Doctor Michael Ellis DeBakey, internationally renowned cardiovascular surgeon, medical inventor, medical statesman, and teacher, trained thousands of surgeons since 1948, when he accepted the chairmanship of the Department of Surgery at Baylor University College of Medicine in Houston. After the school separated from Baylor University, he was appointed President of Baylor College of Medicine.
A group of Doctor DeBakey’s trainees came together in 1976 with the goal of founding an organization to honor Doctor DeBakey, provide a forum for international scientific exchange, recognize superior surgeons and provide financial support for surgeons seeking postgraduate training at Baylor College of Medicine. The Michael E. DeBakey International Cardiovascular Surgical Society was founded January 20, 1977, and subsequently was renamed the Michael E. DeBakey International Surgical Society. This organization now perpetuates Doctor DeBakey’s vision through education, training and recognition. An award program biennially recognizes an outstanding surgeon for significant contributions in the field of surgery and a biennial meeting provides the opportunity for education and international exchange of scientific advances and technology.
Doctor DeBakey’s most visible legacy is reflected by the work and accomplishments of his trainees throughout the world. The seeds of knowledge, words of wisdom, and unrelenting goals of excellence that Doctor Michael E. DeBakey planted in the minds and hearts of the hundreds of physicians he trained and thousands he touched through his teachings and writings germinate to fruition each day and will continue to do so for decades to come.
A Lifetime of Imagination and Dedication
Texas Medical Center News – Article
Vol. 20, No. 19 – October 15, 1998
During this first year in Houston, Dr. DeBakey was admitting his private patients to Hermann Hospital and The Methodist Hospital, an old building located on Main Street close to downtown. His relationship with the Methodist administration and nurses grew warm. The hospital’s administrator, Ted Bowen, allowed Dr. DeBakey to create a new type of ward at the hospital, an intensive care unit with nurses specially trained by the surgeon and cardiologists on staff. It was a radical idea, so radical in fact that within weeks other surgeons were asking Dr. DeBakey if their patients could be admitted to his unit. In 1953 the hospital decided to move to a new facility in the Texas Medical Center. The years 1953-54 marked a turning point in cardiovascular surgery. Working at home on his wife’s sewing machine, Dr. DeBakey constructed the first Dacron artificial artery to replace the damaged segments of artery. In 1953, Dr. DeBakey began operating on the aorta, and in a series of operations he brought heart surgery into a new age. He completed the first successful removal and graft replacement of an aneurysm (a swelling caused by weakness in the artery wall) on the descending aorta. Also in 1953, Dr. DeBakey performed the first successful endarterectomy, or removal of a blockage of the carotid artery, the main artery of the neck which carries blood to the brain, demonstrating an effective treatment for stroke. In early 1954, he performed a successful resection and graft on the ascending aorta, using a heart-lung machine developed in his laboratory. Later in 1954, he performed another successful resection and graft on the section of the aorta which curves over the top of the heart. He had shown that the diseases of the aorta could be successfully treated by surgery.
In the early 1960s, Dr. DeBakey began a warm relationship with President Lyndon Johnson. The President tried to persuade him to join his administration as Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, but the surgeon respectfully declined and offered instead to serve as a consultant. Dr. DeBakey worked a great deal on legislation with the President and legislators. Knowing that Medicare would be of benefit to the elderly, he supported it and encouraged President Johnson to get the legislation passed; it was very unpopular with many other physicians. Johnson became his patient, and secretly came to Houston for examinations. Dr. DeBakey’s statesmanship was very much in evidence in 1968. Baylor University College of Medicine was in a financial crisis. He proposed that the college of medicine separate itself from Baylor University in Waco and establish a board of trustees composed of Houston business and civic leaders. With the support of the university and the Southern Baptist Convention, the medical school received a charter from the State of Texas. Dr. DeBakey became the school’s first president and, with a new and committed board of trustees, $30 million was raised and the school’s debt cancelled. Dr. DeBakey began recruiting some of the nation’s most talented physicians, researchers and administrators to the school. Twenty years after he came to what he would later call a “third-rate school” he was now head of a medical college that was destined to become one of the very best in the nation.