Christiaan Barnard Memorial Award for ‘caring intellectual giant’

Top honour for highly respected specialist awarded posthumously 

Wednesday, September 1 2021

Netcare has bestowed its top award, the Christiaan Barnard Memorial Award, posthumously on highly respected specialist physician and nephrologist, Dr Hendrik Viljoen, who participated in over 600 kidney and 25 combined pancreas-kidney transplants during his illustrious medical career. 

“This award is a humble tribute to the outstanding contribution Dr Viljoen has made, not only as a medical professional but also as a kind, caring and sincere person with great wisdom and an unquenchable thirst for deeper understanding,” says Jacques du Plessis, managing director of Netcare’s hospital division. 

Introduced by Netcare in 2011, the Christiaan Barnard Memorial Award is the highest accolade Netcare bestows on doctors who practice at healthcare facilities within the Netcare Group and who have demonstrated leadership in their specific field while contributing to the advancement of the medical profession. Dr Viljoen is only the 36th recipient of the medal to date. 

Pic: Dr H Viljoen

Accepting the award on behalf of the family, Dr Viljoen’s wife Sandra said that with his passing in May this year the world lost “a good and caring doctor who always had time for his patients, a giant intellectual and an incredible kind, generous and loving human being”.   

Dr Viljoen trained in internal medicine at Universitas and Pelonomi academic hospitals. There he attained experience with sub-specialities including clinical haematology, pulmonology, cardiology, gastroenterology, endocrinology, nephrology and rheumatology. Once qualified, he worked for the Department of Internal Medicine in Bloemfontein as a physician while specialising in nephrology.

Later, as head of the Department of Nephrology at the then University of the Orange Free State, Dr Viljoen was instrumental in training the next generation of medical practitioners and leaves a strong academic legacy behind, having authored numerous academic articles and presented papers at international conferences. He practised at Netcare Garden City Hospital for some 27 years until he passed away in May this year, and was a driving force in the establishment of the first renal unit at the hospital.

“Dr Viljoen greatly contributed to the field of nephrology and meaningfully touched the lives of many thousands of patients, including over 600 transplant patients, who benefitted from his considerable expertise over decades of service in both private and public practice,” Du Plessis says.

Born in the Netherlands, Dr Viljoen moved to South Africa as a child and spent several years in France. Not only was he fluent in French, he also taught himself Portuguese, and was an avid reader with diverse interests ranging from languages and poetry to politics and quantum physics. 

“Thank you Netcare for honouring Hendrik in this special way. To Netcare Garden City Hospital management, Hendrik’s colleagues and every member of the staff, thank you for your love, dedication, friendship and unwavering support over 27 years. To every patient, thank you for placing your trust in him and becoming part of the bigger Viljoen family,” Mrs Viljoen said, accepting the award on behalf of her late husband.


“Dr Viljoen’s passing is an immense loss to the Netcare family and his fellow specialists, and he is greatly missed. It is our privilege to present Dr Viljoen’s Christian Barnard Memorial Award to Sandra and his family as a tribute to his remarkable legacy and the enormous contribution he made in the fields of medicine and nephrology over almost four decades in the caring service of his patients,” Du Plessis concludes.


Issued by:    MNA on behalf of Netcare 
Contact:     Martina Nicholson, Meggan Saville, Estene Lotriet-Vorster or Clementine Forsthofer
Telephone:     (011) 469 3016
Email:     [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected] or [email protected]