21 November 1936|
|Died||4 July 1991
|Education||University of Sydney|
|Known for||Pioneer of heart transplantation|
|Institutions||St Vincent's Hospital|
|Research||Development of an artificial heart valve|
|Notable prizes||Companion of the Order of Australia|
Victor Peter Chang, AC (born Chang Yam Him; 21 November 1936 – 4 July 1991), was a Chinese Australian cardiac surgeon and a pioneer of modern heart transplantation. Born in Shanghai to Australian-born Chinese parents, he grew up in Hong Kong before moving to Australia. After completing his medical studies at the University of Sydney and working in St Vincent's Hospital, he trained in England and the United States as a surgeon before returning to Australia. In St Vincent's Hospital, he helped establish the National Cardiac Transplant Unit, the country's leading centre for heart and lung transplants. Chang's team had a high success rate in performing heart transplantations and he pioneered the development of an artificial heart valve.
In 1986, he was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia for his "service to international relations between Australia and China and to medical science". In 1991, Chang died after being shot in a failed extortion attempt against him. His legacy includes the creation of the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, being voted Australian of the Century at the People's Choice Awards, and the establishment of the Victor Chang Lowy Packer Building in St Vincent's Hospital.
Early life and education
Chang was born in Shanghai to Australian-born parents. He grew up in Hong Kong where he attended primary school in Kowloon Tong and spent two years in St. Paul's College. He moved to Australia in 1953 where he attended Belmore Boys High School and completed his secondary education at Christian Brothers' High School.
With heart surgeon Mark Shanahan as his teacher, Chang worked for two years as an intern in St Vincent's Hospital before Shanahan sent him to England to train with London surgeon Aubrey York Mason.
Chang spent two years in the United States at the Mayo Clinic and became chief resident. In 1972, he returned to St Vincent's Hospital, where he was a consultant cardiothoracic surgeon and was appointed Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons in 1973 and Fellow of the American College of Surgeons in 1975.
In St Vincent's Hospital, he worked with surgeons Dr. Harry Windsor (who had performed Australia's first heart transplant in 1968) and Dr. Mark Shanahan. The advent of anti-rejection drugs in 1980 made heart transplants more feasible, and Chang lobbied politicians and businessmen to raise funds to establish a heart transplant program at St. Vincent's. On 8 April 1984, a team of doctors led by Chang operated on 14-year old Fiona Coote who became Australia's youngest heart transplant patient.
Between 1984 and 1990 Dr. Chang's unit performed over 197 heart transplants and 14 heart-lung transplants. The unit had a high rate of success with 90% of those receiving transplants from the unit surviving beyond the first year. In 1986, Victor Chang was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) "In recognition of service to international relations between Australia and China and to medical science".
Concerned about a shortage of organ donors, he arranged financing and assembled a team of scientists and engineers from around the world to develop an artificial heart. That team, working in Singapore, Guangzhou and Sydney, also developed mechanical and tissue heart valves called the St. Vincent's Heart Valves, which were widely implanted throughout Asia. Dr. Chang and his team also made significant progress on the design of an artificial heart. His research projects ended with his death.
On 4 July 1991, Chang was shot twice in the head in a failed extortion attempt. His body was found slumped in the gutter next to his car in the Sydney suburb of Mosman. Two Malaysian men, Chew Seng (Ah Sung) Liew and Choon Tee (Phillip) Lim, ran their car into Chang's vehicle, forcing him to pull over. After Chang refused to give them money and got into an argument with them, Liew fired the fatal shots. He was sentenced to 26 years in prison with a non-parole period of 20 years. Lim received a minimum of 18 years and a maximum of 24 years. Liew pleaded guilty and Lim pleaded not guilty, claiming he did not know Liew had a gun. Another man, Stanley Ng, abandoned an extortion plan a day before the murder. He had unsuccessfully tried detaining Chang twice to force him to give A$3 million. Ng was granted immunity for his evidence. The prosecution alleged the plan had been to abduct Chang, tie him up with his family at his home in Clontarf, and threaten to hang them to coerce Chang into withdrawing money from the bank. In his ruling, Supreme Court Judge John Slattery stated, "It was an absurd, improbable plan, always doomed to failure".
On 26 October 2009, Lim was awarded parole. Following a public outcry and objection by the New South Wales Corrective Services Minister, John Robertson, his release was put on hold, pending another parole hearing. In the New South Wales Supreme Court, that decision was quashed due to the Parole Authority making a procedural error. Lim was freed from Parramatta Correctional Centre on 1 March 2010 into the custody of immigration officers. He was to be deported back to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on 2 March, but the flight was cancelled for technical reasons. He was flown out of Australia on 3 March.
After serving 21 years in prison, Chiew Seng Liew was granted parole and was deported to Malaysia on 13 October 2012. During Liew's parole hearing, he made a broad apology for the crime he committed and believed that his long term in prison had taken effect. There was a small outcry from NSW Attorney-General Greg Smith, however, this was retracted and Liew was released from prison on 12 October 2012.
On 15 February 1994, the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, a body intended to focus on researching "the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of heart muscle diseases", was launched by Prime Minister Paul Keating with Kerry Packer as its patron. The "Dr Victor Chang Science Labs" in Christian Brothers' High School are named after him. In 1999, Prime Minister John Howard announced Chang as Australian of the Century at the People's Choice Awards after a decision between two Australian larrikins and two lifesavers. Swimmer Dawn Fraser, cricketer Donald Bradman, and ophthalmologist Fred Hollows were other contenders.
In St Vincent's Hospital, the Victor Chang Lowy Packer Building was established in 2008 with A$35 million from the state government and $45 million in corporate and private donations. Mary, Crown Princess of Denmark officially opened the building and declared that Chang "was an original thinker and saw the need for research and the development of heart assist devices and, not least, he is known for his legendary caring for his patients and their families". In Time magazine's "A Golden Anniversary" article, which lists people who have shaped the last "50 Years in the South Pacific" (1959–2009), Chang was listed as the figure of 1979–1989.
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- Butler, Mark (1997). Victor Chang: Healer of Hearts. ISBN 978-1-86391-582-3.
- Chang, Vanessa (2001). Victor Chang: A Tribute to My Father. Pan. ISBN 978-0-330-36322-8.
- Stephenson, Ron (2005). Victor Chang: Murder of a Hero. ISBN 978-1-74110-321-2.