In a monthly column for PBS NewsHour, Dr. Howard Markel revisits moments that changed the course of modern health and medicine on their anniversaries, like the
world’s first human heart transplant on Dec. 3, 1967. In the photo left, Amy DeStefano of Portsmouth, N.H., recovers after a transplant in 2012.
Photo by Wendy Maeda/The Boston Globe

Dec. 3, 1967 is a red-letter day in the history of medicine. It was also an important date in the personal history of Dr. Christiaan Barnard.

The South African surgeon made international headlines by successfully removing the dying heart of a 54-year-old grocer named Louis Washkansky and replacing it with a healthy heart.