A Polish doctor who performed the miracle surgery to help a quadriplegic walk again has refuted claims the 2017 Australian of the Year, Professor Alan Mackay-Sim, was involved "in any way".
Mackay-Sim was awarded the prestigious honor on Australia Day for his work in the stem cell research field. On his list of career achievements, Mackay-Sim was credited with playing a central role in the world-first successful surgery to restore mobility in quadriplegic Polish firefighter Dariusz Fidyka.
But Dr Pawel Tabakow, the surgeon who performed the procedure, had said that Mackay-Sim's involvement in the research and rehabilitation for the surgery was nil, reported News Corp Saturday.
Tabakow said while Mackay-Sim's work had been "valuable" in considering the method of going about the surgery, his technique ultimately failed.
"Professor Mackay-Sim has not been involved in any way; he has not contributed any ideas or supported the research in any way," Tabakow said.
"His involvement is zero percent; we are very frustrated by these claims that he co-operated with the (team).
"It is not our business who should be the Australian of the Year, but it is our business when his work is being linked to the surgery of Fidyka. He has no link whatsoever."
Mackay-Sim has previously tried to downplay his role in the surgery; on Wednesday night after receiving the away, he described his involvement as "a little bit of hyperbole", while a spokesperson from the National Australia Day Council said there was some "confusion in some media reports".
The council said while many media reports had said Mackay-Sim played a "central role" in the surgery, they had said only "that his work was central in establishing the field which has led to the project's outcome".
It is the second-straight year that the Australian of the Year recipient has come under fire after winning the award; last year Lieutenant General David Morrison was criticized for using the honor to charge exorbitant appearance fees to speak publicly. He won the award for his work in promoting gender equality in the workplace.