Michael Ellis DeBakey, Cardiac Surgeon, Died at 99

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Dead, Michael Ellis DeBakey on July 11, 2008 at the age of 99, he was a world-renowned Lebanese American cardiac surgeon, one of the hardest operations innovator, scientist, medical educator, and international medical statesman.

Born in Lake Charles, Louisiana, on September 7, 1908, to Lebanese immigrants Shaker and Raheeja Dabaghi (later Anglicized to DeBakey).

In 1932, he received an M.D. degree from Tulane University School of Medicine.

He remained in New Orleans to complete his internship and residency in surgery at Charity Hospital.

DeBakey completed his surgical fellowships at the University of Strasbourg, France, under Professor René Leriche, and at the University of Heidelberg, Germany, under Professor Martin Kirschner.

Returning to Tulane Medical School, he served on the surgical faculty from 1937 to 1948.

From 1942 to 1946, he was on military leave as a member of the Surgical Consultants’ Division in the Office of the Surgeon General of the Army, and in 1945 he became its Director and received the Legion of Merit.

DeBakey helped develop the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) units and later helped establish the Veteran’s Administration Medical Center Research System.

He joined the faculty of Baylor University College of Medicine (now known as the Baylor College of Medicine) in 1948, serving as Chairman of the Department of Surgery until 1993.

DeBakey’s ability to bring his professional knowledge to bear on public policy earned him a reputation as a medical statesman.

He was a member of the medical advisory committee of the Hoover Commission and was chairman of the President’s Commission on Heart Disease, Cancer and Stroke during the Johnson Administration.

He worked in numerous capacities to improve national and international standards of health care.

Among his numerous consultative appointments was a three-year membership on the National Advisory Heart and Lung Council of the National Institutes of Health.

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 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.

DeBakey worked together with Denton Cooley while they both practiced at Baylor College of Medicine.

According to the April 10, 1970, issue of Life magazine, they had a disagreement associated with Cooley’s apparently unauthorized implantation of the first artificial heart in a human.

DeBakey had set the surgery for Friday, April 4, 1969, and because of a schedule conflict relating to a speech in Corpus Christi, Texas, rescheduled it for the following Monday.

Cooley then rescheduled back to the original date and performed the surgery while DeBakey was out of town.

The press covered the surgery and Cooley gained much publicity.

DeBakey was angry at Cooley for his actions.
Cooley then left Methodist Hospital and signed on with St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital across the street.

In his work with the government, DeBakey was a member of the Hoover Commission’s Medical Advisory Committee and chairman of the President’s Commission on Heart Disease, Cancer and Stroke, under President Lyndon Johnson.

Additionally, he held a three-year membership on the National Advisory Heart and Lung Council of the National Institutes of Health.

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