Professor Charles Yankah has dedicated the last fifty years to advancing cardiovascular care and helping the globally underserved communities who require it.
Since his retirement from cardiothoracic and vascular surgery at the German Heart Center Berlin in 2012, Prof. Yankah has continued his global career in cardiovascular medicine as a consultant to the governments of Rwanda and Tanzania, educator, and philanthropist with the goal to promote cardiovascular educational programs throughout Africa. From 2012-2014 he expanded his educational programs to China. He became a consultant of Senior Expert Service (SES) of German Industries for transfer of knowledge in cardiovascular surgery in China. Prof. Yankah’s career began in Hungary and Germany, where he obtained his medical training from 1962 to 1969. After his training in cardiovascular surgery, he worked as a cardiovascular surgeon and consultant across Europe and in Liberia, where he performed the first juvenile rheumatic mitral digital valvotomy in 1980. The same year, he returned to Germany, where he established a homograft bank, cofounded the German Heart Centre Berlin, earned his PhD and title of professor of surgery at the Free University and Humboldt University Berlin, respectively, and began teaching surgery. His clinical work and research in valve disease, cardiomyopathy, heart transplantation, and immunology of homograft valve surgery earned him an award from the National Institute of Health.
In 2004, Prof. Yankah began his work in philanthropy in Africa with his South African colleague Dr. Willie Koen. He organized the African Heart Seminar, now PASCaTS, in collaboration with the Global Development Learning Network through an initiative with the World Bank aimed at encouraging the transfer of knowledge and sharing of clinical experiences within the context of development cooperation in Africa. Now, he serves as president of the Pan-African Society for Cardiothoracic Surgery and is the founder of Global Heart Care, an organization whose mission is to enhance capacity-building programs in Africa.
Read the interview below to learn more about Prof. Yankah and his role as an advocate for cardiothoracic surgery in underserved regions. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.