WHF is thrilled to present the Best Global Heart Journal Paper award to Prof Peter Zilla for the paper “Global Unmet Needs in Cardiac Surgery”, which analyzed the access to cardiac surgery, including lifestyle cardiac diseases and congenital heart disease, on the basis of existing data deduction from 16 different countries.
Professor Zilla’s surgical career commenced with his residency at the University Hospital Vienna from 1983 to 1989, 18 months of which he spent at the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery in Cape Town. His subsequent surgical positions were as Senior Registrar at the Department of Cardiovascular Surgery, University Hospital Zurich (1989-1990), Consultant in the Department of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery, Hospital Wels (1990-1992) and Senior Consultant in Cardiothoracic Surgery at Groote Schuur Hospital from 1992. After his appointment as Associate Professor in 1994, Principal Specialist in 1996 and Full Professor in 1999, he became Head of the Chris Barnard Division in 2000, in charge of cardiothoracic surgery at Groote Schuur and Red Cross Children’s Hospital.
His main research foci have been in the fields of tissue engineering and prosthetic cardiovascular implants. Pioneering tissue engineering since 1983, he developed a method of culturing the patient’s own endothelial cells on prosthetic surfaces. Today, after an international multi-centre study in the 1990s and with almost 500 patient-implants, the program is a show-case for clinical tissue engineering. Reflecting the wide impact of this aspect of his work, it has been cited almost 1500 times in the literature and he continues to give plenary talks at major conferences on the subject.
Professor Zilla’s second focus, improving heart valve prostheses for the young patients of developing countries, has led to a reduction of the prosthetic degeneration process by 97%. His other biotechnology development, utilizing shape-memory meshes for the protection of vein grafts, has successfully completed a multi-centre study in SA, Asia, Australia and Europe and has been introduced into clinical practice. His engagement in the field of rheumatic heart disease has additionally awarded him international recognition as a plenary speaker.
The World Heart Awards are all about celebrating new ideas and recognising the talents and achievements of those working to combat cardiovascular disease around the world. To see the 2020 awardees, click here.