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LNY 2021 SPOTLIGHT: Dr Victor Chang

Victor Chang, AC (1936-1991)

Victor Chang was one of Australia’s foremost medical professionals, and helped transform heart surgery into a safe and viable procedure. Among other outstanding achievements, he and his colleagues performed heart transplant surgery on the youngest ever recipient at the time, in 1984.

Chang was born in Shanghai China to Australian born Chinese parents, and raised and educated as a child in Hong Kong. When he was 15, parents sent him and his sister to live with relatives in Sydney, where he completed his high school education. He went on to earn a Bachelor of Medical Science at the University Sydney with highest honours. Chang’s mother died of breast cancer when he was 22, and he cited this as the reason for deciding to pursue a career in medicine.

During his career, he turned Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital in Darlinghurst into a major contributing institute in the development of heart and lung surgery techniques, and along with colleagues significantly advanced the technology around artificial heart valves and hearts in response to a lack of organ donors. In recognition of his outstanding efforts, he was awarded a Companion of the Order of Australia in 1984, for both his medical work and his contribution to Chinese-Australian relations.

Tragically, Chang was killed in a failed extortion attempt in 1991, a crime which shocked the nation and produced heartfelt outpourings of sadness at the loss of such a great figure. Today a statue stands at the front of the hospital in his honour, greeting those visiting the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute. At the end of the millennium he was named the Australian of the Century by the People’s Choice awards.

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