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Wednesday, 27 February, 2002, 12:29 GMT
Profile: Sir Magdi Yacoub
magdi yacoub
Sir Magdi Yacoub is world-famous.
Ministers are hoping that they may be able to hitch a ride on legendary surgeon Sir Magdi Yacoub's halo - and boost the numbers of overseas specialists joining the NHS.

They have named him an "NHS Envoy", promoting the health service abroad.

Certainly, there are few figures in medicine who are so internationally well-known.

Even at 66, the surgeon still has enormous energy, and said he was disappointed to be told by the NHS last year that he was too old to carry on in the operating theatre.

Sir Magdi did not restrict his work to helping NHS patients - he made frequent trips abroad, often to his native Egypt, to carry out dozens of operations.

He comes from the era of the "daring surgeon" - he has pushed forward the boundaries of the possible throughout his distinguished career.


While many modern surgeons work to refine techniques, and to make operations safer, he often thought, and then attempted, the unthinkable operations - procedures which are now embedded in mainstream medicine.

The surgeon was born in Egypt in 1936, but moved to the UK in 1962 after training as a doctor.

Many of his early pioneering operations, such as the transplant of a baboon heart into a child, have been controversial - and many were unsuccessful, as he laid the groundwork for techniques to be improved and developed in following years.

He carried out his first transplant back in 1967, and since then has performed more than any other surgeon.

In the UK, he was among the first to carry out heart transplantation at Harefield Hospital near London.

New operations

He was also at the forefront of heart-lung transplantation - and pioneered the idea of the "domino" operation - in which one patient with failing lungs got a new heart and lungs, with another patient receiving the first patient's fully functional heart.

In 1984 he was the first person to perform a heart transplant on a newborn baby, an operation which, even now, is still only infrequently attempted.

He also developed an technique for correcting a serious congenital heart defect in which two major blood vessels were connected to the heart the wrong way.

Princess Diana

Although he rarely appeared in the media spotlight, his association with Princess Diana only served to increase his fame.

The princess was pictured wearing surgical mask and gown as she observed one of his operations on a young child.

He was later forced to defend her motives when she was accused of using the occasion as a photo-opportunity.

See also:

27 Feb 02 | Health
Heart pioneer named 'NHS envoy'
23 Jun 00 | G-I
Treatments - operations
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