Dr Victor Chang, AC
As a gifted surgeon, respected humanitarian and skilled campaigner, Dr Victor Chang was a pioneer of the modern era of heart transplantation.
His achievements include developing Australia’s National Heart Transplant Program at St Vincent’s hospital, which has since performed more than 1200 successful heart, heart-lung, and single lung transplants since 1984. He also saw the incredible value of research – playing a key role in development of an artificial heart valve and, in later years, an artificial heart.
Victor Chang (Yam Him) was born in Shanghai of Australian-born Chinese parents. He came to Australia in 1953 to complete his secondary schooling at Christian Brothers College, Lewisham. He graduated from Sydney University with a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery in 1962.
In 1966 Victor became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons at the age of 30. Initially he trained in general surgery in England, but he commenced serious training in cardiac and thoracic surgery at the Brompton Hospital for Chest Diseases in London. It was in London that he met and married his wife, Ann. After two years at the Mayo Clinic in the U.S., where he was chief resident, he returned to Sydney in 1972 to join the elite St Vincent’s cardiothoracic team, which included Dr Harry Winston and Dr Mark Shanahan. In 1973 he was made a Fellow of the Australasian College of Surgeons and in 1975 he became a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons.
A pioneer of the modern era of heart transplantation, Victor Chang was responsible
for the establishment of the National Heart Transplant Unit at St Vincent’s Hospital
in 1984, lobbying politicians and raising funds for its ongoing work.
During the 1980’s he lectured extensively in China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia. He founded the Australasian-China Medical Education and Scientific Research Foundation which sponsored South-East Asian doctors, nurses and students to work in Australia and take improved skills and quality of care back to their home countries.
At the same time, he helped teams from St Vincent’s travel to China, Singapore and Indonesia where they shared their medical, surgical, nursing and hospital administration expertise.
In 1986 Victor Chang was awarded a Companion of the Order of Australia and the
University of New South Wales awarded its highest degree of M.D. Honoris Causa
for “scholarly achievement and humanitarian endeavour”.
Victor Chang died in tragic circumstances in Sydney on 4 July 1991.
He was an Honorary Professor of Surgery to the Chinese Academy of Medical Science in Peking; an honorary Professor of Surgery to Shanghai Medical School; official advisor on cardiac surgery development in Indonesia; and a member of the Australia China Council.
In 2000, Dr Victor Chang was named Australian of the Century by the people of Australia.
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