Professor Zilla, age 59, is the incumbent of the Chris Barnard Chair at the University of Cape Town, he is the Director of UCT’s Cardiovascular Research Unit. His background as both basic scientist and heart surgeon is reflected in two MDs, one PhD and one PD degree from the Universities of Vienna (Austria), Zurich (Switzerland) and Cape Town (South Africa) as well as four surgical specialist qualifications in Europe and South Africa and 21 international patents for implantable cardio vascular devices. He is the Head of the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Groote Schuur Hospital and at Red Cross Children’s Hospital.
He provides open-heart surgery and lung surgery to indigent patients from a large area in South Africa comprising an estimated 11 million people. He has almost two decades of experience with the needs of Africa’s poor and has witnessed first hand the unavailability of suitable replacement valves for his patients. His department covers the full range of adult cardiothoracic surgery, from heart valve replacement to heart transplantation, underlining his role as bridge between first world and developing world medicine.
Professor Zilla is also in charge of heart and lung surgery at Red Cross Childrens’ Hospital, the only centre for heart operations in indigent children on the entire African continent. For the past seven years, he has trained cardiothoracic surgeons from Nigeria, Zambia and Zimbabwe. An inter-government agreement between South Africa and Namibia for the provision of training and access to heart surgery for Namibians was signed under Professor Zilla’s auspices. These contacts and collaborations provide an excellent springboard for SAT’s marketing activities and associated training programme.