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Who is Dr Victor Chang? Why a Google Doodle celebrates the heart surgeon today

Today’s animated Google Doodle celebrates Chinese-Australian surgeon Dr Victor Chang.

A pioneer of cardiac and transplant surgery, Dr Chang was born in Shanghai on 21 November, 1936.

He was tragically murdered in 1991 at the age of just 54 by two men in a failed extortion attempt.

Today would have been his 87th birthday.

Who was Dr Victor Chang?

Doctor Victor Chang was born on 21 November 1936 in Shanghai, China
(Screengrab/Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute)

Dr Chang is remembered as a trailblazer within cardiovascular surgery and transplantation and a humanitarian.

Hailed as “the most prominent doctor in the southern hemisphere”, his revolutionary work had implications for cardiac patients, not only in Australia and Southeast Asia but around the world.

One of his most significant contributions to cardiology includes developing an artificial heart valve and an artificial heart assist device that are used worldwide in severe heart conditions.

It was significantly cheaper than previous models, making it globally accessible for use in lifesaving procedures.

In 1984, he led a team of surgeons who successfully performed a heart transplant on 14-year-old Fiona Coote.

She defied all odds to become Australia’s youngest heart transplant survivor.

At a young age, Dr Chang’s mother developed breast cancer, prompting the youngster’s interest in pursuing a career in medicine.

He studied medicine and surgery at the University of Sydney, before starting residency training at St. Vincent’s Hospital and working at several hospitals around the world.

He returned to Australia in 1972 and became a cardiothoracic surgeon at St. Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney, saving the lives of hundreds of patients.

Passionate about sharing knowledge and skills to improve global healthcare, he created the Victor Chang Foundation in 1984. The Foundation awards grants to educate South East Asian surgeons to bring them to St. Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney to be trained in advanced cardiac surgery, particularly heart transplantation. Grants are also given to programmes that explore innovation in cardiac surgery.

In 1994, the Research Institute was founded and named after him to honour his legacy and remains dedicated to finding cures, prevention, and diagnostic tools for cardiovascular disease. Through these organisations, medical developments continue to advance and save lives.

Renowned for his compassionate approach to patients, Dr Chang was voted Australian of the Century at the People’s Choice Awards in 1999, and received Australia’s highest honour in 1986: the Companion of the Order of Australia.

Dr Chang is survived by his wife, Ann Simmons, and his three children, Vanessa, Matthew and Marcus.

Empathetic and generous

Writing to mark the Google Doodle honouring his life and work, his daughter, Vanessa, said: “Dad held a strong conviction that true success in life involved sharing one’s knowledge and expertise.

“According to him, the key to enduring success and recognition in your endeavours was to impart knowledge, enabling others to carry on the work in your absence. He firmly believed that there was no benefit in keeping knowledge to oneself.”

She continued: “When it came to training overseas visitors, his approach extended beyond merely instructing. He ensured that all aspects of their life in an unfamiliar country were addressed.

“Drawing from his own experience as a migrant, Dad empathised with the challenges people faced when leaving their homelands, often without their families. His goal was to establish a supportive environment, making their transition as comfortable as possible.”

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