20 Mar 2022

Professor Marian Zembala 11 February 1950 – 19 March 2022

EACTS mourns the passing of our Past President Marian Zembala who died on March 19, 2022, in his home in Tarnowskie Gory (Silesian Voivodeship - Poland).
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An inspiring and respectful leader, Professor Zembala’s truly extraordinary career marks him as one of cardiac surgery’s most influential figures.

After training at Poland’s renowned Medical Academy of Wrocław, he built his experience in Belgium, the Netherlands, the US and UK, as well as in Poland.

Marian was involved in numerous clinical firsts in Poland. In 1985, together with Andrzej Bochenek and Professor Zbigniew Religa, he performed the first successful heart transplantation in Poland. He was also involved in the country’s first single lung transplantation and first heart lung transplant.

His scientific activity was intense as evidenced by the fact he authored nearly 700 papers and 92 book chapters.

In addition to his clinical achievements, Marian also embraced a political career. In 2014, he was elected as a member of the upper Silesia regional assembly. A year later he was appointed to the Ministry of Health of Poland and became the Polish National Consultant in Cardiac Surgery.

He held other notable roles throughout his career, including:

  • General Director of the Silesian Centre for Heart Diseases in Zabrze, which is internationally recognised as one of the most successful clinical and academic centres in Poland. This was a position he held until his death in March 2022.
  • Chairman of the Department of Cardiac Surgery, Transplantology, Vascular and Endovascular Surgery in Zabrze
  • EACTS President from 2017-2018 and, a few years later, became Chair of the nominating committee

Recognising the impact of cross-border collaboration, Marian established a charity programme which enabled 427 Polish children with congenital heart defects to be treated at St Antonius Hospital in Utrecht. The programme also provided training for 70 Polish cardiologists, cardiac surgeons, neonatologists, nurses and perfusionists. Soon after he returned to Poland from the Netherlands in 1984 Marian initiated long-term support programmes for Kosovo, Moldovia, Georgia, Albany and Ukraine – programmes that are still conducted today.

The importance of partnership working was evident throughout his tenure as EACTS President. During this time, he worked towards greater integration between EACTS and similar organisations across Europe. Commenting on this ambition, he poignantly remarked, “In the global world, you need to make a strong voice and partnership. War is devastating; we need peace and pragmatism. That is my message – peace and pragmatism.”

Marian Zembala will be remembered as one of the greatest cardiac surgeons of his time due to his commitment, passion, dedication and unwavering optimism.

We send our deepest condolences to the whole family and our thoughts are with everyone who knew him.

May he rest in peace.