Roberto Canessa

Roberto Canessa

"I had to survive at 19 so I could help others with their own "mountains" so that they could also have a chance".


At 19 with his friend Nando Parrado they shocked the world when - after surviving a plane crash and two months of being stranded in the snow - they walked out for 10 days to find help and save the remaining 14 survivors, trapped in the fuselage in the middle of the Andes mountains.

Dr. Roberto Canessa MD, Cardiologist and Pediatrician was awarded the National Award of Medicine in Uruguay three times. In 2015 he was named Honorary Fellow of the American Society of Echocardiography. He is also a Keynote Speaker for leadership and collaborates with an important network of outstanding colleagues around the world.

The Survivor

October 13th, 1972.

Los Andes

On 13 October 1972, when he was just 19 years old and was a second-year Medical School student in Uruguay, he was able to escape he tragedy unscathed. This made him very active and determined in carrying out activities to escape that trap. First, in his role as a doctor, taking care of those that were wounded. Then, as an organiser, creating hammocks for those that had been hurt and collaborating with the idea of taking the bodies of those that were dead as a source of food and buy time. Last and the hardest task, take on the role of expeditionist, after Arturo Nogueira, one of his mates, who ended up dying in the avalache, told him: "how lucky you are Roberto, you are able to walk for the rest of us". And that`s what he did in the Andes and throughout his whole life.

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Avión Uruguayo caído en la cordillera de los Andes 1
Avión Uruguayo caído en la cordillera de los Andes 2

The Medical Doctor

Medicine and

Pediatric cardiology

Even though he never had a cast of doubt about studying Medicine and Cardiology, his father`s career and speciality, that vocation strengthened in the Andes, which led him along the pediatric cardiology path, especially devoted to treating children with congenital cardiopathies. "Over treating adults or the elderly who suffer from other diseases, I prefer the most challenging group, the most vulnerable, children that came out "the assembly line" somehow faulty, those who had no chances whatsoever not long ago", Roberto says.

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Roberto Canessa ─ El médico
Roberto Canessa y su familia

“Everything I learned from my father was not something he told me, but that he did.”

The Father

His sons: Hilario,
Tino and Lala

His wife, Lauri

One cannot deeply understand who Roberto is without getting to know the bond with his family, his relationship with his wife and his children. It all started in his family: he knew his father was looking for him while he was in the Andres, as it actually did happen, because "if he had got lost, I would have left no single stone unturned", as he states.

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Roberto Canessa ─ Rugby 1
Roberto Canessa ─ Rugby 2

The Motivator

70 days
in the Andes

19 years

Roberto`s life catapulted with the experience in the Andes, which also marked his entire life after it, being 40 years devoted to Pediatric Cardiologyfor new borns and fetuses suffering from congenital cardiopathies which is one of the most sensitive fields of Medicine. Roberto has been able to find and explain connections; many times intangible ones between extreme adversity, as the 70 days in the Andes were when he was just 19 years of age; and what he devoted his life to after that, by trying to save the lives of more than 100 thousand children, his patients throughout his existence.There`s a titanium and crystal thread that links that past he can`t change, and this present that is alive and changing every day, filled with new patients and challenges, in a fast-paced changing discipline such as Pediatric Cardiology. His son, Tino, who is also a doctor, says that his father is "addicted to life".

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“So, I am not only myself but also myself on behalf of others; therefore, my life can`t be led in an ordinary way. If I did so, they would question me and tell me: "Roberto: what have you done with the life we contributed to keep?" This is something that is complex, but it doesn`t operate as a trauma that turns me off, but as a booster that makes me more hard-working and to make a greater effort to contribute, together with many others, to save my patients` lives" ”