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Last Updated: Monday, 8 November, 2004, 02:11 GMT
Experts Examined - Sir Magdi Yacoub
Image of Sir Magdi Yacoub
"I consider myself really privileged to belong to medicine and do what I do."
In a series looking at the private lives of health experts, the spotlight falls on heart transplant surgeon Sir Magdi Yacoub.

He has performed more transplants than anybody else in the world - around 2,000, including the operation on Europe's longest surviving heart patient, Derrick Morris.

As Special Envoy to the NHS, he is tasked with driving recruitment of overseas qualified specialists and promoting the health service abroad.

Here he shares his personal and professional thoughts.

At school, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Austrian philosopher Karl Popper
I always wanted to be a surgeon.

I was totally focused on that, almost boringly so.

What first got you interested in what you do now?

My dad was a surgeon in Egypt. He was a general surgeon.

As a little boy I always admired what he was doing and I wanted to do surgery.

Image of Mozart
It depicted Mozart as somebody who was really human but the music was just out of this world.

I initially said I wanted to be a heart surgeon. Then something happened that strengthened that idea when I was about four or five years old.

My aunt, who was the youngest sister of my dad, actually died of a narrow heart valve while giving birth in her early 20s.

My dad thought this was a treatable condition and it all but broke his heart. He nearly had a nervous breakdown.

So that registered in my mind and I said, well, I want to be a heart surgeon.

What are the major issues or challenges in your field of interest at the moment?

It is the lack of understanding that research is important for healthcare delivery.

When I say healthcare delivery, I mean globally.

Nobel prize winner Peter Medawar
He was the father of transplantation. I found him totally inspirational.

People do not understand that so called high powered research at the molecular and cellular level is important.

They get confused between preventive measures and high-tech medicine.

In my field, it is so obvious that they two are very very important if you are to apply healthcare delivery to the whole world.

What worries keep you awake at night?

What I worry about is the lack of understanding in society around the world that there is a divide in the world between those who have and those who do not.

Being late

The image of people who have is not understood by the people who have not and that seems to be getting worse. That upsets me a lot.

Look at what currently is happening in the US.

The image of the American people, even though they are lovely people, is actually bad because they are seen as people who do not care.

I go to the states a lot and I know that the American people are some of the nicest people you want to meet, and yet their image around the world is bad.

What do you regret?

I love to listen to classical music.

I don't have any regrets.

I consider myself really privileged to belong to medicine and do what I do.

I would do it all again.

What would you have done if you hadn't gone in to this?

Dogmatism in others
They seem to pollenise their views and don't want to discuss them. I find that really very upsetting.

I always liked farming.

If I wasn't going to be a surgeon I wanted to be a farmer or grow oranges or something like that.

I grow flowers now - orchids. That is something that I find very interesting.


Born 1935
1957: Qualified as a doctor in Cairo
1962: Came to England to work at the London Chest Hospital
1967: Started his pioneering heart surgery
1969: Moved to London's Harefield Hospital which, under his leadership, became the country's leading transplant centre, performing over 200 operations a year
1980: Performed a transplant operation on Derrick Morris, Europe's longest surviving heart patient
1986: Appointed British Heart Foundation Professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the National Heart and Lung Institute, University of London
1991: Knighted
2001: Retired from the NHS
2002: Appointed as Special Envoy to the NHS
Present day: He continues to head his research programme as Founder and Director of Research of the Harefield Research Foundation and British Heart Foundation Professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery, in an academic capacity

Heart pioneer grateful for life
18 Jun 04 |  South West Wales
Moving stories: Magdi Yacoub
30 Dec 03 |  Middle East
Heart pioneer named 'NHS envoy'
27 Feb 02 |  Health

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