Michael DeBakey

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Michael DeBakey
Michael DeBakey.jpg
Michael Ellis DeBakey
Michael DeBakey

(1908-09-07)September 7, 1908
DiedJuly 11, 2008(2008-07-11) (aged 99)
Alma materTulane University
AwardsLomonosov Gold Medal (2003)

Michael Ellis DeBakey (7 September 1908 – 11 July 2008) was a Lebanese-American cardiovascular surgeon, scientist, and medical educator.[1] DeBakey was the chancellor emeritus of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, director of The Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center, and senior attending surgeon of The Methodist Hospital in Houston.[2][3][4] He participated in important work in the treatment of heart patients.[5]

Early life[edit]

He was born in Lake Charles, Louisiana, on September 7, 1908.[6] His parents were Maronite Christian Lebanese immigrants Shaker and Raheeja Dabaghi (later Anglicized to DeBakey).[citation needed]

Medical career[edit]

Colonel Michael DeBakey, Medical Corps, US Army, October 1945-February 1946

DeBakey received his BS degree from Tulane University in New Orleans. 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 was president of the college from 1969 to 1979, served as Chancellor from 1979 to January 1996; he was then named Chancellor Emeritus. He was also Olga Keith Wiess and Distinguished Service Professor in the Michael E. DeBakey Department of Surgery at Baylor College of Medicine and Director of the DeBakey Heart Center for research and public education at Baylor College of Medicine and The Methodist Hospital.

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.

DeBakey served in the U.S. Army during World War II and promoted wartime medicine by supporting the stationing of doctors closer to the front lines which improved the survival rate of wounded soldiers in the Korean War.[7][8]

Medical pioneer[edit]

At age 23, while still in medical school at Tulane University, DeBakey developed a version of the roller pump, a component of the heart–lung machine.[9][10] The pump provided a continuous flow of blood during operations. This, in turn, made open-heart surgery possible. The roller pump had first been invented for blood transfusions by American inventor Eugene E. Allen from 1881 through 1890 (US Patents 249285, 409000, and 425015).

Heart Surgeon Michael E. DeBakey

With his mentor, Alton Ochsner, he postulated in 1939 a strong link between smoking and carcinoma of the lung, a hypothesis which other researchers supported as well. DeBakey was among the earlier surgeons 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 among the first to use an external heart pump successfully in a patient – a left ventricular bypass pump.

DeBakey helped 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.

In the 1960s, DeBakey and his team of surgeons were among the early instances of surgeries on film.[9] DeBakey hired surgeon Denton Cooley to Baylor College of Medicine in 1951. They collaborated and frequently worked together until Cooley's resignation from his faculty position at the college in 1969.

The Congressional Gold Medal awarded to DeBakey

The DeBakey High School for Health Professions, the Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center and the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Houston at 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.

DeBakey received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1969. In 1987, President Ronald Reagan awarded him the National Medal of Science.[11] He was a Health Care Hall of Famer, a Lasker Luminary, and a recipient of The United Nations Lifetime Achievement Award and the Presidential Medal of Freedom with Distinction. 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.[12][13][14]

DeBakey continued to practice medicine until his death in 2008 at the age of 99. His contributions to the field of medicine spanned the better part of 75 years. DeBakey operated on more than 60,000 patients, including several heads of state.[15] DeBakey and a team of American cardiothoracic surgeons, including George Noon, supervised quintuple bypass surgery performed by Russian surgeons on Russian President Boris Yeltsin in 1996.[16]

Health issues[edit]

On December 31, 2005, at age 97, DeBakey suffered an aortic dissection. Years prior, DeBakey had pioneered the surgical treatment of this condition, creating what is now known as the DeBakey Procedure.[1] He was hospitalized at The Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas.

DeBakey initially resisted the surgical option, but as his health deteriorated and DeBakey became unresponsive, the surgical team opted to proceed with surgical intervention. In a controversial decision, Houston Methodist Hospital Ethics Committee approved the operation; on February 9–10, he became the oldest patient ever to undergo the surgery for which he was responsible. The operation lasted seven hours. After a complicated post-operative course that required eight months in the hospital at a cost of over one million dollars, DeBakey was released in September 2006 and returned to good health.[16]

In early 2008, Dr. DeBakey attended the groundbreaking for the new Michael E. DeBakey Library and Museum at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas,[17] honoring his life, work, and dedication to care and teaching. The museum officially opened on Friday, May 14, 2010.[18]


On July 11, 2008, DeBakey died at The Methodist Hospital in Houston, two months before his 100th birthday; the cause of death remained unspecified.[1][19] After lying in repose in Houston's City Hall, being the first ever to do so,[20] DeBakey received a memorial service at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart on July 16, 2008[21] Dr. DeBakey was granted ground burial in Arlington National Cemetery by the Secretary of the Army.[22] On January 21, 2009, DeBakey became the first posthumous recipient of The Denton A. Cooley Leadership Award.[23]

Views on animal research[edit]

DeBakey founded and chaired the Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR), whose goal is to promote public understanding and support for animal research. DeBakey made wide use of animals in his research.[24] He antagonized animal rights and animal welfare advocates who oppose the use of animals in the development of medical treatment for humans when he claimed that the "future of biomedical research; and ultimately human health" would be compromised if shelters stopped turning over surplus animals for medical research.[25] Responding to the need for animal research, DeBakey stated that "These scientists, veterinarians, physicians, surgeons and others who do research in animal labs are as much concerned about the care of the animals as anyone can be. Their respect for the dignity of life and compassion for the sick and disabled, in fact, is what motivated them to search for ways of relieving the pain and suffering caused by diseases."[26]

DeBakey Medical Foundation[edit]

In honor of DeBakey, the DeBakey Medical Foundation, in conjunction with Baylor College of Medicine, annually selects recipients of the Michael E. DeBakey, M.D., Excellence in Research Awards.[27] The awards recognize faculty who have published outstanding scientific research contributions to clinical or basic biomedical research. The awards are funded by the DeBakey Medical Foundation and have funded researchers from the Center for Cell and Gene Therapy at Texas Children's Cancer Center.[28]

The Foundation helped to establish the Michael E. DeBakey, Selma DeBakey and Lois DeBakey Endowed Scholarship Fund in Medical Humanities at Baylor University.[29] The scholarship designates award recipients as "DeBakey Scholars" in recognition of the legacy of the DeBakey family.


  • Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Academy of Medical Films
  • American Heart Association (AHA)
  • Children Uniting Nations
  • Foundation for Biomedical Research
  • International College of Angiology
  • International Health and Medical Film Festival
  • Honorary Director of Research!America
  • Tulane Medical Alumni Association
  • U.S. Army Legion of Merit (1945)
  • American Medical Association Hektoen Gold Medal (1954 and 1970)
  • Rudolph Matas Award in Vascular Surgery (1954)
  • International Society of Surgery Distinguished Service Award (1958)
  • Leriche Award (1959)
  • American Medical Association Distinguished Service Award (1959)
  • Albert Lasker Award for Clinical Medical Research (1963)
  • American Medical Association Billings Gold Medal Exhibit Award (1967)
  • American Heart Association Gold Heart Award (1968)
  • Union of Soviet Socialist Republics Academy of Sciences 50th Anniversary Jubilee Medal (1973)
  • Russian Academy of Medical Sciences Foreign Member (1974)
  • Veterans of Foreign Wars Commander-in-Chief's Medal and Citation (1980)
  • American Surgical Association Distinguished Service Award (1981)
  • Admiral of the Texas Navy
  • Academy of Surgical Research Markowitz Award (1988)
  • Association of American Medical Colleges Special Recognition Award (1988)
  • Honorary Doctorate of Science from Universidad Francisco Marroquin[30] (1989)
  • American Legion Distinguished Service Award (1990)
  • Honorary President of the International Society for Rotary Blood Pumps (1992)
  • Special Award for Space Technology Utilization (1997)[31]
  • Premio Giuseppe Corradi Award for Surgery and Scientific Research (1997)
  • Russian Military Medical Academy, Boris Petrovsky International Surgeons Award and First Laureate of the Boris Petrovsky Gold Medal (1997)
  • Grau de Grande Oficial da Ordem de Santiago de Espada, Portugal, 1998
  • Scientific Achievement Award of The American Association for Thoracic Surgery (1999)
  • John P. McGovern Compleat Physician Award (1999)
  • Russian Academy of Sciences Foreign Member (1999)
  • Texas Senate and House of Representatives, Adoption of resolutions honoring DeBakey for 50 years of medical practice in Texas (1999)
  • American Medical Association Virtual Mentor Award (2000)
  • American Philosophical Society Jonathan Rhoads Medal (2000)
  • Library of Congress Bicentennial Living Legend Award (2000)
  • Villanova University Mendel Medal Award (2001)
  • Houston Hall of Fame (2001)
  • NASA Invention of the Year Award (2001)
  • MUSC Lindbergh-Carrel Prize (2002)[32]
  • Lomonosov Large Gold Medal, Russian Academy of Sciences (2003)[33]
  • Congressional Gold Medal (April 23, 2008)
  • First person ever to lie in state in the Houston City Hall Rotunda
  • The Denton A. Cooley Leadership Award (January 21, 2009)


DeBakey's writings are reflected in his authorship or co-authorship in more than 1,300 published medical articles, chapters and books on various aspects of surgery, medicine, health, medical research and medical education, as well as ethical, socio-economic and philosophic discussion in these fields. In addition to his scholarly writings, he co-authored such popular works as The Living Heart, The Living Heart Shopper's Guide and The Living Heart Guide to Eating Out. Some of the references:

M. E. DeBakey: The living heart. Charter Books, 1977; Putnam Publishing Group, 1983

M. E. DeBakey: The Living heart diet. New York: Raven Press/Simon and Schuster, 1984

M. E. DeBakey: New living heart. Adams, 1997

Michael DeBakey and Antonio Gotto: The Living Heart in the 21st Century. Prometheus, 2012

DeBakey worked on his first book with Beebe after the Second World War:

M. E. DeBakey and G. W. Beebe: Battle Casualties Incidence, Mortality, and Logistic Considerations, 1952

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Ackerman, Todd; Eric Berger (2008-07-12). "Dr. Michael DeBakey: 1908-2008". Houston Chronicle. Archived from the original on January 30, 2010. Retrieved September 24, 2018.
  2. ^ "Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center, General facts". methodisthealth.com. Retrieved 2008-07-12.
  3. ^ "DeBakey Bio". Baylor College of Medicine. Archived from the original on 2013-05-30.
  4. ^ "AMNews: May 19, 2008. Heart surgeon pioneer wins highest civilian honor". AMNews. 2008-05-19. Retrieved 2008-07-13.
  5. ^ Caroline Richmond (2008-07-14). "Michael DeBakey: Cardiovascular surgeon whose innovations revolutionised the treatment of heart patients". The Independent.
  6. ^ Patricia Sullivan (July 13, 2008). "Michael DeBakey – cardiac surgery pioneer who saved thousands in his 70-year career". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved January 22, 2010.
  7. ^ Altman, Lawrence K. (2008-07-13). "Michael DeBakey, Rebuilder of Hearts, Dies at 99". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-07-12.
  8. ^ "Dr. Michael DeBakey". They Got Their Start In Military Medicine. Department of Defense Military Health System. Retrieved 2008-07-12.[dead link]
  9. ^ a b "DeBakey Surgical Innovations". Baylor College of Medicine. Archived from the original on 2010-06-05. Retrieved 2008-07-12.
  10. ^ https://profiles.nlm.nih.gov/ps/access/FJBBHD.pdf
  11. ^ "The President's National Medal of Science: Recipient Details | NSF - National Science Foundation". Nsf.gov. Retrieved 2016-11-20.
  12. ^ "Heart surgeon DeBakey receives high honor". KTRK. 2008-04-30.
  13. ^ "Houston's DeBakey gets congressional medal in D.C." Houston Chronicle.
  14. ^ [1]
  15. ^ "Michael DeBakey, pioneer of heart procedures, dead at 99". Associated Press. July 12, 2008. Archived from the original on September 17, 2008. Retrieved 2016-11-20.
  16. ^ a b Altman, Lawrence K. (2006-12-25). "The Man on the Table Was 97, but He Devised the Surgery". The New York Times. Retrieved 2006-12-25.
  17. ^ Museum History (2013-08-08). "Museum History | Baylor College of Medicine | Houston, Texas". Bcm.edu. Archived from the original on 2016-03-05. Retrieved 2016-11-20.
  18. ^ Todd Ackerman, Houston Chronicle (2010-05-14). "Baylor honors pioneer DeBakey with library, museum - Houston Chronicle". Chron.com. Retrieved 2016-11-20.
  19. ^ "Baylor, Methodist mourn death of Dr. Michael E. DeBakey". Baylor College of Medicine.
  20. ^ Ackerman, Todd (2008-07-15). "Houstonians view DeBakey's casket at City Hall - Houston Chronicle". Chron.com. Retrieved 2016-11-20.
  21. ^ "Dr. DeBakey is being remembered in a way officials say has never happened | abc13.com". Abclocal.go.com. 2008-07-15. Retrieved 2016-11-20.
  22. ^ [2]
  23. ^ [3]
  24. ^ Lefrak, EA; Stevens, PM; Nicotra, MB; Viroslav, J; Noon, GP; DeBakey, ME (January 1973). "An experimental model for evaluating extracorporeal membrane oxygenator support in acute respiratory failure". The American surgeon. 39 (1): 20–30. doi:10.1016/0002-9149(71)90077-4. PMID 4686133.
  25. ^ "whenwillitend" (PDF). Banpondseizure.org. Retrieved 2016-11-20.
  26. ^ "Animal Research Saves Lives". Mofed.org. 2002-04-07. Retrieved 2016-11-20.
  27. ^ "Index - DeBakey Excellence in Research Awards - Baylor College of Med…". 7 September 2013. Archived from the original on 7 September 2013.
  28. ^ "Texas Children's Cancer and Hematology Centers Dr. Malcolm Brenner an…". 7 September 2013. Archived from the original on 7 September 2013.
  29. ^ Fogleman, L. DeBakey Medical Foundation Supports Endowe d Scholarship Fund for Baylor University Medical Humanities Students. Baylor Media Communications. 14 July 2009.
  30. ^ "Universidad Francisco Marroquín". Ufm.edu (in Spanish). 2014-08-13. Retrieved 2016-11-20.
  31. ^ Marianne Dyson (1997). "1997 Space Technology Utilization Award". Rnasa.org. Retrieved 2011-04-19.
  32. ^ Lindbergh-Carrel Prize Archived February 7, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  33. ^ "Selected Major Awards and Honors - In Memoriam, Michael E. DeBakey, M.D. - Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas". 25 November 2008.

External links[edit]