I was lucky enough to have the chance to interview the world’s leading Heart Surgeon Magdi Yacoub in 2012. He pioneered several medical procedures – most notably ‘the Ross Procedure’ – which he pursued through a period in medical history when it looked like artificial heart valves would surpass procedures like the Ross procedure, which used natural tissue/grafts to make repairs to the heart. It wasn’t until decades later (once the patients have lived with the repairs for years/decades) that it became obvious that Yacoub’s intuition and served him well and results showed the Ross Procedure was in fact more successful than the use of artificial values. Both still maintain their place and continue to be used and developed.
This question I asked in reference to his development of the Ross Procedure:
Misha Somerville: Ehhh, I mean this field is obviously lead by science, but looking back at seminal figures in history it almost seems like the great scientists are explorers, the great exporers are athletes and the great athletes are mathematicians. This might be science, how often do you work with your instinct waiting for the science to catch up?
Magdy Yacoub: I think that is an excellent question ..ehhh… in science you have to be guided by instinct as well, because the progress in science, which is defined as the search for the truth, starts as a leap of imagination …and these leaps of imagination, called theories or conjectures, and that’s, that’s where things start – it’s like a leap – and then the reasoning starts to either prove it or refute it, and if you can’t refute it then you are are nearer to the truth and science advances … what does science do? it is in service of humanity, and the difference between science and humanity is ill defined if you like – science and humanity are intermingled.