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Psychological Reflections on the Build-Up to the First Heart Transplant

Abstract

On the 3rd December 1967, Professor Christiaan Neethling Barnard performed the first human heart transplant at the Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town. His extraordinary career as physician and cardiac surgeon included many exceptional achievements that culminated in the first human heart transplant and contributed to his international reputation as medical pioneer. Barnard was born after the end of World War I and grew up in rural South Africa. He adjusted well to school and early in his career demonstrated ability to work hard. Apart from his initial medical training, it took Barnard 21 years to prepare for the operation that revolutionised the treatment of heart diseases. Ultimately, the preparation for the first heart transplant included intensive studies, methodical goal-setting, demanding laboratory experiments and operations, the acquisition of a repertoire of surgical skills, as well as training a team to support his work, investigations into organ rejection and networking with international experts. Although it is based on an academic psychobiography (Master’s dissertation), this chapter is an attempt to formulate a non-academic psychobiography of Barnard’s career. In the academic psychobiography, the career development framework of Greenhaus, Callanan, and Godshalk was employed. Instead of formulating a theoretical interpretation of Barnard’s general career development, this chapter aims to illuminate the specific events and experiences that culminated in the first human heart transplant.

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Correspondence to Roelf van Niekerk .

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van Niekerk, R., Prenter, T., Fouché, P.J.P. (2019). Psychological Reflections on the Build-Up to the First Heart Transplant. In: Mayer, CH., Kovary, Z. (eds) New Trends in Psychobiography. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-16953-4_22

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