KUALA LUMPUR: Cardiothoracic surgeon Tan Sri Dr Yahya Awang said his heart “nearly stopped” when he first heard he would be receiving the Merdeka Award.
One of the pioneers in setting up the National Heart Institute, Dr Yahya was among five recipients of the prestigious awards here
“Cardiac surgery has come a long way in Malaysia. Those days, we had limited facilities and many on the waiting list died while waiting for surgery.
“Today, we have the facilities in almost every state and it is my hope that by 2020, when we are a developed nation, we will have these facilities in every state,” he said in his acceptance speech after receiving the award from Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
Dr Yahya played a significant role in the development of cardiac surgery in the country at a time when the area of study was at its infancy here and paved the way for heart surgery to become accessible to more Malaysians.
Other recipients of the awards were Tan Sri Utama Arshad Ayub and Raja Tan Sri Utama Muhammad Alias Raja Muhammad Ali, who were joint recipients of the 2013 Merdeka Award in the Education and Community category.
Dr Lim Boo Liat, a pioneer in the field of zoology, received the award for the Environment category while Prof Emeritus Datuk Dr Lam Sai Kit, an influential figure in medical virology, was honoured for his contributions in the Outstanding Scholastic Achieve-ment category.
Najib, in his speech, said the five recipients boasted a combined legacy that had benefited generations of Malaysians.
“These five gentlemen, and the teams who worked alongside them, have left their mark on Malaysia’s history.
“They have also laid the foundation for future successes,” he said.