Last Thursday 12 April, we were delighted to welcome more than 240 guests to an ‘Audience with Professor Sir Magdi Yacoub FRS OM’ at the Royal College of Physicians

The evening began with music from critically acclaimed classical duo The Ayoub Sisters, followed by a humorous introduction by Lord Grey Gowrie, who received a life-saving heart transplant under Professor Sir Magdi Yacoub in the 1990s. Lord Gowrie then welcomed to the stage our host, BBC Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis.

The Professor, who is renowned the world over for his pioneering expertise and innovations in cardiothoracic surgery, was his ever-modest self as Maitlis pieced together a remarkable career spanning almost 50 years. Maitlis’ famously intuitive interviewing style prompted fascinating conversation with the Professor on current themes, such as the state of NHS, as well as more personal topics, including being inspired by the late, great Stephen Hawking.

When asked about his approach to performing untested techniques in the face of life or death, the Professor said: “You have to take risks when the patient has no other option.” He was referencing the hitherto untried open-heart surgery he performed on a ten-week old Charlotte Cross (right), now in her 30s, who was there to talk of her life since this life-saving operation.

Maitlis’ question, “Do you still see the heart as a romantic thing?” prompted one of the most memorable quotes of the evening. “The elegance and perfection of the heart is beyond imagination,” replied the Professor. “I’m in love with the heart.”

An audience Q&A session followed, sparking a conversation about what the future of cardiothoracic surgery will look like. The Professor said gene editing, whereby DNA is inserted, deleted, modified or replaced in the genome, is the area that excites him most about current technologies in medicine.

Among the guests were surgeons, doctors and nurses, all inspired by the Professor’s work, as well as many grateful patients. Colleagues of the Professor included Dr Rosemary Radley-Smith, who herself was awarded the Pride of Britain Award for her innovative developments in the field.  

Baroness Boothroyd sat alongside actress, Jane Asher, attending with her husband, artist Gerald Scarfe, who generously donated a signed copy of his illustration of the Professor to our raffle.

The Charity would like to say a huge thank you to all who attended this special evening, as well as our generous sponsors, Bircham Dyson Bell and Re:Cognition Health. We’d also like to thank our raffle prize donors – Aspinal of London, The Ivy Chelsea Garden and of course, Gerald Scarfe – and to The Ayoub Sisters (left) for their stunning performances.

Proceeds from the evening are to be split between our #ManyMoreHearts Appeal and the Magdi Yacoub Institute.

A video recording of the conversation will be available soon