SA’s new surgical hero: Meet the professor who has made history with the world’s first penis transplant

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Professor André van der Merwe of Stellenbosch University. (PHOTO: JACQUES STANDER)
Professor André van der Merwe of Stellenbosch University. (PHOTO: JACQUES STANDER)

He knew it was special but had no inkling his groundbreaking surgery would attract so much attention. The global interest and frenzy it sparked came as a complete surprise. “I don’t even have business cards!” Professor André van der Merwe says.

Yet his name is now being mentioned in the same breath as that of greats such as Dr Christiaan Barnard, who performed the world’s first heart transplant in 1967.

And like the esteemed late heart surgeon he’s being called a pioneer – a penis pioneer, to be precise. But the humble professor who led the nine-hour operation seems almost embarrassed by the fuss. Asked what it feels like to have achieved the world’s first successful penis transplant, he chuckles and seems at a loss for words.

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