Hamilton Naki became a self-taught surgeon of such skill that Dr. Christiaan Barnard chose him to assist in the world's first human heart transplant in 1967. His contribution was kept secret for three decades because he was a black man in apartheid-era South Africa. He acquired his surgical skills through years of silent observation and covert practice at the university's medical school. His skills were so esteemed that the university quietly looked the other way.
On 3rd December 1967, 53-year-old Lewis Washkansky receives the first successful heart transplant in Cape Town, South Africa. Washkansky, a grocer who suffered from chronic heart disease, received the transplant from Denise Darvall, a 25-year-old woman who was fatally injured in a car accident. Surgeon Christiaan Barnard performed the revolutionary medical operation, which was a success.