Michael DeBakey, the surgeon who performed the first aorto-coronary artery bypass, died July 11, from natural causes at Methodist Hospital in Houston. He was 99.
DeBakey, the son of Lebanese immigrants, was born in 1908 in Lake Charles, La., and entered medical school at Tulane University in New Orleans in 1928. During his career, DeBakey is reported to have performed 60,000 heart surgeries. In addition to performing the first coronary artery bypass, he is credited with developing Mobile Army Surgical Hospital units, performing the first carotid artery blockage removal, and the first patch-graft angioplasty. In 1968, he performed his first heart transplant and also led a team of surgeons in a multiple transplantation procedure in which one donors heart, kidneys, and lung were transplanted into four recipients.
In 1969, DeBakey was appointed president of the Baylor College of Medicine. In 1978, Baylor created the Michael E. DeBakey Center for Biomedical Education and Research, and he was inducted into the Health Care Hall of Fame in 1996.
Dr. DeBakey single-handedly raised the standard of medical care, teaching and research around the world, said George Noon, a cardiovascular surgeon and longtime partner of DeBakeys in a news release issued by Baylor College of Medicine. He was the greatest surgeon of the 20th century, and physicians everywhere are indebted to him for his contributions to medicine.
In 1969, DeBakey was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and just this spring, he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. He accepted the award at a dinner attended by President Bush and 300 members of Congress and used the opportunity to give his thoughts on healthcare reform, suggesting the nation move away from the traditional Medicare system (Print subscription required.) and toward something that looked more like the Veterans Affairs Department system.
I assure you that you cannot find a better model, DeBakey told the audience. For one thing, its quality of care is superior. And for another, it provides that care at half the cost of other agencies, both in and out of government. So you see how efficient it is. So there must be something about what theyre doing that we can use to expand our program and healthcare for the needy.
Methodist Hospital in Houston, where DeBakey served as a senior attending surgeon and performed many ground-breaking procedures is inviting friends and colleagues to share their memories of the doctor here. -- by Andis Robeznieks
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