Houston Says Goodbye and Thank you to a Hero
Michael E. DeBakey was a world-renowned American heart surgeon, innovator, medical educator, and international medical statesman. DeBakey was the chancellor emeritus of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas and director of The Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center and senior attending surgeon of The Methodist Hospital in Houston. He had a long and illustrious career.
At age 23, while still in medical school at Tulane University, DeBakey invented the roller pump, the significance of which was not realized until 20 years later, when it became an essential component of the heart-lung machine. The pump provided a continuous flow of blood during operations. This, in turn, made open-heart surgery possible. With his mentor, Alton Ochsner, he postulated in 1939 a strong link between smoking and carcinoma of the lung. DeBakey was one of the first to perform coronary artery bypass surgery, and in 1953 he performed the first successful carotid endarterectomy. A pioneer in the development of an artificial heart, DeBakey was the first to use a external heart pump successfully in a patient — a left ventricular bypass pump. DeBakey pioneered the use of Dacron grafts to replace or repair blood vessels. In 1958, to counteract narrowing of an artery caused by an endarterectomy, DeBakey performed the first successful patch-graft angioplasty. This procedure involved patching the slit in the artery from an endarterectomy with a Dacron or vein graft. The patch widened the artery so that when it closed, the channel of the artery returned to normal size. The DeBakey artificial graft is now used around the world to replace or repair blood vessels.
In the 1960s, DeBakey and his team of surgeons were among the first to record surgeries on film. A camera operator would lie prone atop a surgical film stand made to Dr. DeBakey's specifications and record a surgeon's eye view of the operating area. The camera and lights were positioned within three to four feet of the operative field, yet did not interfere with the surgical team. To the amazement of his colleagues and patients, DeBakey continued to practice medicine into an age well after most others have retired. DeBakey practiced medicine until the day he died, at nearly reached 100 years of age. His contributions to the field of medicine spanned the better part of 75 years. Dr. DeBakey operated on more than 50,000 patients, including several heads of state. During 1969, the Baylor College of Medicine separated from Baylor University under his direction. The DeBakey High School for Health Professions, the Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center and the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Houston in the Texas Medical Center in Houston are named after him. He had a role in establishing the Michael E. DeBakey Heart Institute at the Hays Medical Center in Kansas. Several atraumatic vascular surgical clamps and forceps that he introduced also bear his name. DeBakey founded the Michael E. DeBakey Institute at Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences as a collaboration between Texas A&M, the Baylor College of Medicine and the UT Health Science Center at Houston to further cardiovascular research. In 1969, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 1987, President Ronald Reagan awarded him the National Medal of Science. He was a Health Care Hall of Famer, a Lasker Luminary, and a recipient of The United Nations Lifetime Achievement Award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom with Distinction, and The National Medal of Science. He was given the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Foundation for Biomedical Research and in 2000 was cited as a "Living Legend" by the Library of Congress. On April 23, 2008, he received the Congressional Gold Medal from President George W. Bush, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
To pay your respects Dr. DeBakey is laying in repose in City Hall until his funeral which is scheduled to be held at the Co-Cathedral on Wednesday at 1 pm.