Famed transplant surgeon Denton Cooley will be replaced as president of the prestigious Texas Heart Institute, which he founded in 1962, by the president of the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. Officials said that as the institute's president-elect, James Willerson, 64, would immediately begin sharing executive duties with Cooley, 84. A full changing of the guard could take place as soon as a year from now, a spokeswoman said. Willerson, a cardiologist, has been the institute's medical director since 1993. He is chief of cardiology at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital, which houses the institute, as well as president of the Health Science Center, a position in which he will continue. Cooley achieved international renown when he implanted the first artificial heart in a human in 1969. According to the Houston Chronicle, the men have known each other since Willerson was 14, when Cooley performed surgery on Willerson's father. -- by Michael Romano
Texas Heart Institute names successor to Cooley
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