celebrating our heroes

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An Australian Hero with a Purpose

"Destiny is not a matter of chance; it is a matter of choice.
It is not a thing to be waited for; it is a thing to be achieved."
  

William Jennings Bryan

Dr. Victor Chang, A.C.

Every man, woman and child has a purpose in life. Australia is lucky that Victor Chang found his purpose in life and through his tireless work became one of Australia's heroes.

Dr. Victor Chang
Victor Chang: A Tribute to
My Father
by Vanessa Chang

Victor Chang was responsible for developing Australia's National Heart Transplant Programme. He was also working on the development of an artificial heart at the time of his murder. Because of Victor's hard work almost 300 successful heart, heart-lung and single lung transplants have been performed since 1984.

Education - First Steps to Success

Victor Peter Chang (Yam Him) was born in Shanghai, China in 1936 to Australian-born Chinese parents. At the age of 12 Victor lost his mother to cancer. It was then that Victor decided to become a doctor.

In 1953, at the age of 15, Victor Chang came to Australia to complete his secondary schooling at Christian Brothers College, Lewisham, a suburb of Sydney in New South Wales. Later Victor graduated from Sydney University with a Bachelor of Medicine, and Bachelor of Surgery Degree. In the following years, Dr. Chang obtained a Fellowship in Surgery from the American and English College of Surgeons.

He returned to Australia in 1972 to join the elite St.Vincent's cardiothoracic team, which included Dr. Harry Windsor. In 1968 Australia's first heart transplant was performed by Dr. Windsor.

Dr. Chang was a man of vision and knew that operating on people was not enough. He knew a heart transplant meant that someone had to die first. It was a shortage of organ donors that lead him to the much needed research and development of various cardiothoracic devices and procedures. As a result, he set about designing and developing an artificial heart valve and an artificial heart.

Lobbying for a National Heart Transplant Program

Heart Disease Facts

  • 4 times more women die from heart disease than breast cancer
  • nearly twice as many children die each year from congenital heart diseases compared to all childhood cancers combined
  • cardiovascular disease accounts for 39% of all deaths in Australia (more than all cancers)
  • cardiovascular disease costs Australia $14.2 billion every year
                            facts from the Victor Chang
                     Cardiac Research Institute 2007

After an anti-rejection drug became available in 1980, which made heart transplants more feasible, Dr. Victor Chang made the initial submission to the Australian government for a cardiac transplant program at St. Vincent Hospital. He tirelessly lobbied politicians and businessmen to raise enough funds to partially finance the national heart transplant program in 1983.

St. Vincent Hospital in Sydney became the first centre in Australia devoted to heart transplants. Dr. Chang set up an outstanding team of more than 40 health professionals that became the world's finest in their field.

On 23 February 1984 Dr. Chang successfully transplanted a heart into a 39 year-old Armidale shearer. A few weeks later on 8 April this special moment in Australian medical history was repeated as a 14-year old girl named Fiona Coote from Tamworth, NSW became Australia's second heart transplant.

Dr. Chang's operations became world wide news not because heart transplants were a new idea, but because of the new procedures and techniques he used. This has now grown to be the most successful programme. Sadly the Armidale shearer died a few months after his operation. However, we're happy to report that after a second transplant, Fiona Coote is still enjoying her life 25 years later because of Dr. Chang and his team at St. Vincent Hospital.

Awards Recognize His Achievements

A pioneer of the modern heart transplants, Victor Chang was awarded a Companion of the Order of Australia and was awarded its highest degree of M.D. Honoris Causa for "scholarly achievement and humanitarian endeavour" from the University of New South Wales in 1986.

The Murder of a Hero

Australians were shocked when one of our greatest men, Dr. Chang was murdered. In the cold streets of Sydney on 4 July 1991, two Malaysian assailants ran their car into Chang's vehicle. After forcing him to pull over they demanded money. When he refused, they callously gunned him down, killing him where he stood. This attack was part of an unsuccessful extortion plan to force Chang to pay $3 million. Two of the men responsible were caught and sentenced to prison. A third man testified against them and was later deported.

Over $8 Million Raised in His Honour

In remembrance on November 23, 1993, The Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institutes 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. To learn more about this great Institute and help support their worthy efforts, we invite you to visit their website at VictorChang.com.au

Many people remember Dr. Victor Chang as a quiet, charming person who was loved by his patients, friends and family. He is truly a man Australians and the world owe a lot to and should never be forgotten.

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