Dr Victor Chang, AC (1936 - 4 July 1991)

Victor Chang (Yam Him) was born in Shanghai, China of Australian-born Chinese parents. At the age of twelve, he lost his mother to cancer and decided to become a doctor.

He arrived in Sydney at the age of 15 in 1953, studying at Christian Brothers College before going on to graduate from Sydney University with a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery in 1962. From here he began his career at St Vincent's Hospital, first as an intern and then as a registrar in cardiothoracic surgery.

A pioneer of the modern heart transplant, he was responsible for establishing the National Heart Transplant Unit at St Vincent's Hospital in 1984. He was also responsible for the formation of the Australian Chinese Foundation which sponsored and supported south-east Asian medical staff and students in efforts to improve patient care.

Victor Chang performed the first heart transplant at the hospital on 24th February 1984 on young girl named Fiona Coote. The operation became worldwide news not because heart transplants were a new idea, but because of the revolutionary methods employed. These methods now show an impressive survival rate of 92% after one year and 85% after five years. After a second transplant, Fiona Coote enjoys her life today because of Dr Chang's efforts.

He realised that heart transplantation itself was not enough - people had to die first, and as such he set about researching and was instrumental in the development of various devices, including the artificial heart valve, and the artificial heart.

Victor Chang was in 1985 named the Australian Of The Year, and in 1986 awarded a Companion of the Order of Australia and was awarded the University of New South Wales' highest degree of M.D. Honoris Causa for "scholarly achievement and humanitarian endeavour".

In the streets of Sydney on 4 July 1991, Asian assailants demanded $3 million from him. When he refused, they callously gunned him down, killing him where he stood.

At his funeral, his daughter Vanessa tearfully summed up the great driving force that helped her father to succeed and save so many lives.

"He wasn't forceful but he had great power and ambition - nothing was too hard to accomplish. Anything was possible.

"I guess I'm trying to say he was a supreme optimist."

In remembrance on November 23, 1993, The Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute was establish after receiving generous donations of $3 million from the Australian Federal Government, $3 million from Mr Kerry Packer, AC and $2 million from the Australian public.

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