World-renowned Egyptian British heart surgeon Sir Magdi Yacoub has been honoured by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, with the Order of Mohammed bin Rashid for Humanitarian Action. The honour sash was bestowed on Sir Magdi during the Arab Hope Makers annual event at a grand variety show in City Walk’s Coca-Cola Arena in Dubai.
The Arab Hope Makers initiative is an annual award, first launched in 2017 by Sheikh Mohammed, that honours persons for their humanitarian efforts. Among the winners in the first edition of the initiative in 2017 was Egypt’s Mama Maggie whose work among the destitute Egyptian garbage collectors, through her NGO Stephen’s Children, earned her the name: “Egypt’s Mother Teresa”
The Grand winner of the 2020 Arab Hope Makers was Emirati philanthropist Ahmed Al Falasi and his family. Mr Falasi, who had lost his mother to kidney failure, was awarded by Sheikh Mohammed for devoting his time and money to provide health care facilities to treat the poor and needy in Africa, by establishing advanced kidney dialysis centres and incubators in Mombasa, Kenya.
Al Falasi won the award from among five finalists through an audience vote at the Arab Hope Makers event.
The hope makers
At the recent Dubai event, more than Dhs40 million were donated by Emirati and Arab entities and individuals to support the new Magdi Yacoub Global Heart Centre in Cairo, a humanitarian project that aims to provide free cardiac care to vulnerable communities. Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai donated an amount equal to donations collected for the hospital project, raising the total sum to Dhs88 million.
A statement by Emirates Airline, which pledged its support to help build the Magdi Yacoub Heart Centre in Cairo, said the hospital would provide free treatment for 80,000 patients a year, and would be able to handle more than 12,000 surgical and cardiac procedures annually. Some 70 per cent of those procedures will be earmarked for children with cardiovascular conditions, the statement said.
Following the ceremony, Sheikh Mohammed posted on his Twitter page, “Hand in hand with Sir Magdi Yacoub, we will make a new future; a new hope.
“May God grant him more years in health and energy for the sake of service of humanity,” Sheikh Mohammed tweeted.
In Cairo, business tycoon Samih Sawiris donated Dhs6 million to the Magdi Yacoub Global Heart Centre in Cairo.
Egyptians launched hashtags on Twitter to congratulate Sir Magdi who they see as a national, beloved humanitarian hero. They extensively shared photos and video shots of his recent honouring in Dubai.
Bloggers posted: “Sir Magdi Yacoub is the honourable, bright face of Egypt”; “This man is amazing”; “What happened in Dubai was a humanitarian epic under the sponsorship of Sheikh Mohammed”; and “Sir Magdi is now over 80, and he is a role model for Egyptians and non-Egyptians as well”. Sara el-Battouty wrote, “Sir Magdi Yacoub: a remarkable man, and Sheikh Mohammed: a wonderful promoter of humanitarian values.”
One blogger remarked “That man—Sir Magdi—was leading a wonderful, successful life in the UK where he had earned great recognition. He had many reasons to stay there and not return to Egypt. After all, Egypt is far behind the UK in medical advancement, and second, he is a Copt so he might have faced discrimination or even hostility. But he preferred to return to his homeland where he belongs, to serve. Great man, Sir Magdi.”
Another blogger, Maurice William, commented on a painting of Sir Magdi’s face surrounded by a halo: “He is indeed a saint.” Alaa Barodi wrote: “This man works in silence, not showing off, for the service of humanity and for the benefit of his homeland. He awaits no return. He is an angel of mercy’.”
Egyptian singer Muhammad Mohsen posted on his page a comment, “Sir Magdi Yacoub is our pride; he is the role model for the young and the upcoming generation.”
Others resorted to using Bible verses to describe Sir Magdi, displaying their high regard for him. Among such posts: “He went about doing good,” (Acts 10:38); and “My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways.” (Proverbs 23:26).
Prince of Hearts
Sir Magdi was born to a Coptic family in Belbeis in the east Delta province of Sharqiya in November 1935. He studied medicine at Cairo University and qualified as a doctor in 1957. In 1962 he moved to Britain where he trained, then taught in Chicago.
He became consultant cardiothoracic surgeon at Harefield Hospital from 1969 to 2001 and Royal Brompton Hospital from 1986 to 2001. He was appointed professor at the National Heart and Lung Institute in the UK in 1986.
In 1995 he founded the UK charity Chain of Hope, aiming to provide children suffering from life-threatening disease with the corrective surgery and treatment to which they do not have access.
Sir Magdi retired from performing surgery at the UK National Health Service in 2001 at age 65, and founded the Magdi Yacoub Research Institute at Harefield. In 2008, he founded the Magdi Yacoub Research Network, London, which he chairs.
Sir Magdi founded the Magdi Yacoub Heart Foundation (MYF) in 2008 which in turn established the Aswan Heart Centre in the Egypt’s southern city of Aswan in 2009. The centre worked to combat heart disease in Egypt and offer state-of-the-art medical service to all, especially the underprivileged, free of charge.
Sir Magdi’s gentle loving nature, and his integrity, loyalty and devotion to his country and countrymen endeared him to millions of Egyptians who aptly named him ‘Prince of Hearts’.
Even though he retired a few years ago, he continues to offer his consultancy in the field where he excelled and for which he has gained international acclaim and renown. After the success of the Aswan Heart Centre, he established another branch of the centre also in Aswan, and through his MYF has cooperated with the Ministry of Health to offer Egyptian doctors and nurses high international standard medical trainings.
Egypt’s highest honour
Sir Magdi has active interest in global healthcare delivery through his Chain of Hope, with particular focus on Egypt, the Gulf Region, Mozambique, Ethiopia and Jamaica.
He was honoured with numerous awards among which was a lifetime outstanding achievement award in recognition of contribution to medicine by the UK Secretary of State for Health in 1999, the Cleveland Clinic Foundation Heart Failure Summit in 2001, the WHO prize for Humanitarian Services in 2003, International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004, the 2007 Medal of Merit by the International Academy of Cardiovascular Sciences, and the American College of Cardiology Legend of Cardiovascular Medicine in 2012.
He was knighted in 1992, and awarded the Order of Merit by Queen Elizabeth II in the 2014 New Year Honours.
In Egypt, President Mubarak awarded Sir Magdi the Grand Collar of the Nile for science and humanity in January 2011. In January 2014 he was honoured by Pope Tawadros II who awarded him the Medal of St Mark.
Last November, Egypt’s southernmost city of Aswan, some 700km south of Cairo, where Sir Magdi established his Aswan Heart Centre, bestowed its ultimate honour on him. According to Aswan’s then Governor Ahmad Ibrahim, it was the “day of gratitude”. It was 27 November, his last day as governor, since a governor reshuffle brought to Aswan a new governor that day. Governor Ibrahim was glad the gratitude gesture to Sir Magdi would be his last official task in Aswan.
Governor Ibrahim celebrated gratitude by unveiling a bust of Sir Magdi Yacoub in one of Aswan’s main squares which was renamed Sir Magdi Yacoub Square.
Aswanis never forgot that Sir Magdi had chosen their city from among all Egypt’s towns and cities to host his heart centre.
In the presence of hundreds of Aswanis, Governor Ibrahim unveiled the 130cm-high bronze bust of Sir Magdi in the square which was until then known as EgyptAir Square. Now, it is Sir Magdi Yacoub Square. The erection of the bust and renaming of the square had been a public demand of Aswanis.
The unveiling ceremony was attended by Sir Magdi and his daughter Lisa Yacoub, as well as sculptor Mohsen Selim who made the bust, Ahmed Ghallab head of Aswan University, and representatives of security, administrative and societal authorities, as well as scores of Sir Magdi’s former patients.
Sir Magdi thanked Aswanis and Governor Ibrahim for their love and the warm gesture. He pointed out that he had been invited earlier that week to stand by President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi during the inauguration of the new Egyptian universal Medical Insurance system in Port Said, and that the President delegated him to oversee the heart unit of the Nasr Children Hospital in Port Said. Sir Magdi said he was grateful for all the appreciation Egypt was giving him.
For his part, Governor Ibrahim said that the great surgeon is a role model of humility and a source of endless generosity.
Sculptor Mohsen Selim is a professor of sculpture at Assiut University’s Faculty of Applied Arts, and has to his credit several busts and statues in Egyptian cities. He said he was proud to have sculpted Sir Magdi’s bust, a task he did with love.
Egyptian actor Ahmed Helmy, the first ambassador for the Arab Hope Makers initiative, expressed what Egyptians felt towards Sir Magdi whom he met at the recent Dubai event. Mr Helmy posted a photo of himself with Sir Magdi, with the comment: “Now I have finally achieved a dear desire of my heart: to meet Sir Magdi! Not only that, but also to embrace him, sit with him and talk to him. Today I feel I’ve gone down in history by being close to this great man, whose greatness emanates not from power or authority, but from kindness and humaneness.”
24 February 2020