric rise, not even the people he worked with. He once suggested to Sir Peter Morris, the famous Oxford professor and authority on kidney transplantation, that together they should create a program at Harefield, perhaps the largest in the world, only to receive Morris’s condescending reply: “Are you being serious, Magdi? Can you imagine me at Harefield?” (M. Yacoub, personal communication).
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