NEWS | September 11, 2012

UC Davis physician recognized for bringing lifesaving heart surgery to Russian children

Editor's note:

View this release in Russian (pdf)


UC Davis cardiac surgeon Nilas Young will receive the 2012 World of Children Health Award for his international humanitarian efforts to improve pediatric heart care. The award is given each year to a leader in health, medicine or science who has made significant contributions to improving the lives of children.

Nilas Young Nilas Young

Young, who is chief of cardiothoracic surgery at UC Davis Health System, is being recognized for his work with Heart to Heart International Children's Medical Alliance. He co-founded the organization in 1989 to teach Russian cardiac specialists to develop self-sustaining surgery centers for Russian children born with congenital heart defects. Under Young's leadership, Heart to Heart International Children's Medical Alliance has saved the lives of more than 13,000 children and improved the health of thousands more.

Young is a recognized expert in surgical treatments for high-risk cardiac patients. He joined the UC Davis faculty in 2001, where he leads a surgical team that provides compassionate, advanced care for adults and children with complex diseases of the heart, chest, lungs and esophagus. His clinical research focuses on improving patient outcomes, perfecting complex aortic surgery procedures and defining pre-operative therapies that reduce post-operative complications. His current basic research includes investigating the potential of microRNAs to regenerate injured heart tissue.

World of Children will formally honor Young at a ceremony in New York City on Oct. 25 with five others who are dedicated to helping the world's most vulnerable children. The awards include cash grants of up to $75,000.

"As the World of Children Award celebrates its 15th anniversary this year, we are deeply inspired by the remarkable contributions our honorees have made to changing the trajectory of children's lives for the better," said Harry Leibowitz, World of Children Award co-founder and co-chairman.

The World of Children Award ( is hailed as the "Nobel prize for child advocates" for setting the gold standard in recognizing people and programs that support life-changing work for children.

An independent nonprofit organization, Heart to Heart International Children's Medical Alliance ( was founded to teach physicians in St. Petersburg, Russia, how to perform open-heart surgery on children. These efforts culminated in a self-sustaining pediatric cardiac program that was publicly acknowledged by Russia's chief of cardiac surgery as his country's "best infant open-heart surgery program." The organization's major campaign is to establish state-of-the-art children's heart centers in each of Russia's federal districts by 2022.

UC Davis Health System ( is improving lives and transforming health by providing excellent patient care, conducting groundbreaking research, fostering innovative, interprofessional education and creating dynamic, productive partnerships with the community. The academic health system includes one of the country's best medical schools, a 619-bed acute-care teaching hospital, a 1,000-member physician's practice group and the new Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing. It is home to a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center, an international neurodevelopmental institute, a stem cell institute and a comprehensive children's hospital. Other nationally prominent centers focus on advancing telemedicine, improving vascular care, eliminating health disparities and translating research findings into new treatments for patients. Together, they make UC Davis a hub of innovation that is transforming health for all.