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If you like Denton Cooley's story, you might also like:
Tenley Albright,
Keith Black,
Benjamin Carson,
Paul Farmer,
Judah Folkman,
Willem Kolff and
Thomas Starzl

Denton Cooley's recommended reading: Miss Susie Slagle's

Teachers can find prepared lesson plans featuring Denton Cooley in the Achievement Curriculum section:
Frontiers of Medicine

Related Links:
Texas Heart Institute

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Denton Cooley
Denton Cooley
Profile of Denton Cooley Biography of Denton Cooley Interview with Denton Cooley Denton Cooley Photo Gallery

Denton Cooley Profile

Pioneer of Heart Transplants

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  Denton Cooley

As late as the 1940s, it was considered impossible to operate on the heart of a living patient. The tremendous advances made in cardiovascular surgery since that time are the work of many great physicians, but in this history, a few great names stick out, including those of Dr. Denton Cooley and Dr. Michael DeBakey.

While still an intern, Dr. Cooley participated in the first "blue baby" operation, to correct the congenital heart defect common in newborns. Early in his career, he pioneered the removal of aortic aneurysms, the replacement of damaged heart valves, and the development of the heart-lung machine. Dr. Cooley went on to perform the first successful human heart transplants in the United States, and was the first surgeon anywhere to implant an artificial heart in a human being.

He performed more open-heart operations than any surgeon in the world, including over 20 human heart transplants. In the middle of his career he became embroiled in controversy with his former colleague, Dr. DeBakey, but no one can dispute that he personally saved tens of thousands of lives, and through the techniques he developed and the surgeons he trained, perhaps a million more.

Denton Cooley Profile Photo
Profile: Dr. Michael E. DeBakey
Pioneer Heart Surgeon

Inducted into the Academy in 1967

No person did more to advance the surgical treatment of diseases of the heart and blood vessels than Dr. Michael DeBakey. As early as 1932, he developed components which became part of the first heart-lung machines. In 1936, he was one of the first to identify a connection between cigarette smoking and lung cancer. In the 1950s, DeBakey devised plastic tubing for repairing blood vessels, a treatment he applied to prevent recurring strokes, and kidney failure, and to restore circulation to limbs which might otherwise have been amputated. In 1963, DeBakey made history by installing an artificial pump to assist a patient's damaged heart.

As Chairman of the Department of Surgery at Baylor University in Houston, Texas, he played a major role in the evolution of heart transplantation, artificial heart implantation and coronary bypass surgery. Countless men and women owe their lives to Dr. DeBakey's work, and he was sometimes called upon to perform in the most conspicuous situations. When the life of Russian President Boris Yeltsin hung in the balance, Dr. DeBakey, already in his 80s, traveled to Russia to participate in the multiple bypass operation that saved the ailing leader's life.

Michael DeBakey received the Distinguished Service Award of the American Medical Association, and the René Leriche Award of the International Society of Surgery. Dr. DeBakey died on July 11, 2008 at the age of 99. His recollections are interspersed throughout our interview with Dr. Cooley.

This page last revised on Nov 19, 2016 15:21 EDT
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