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Sir Magdi Yacoub on Britain’s contribution to medical science

In a short film launched today, Professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery Sir Magdi Yacoub explains why he chose to become a heart surgeon, and why he thinks the National Health Service serves as a model for the rest of the world.

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The film is one in a series featuring individuals from home and abroad talking about their experiences of modern Britain in the run up to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Born in Egypt, the son of a surgeon, Sir Magdi Yacoub qualified as a doctor in 1958 at Cairo University, specialising in heart surgery. He is currently Professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Imperial College. Watch his short film below.

Sir Magdi Yacoub


Magdi committed to becoming a heart surgeon after watching his aunt die of heart disease in her early twenties. He moved to Britain in 1962 determined that this was the country in which he wanted to practice. He went on to become a consultant cardiothoracic surgeon at Harefield Hospital. He was involved in Britain’s first ever heart transplant operation and performed the first UK live lobe lung transplant earning him an international reputation as a leader in his field. Sir Magdi has carried out more transplants than any other surgeon in the world.

In the film, Magdi talks about his admiration for the National Health Service, commending its egalitarian approach in striving to offer the best healthcare for everybody. He believes this approach reflects the general character of the British people.

Magdi discusses the UK’s contribution to research and remarks how as a country we’ve contributed far more in this field than our relative size. He retired from performing surgery in 2001 but continues working as a high profile consultant and ambassador for the benefits of transplant surgery. He focuses much of his time on medical research innovation, something he believes needs to be the number one priority for the future of medicine.

Under his leadership, Harefield Hospital became the leading transplant centre in the UK, reporting an increase in post operative survival rates, and a reduction in recovery periods and the financial costs of each procedure. In 1986 Sir Magdi was appointed Professor at the National Heart and Lung Institute, and was involved in the development of the techniques of heart and heart-lung transplantation.

In 1995 Sir Magdi founded the charity Chain of Hope, providing children suffering from life-threatening diseases with corrective surgery and access to treatment. He is also the founder and Director of Research at the Magdi Yacoub Research Institute in Harefield. In Egypt, Sir Magdi’s Aswan Heart Centre, which opened in 2009, treats people from all over Egypt and other Middle Eastern nations, with the less-privileged receiving free heart surgery. The Nile-side Aswan Heart Centre is dedicated to surgery, treatment and research of the highest international standards, and also contributes to Egypt’s biomedical knowledge base, which is transmitted to research centres around the world.

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Published 26 October 2011