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Michael Ellis DeBakey

Michael Ellis DeBakey

The American surgeon Michael Ellis DeBakey (born 1908) devised procedures for replacing diseased portions of the aorta, and was a leader in the devel opment of the artificial heart.

Michael DeBakey was born in Lake Charles, Louisiana, on September 7, 1908. From early on he had a keen interest in biology, and he received his bachelor of science degree in 1930, his medical degree in 1932, and a master of science degree for research on peptic ulcers in 1935, from Tulane University. He then served as a medical resident in Europe at the universities of Strasbourg and Heidelberg. He married Diana Cooper on Oct. 15, 1936.

In 1937, DeBakey became a member of the Tulane faculty. Except for service during World War II in the Surgeon General's Office, where he rose to become chief of the surgery consultants division, he remained at Tulane until 1948. DeBakey had already become an expert in blood transfusion and had developed a roller-type pump for use in transfusions. It became an important component of the heart-lung machine.

In 1948 DeBakey was appointed professor of surgery at Baylor University College of Medicine in Houston, Tex. A year later he assumed responsibilities as surgeon in chief at Houston's Ben Taub General Hospital. In the 1950s DeBakey originated complex surgical procedures for the correction of aneurysms and blockages of the aorta involving replacing the diseased part with Dacron tubing.

The work for which DeBakey is best known involves the artificial heart. He initially concentrated on developing a left ventricular bypass (half an artificial heart) and in 1967 successfully implanted his device. He worked toward the development of a completely artificial heart and believed that such a heart was the ultimate answer to human heart replacement in spite of others' interest in heart transplantation.

In 1969 a former colleague, Dr. Denton Cooley, implanted a completely artificial heart in a human. Since Cooley had worked closely with DeBakey and because he was assisted by Dr. Domingo Liotta, who had worked with DeBakey on the artificial heart, DeBakey claimed priority of development. Cooley's artificial heart was not successful, and DeBakey held that much more work was needed to perfect the device.

DeBakey earned numerous awards and honors. In 1963, he received the prestigious Albert Lasker Award for Clinical Research. The next year, he served on the President's Commission on Heart Disease, Cancer and Stroke. This Commission recommended, among other things, the establishment of intensive-care centers for these diseases and community centers for diagnosis. He received the Medal of Freedom with Distinction in 1969, and the Presidential Medal of Science in 1987. In 1976 his students from around the world established the Michael E. DeBakey International Surgical Society, and Baylor University founded the Michael E. Debakey Center for Biomedical Education and the DeBakey Lectureship. DeBakey has authored well over one thousand published medical-scientific articles and more extensive works. His books include Battle Casualties, Incidence, Mortality, and Logistic Considerations (1952) with G. W. Beebe and Cold Injury, Ground Type (1958) with T. F Whayne.

In addition to his other positions DeBakey was chairman of the Department of Medicine at Methodist Hospital in Houston, physician in chief at the Fondren-Brown Cardiovascular Research Center, and director of the DeBakey Heart Center of Baylor and Methodist Hospital. In 1996, DeBakey again achieved international repute serving as consultant to the surgeons who performed heart bypass surgery on Russian President Boris Yeltsin.

Further Reading

The greatest compilation of DeBakey's research can be found in his own The Living Heart, as well as in its sequels, The Living Heart's Shopper's Guide and The Living Heart's Guide to Eating Out. DeBakey's work is briefly discussed in Richard Hardaway Meade, An Introduction to the History of General Surgery (1968), and Robert G. Richardson, Surgery: Old and New Frontiers (1969), which is a revised and enlarged edition of The Surgeon's Tale (1958). □

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DeBakey, Michael Ellis

Michael Ellis DeBakey (dəbā´kē), 1908–2008, American surgeon, b. Lake Charles, La. While still at Tulane medical school (M.D., 1932), DeBakey developed the roller pump, which later became an essential component of the heart-lung machine, and he later made refinements in the technique of blood transfusions. During World War II he helped develop what became the mobile army surgical hospital (MASH), allowing treatment of war casualties near the front lines. In 1948, DeBakey became head of surgery at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, and his work there made that institution an important center for medical research and education. Five years later, he made medical history by performing the first successful carotid endarterectomy. A pioneer in Dacron grafts for blood vessels, DeBakey revolutionized the surgery of aneurysms. In 1966 he successfully implanted a ventricular assist device (see heart, artificial) in a patient; it was removed after the patient's heart strengthened. He also led (1968) the team of surgeons that performed the first multiple organ harvest and transplant, in which four patients received organs from a single donor. DeBakey, who received a Lasker Award in 1963, was president of Baylor College of Medicine from 1969 to 1979 and chancellor from 1979 to 1996; he retired as head of surgery in 1993.

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DeBakey, Michael Ellis

DeBAKEY, Michael Ellis

(b. 7 September 1908 in Lake Charles, Louisiana), surgeon, inventor, and medical statesman who, during the 1960s, developed the left ventricle assist devise (LVAD), performed heart transplants, demonstrated open-heart surgery for satellite transmission, and performed the first aortocoronary artery bypass.

DeBakey was the oldest of five children born to self-educated Lebanese immigrants Shaker Morris, a businessman, and Raheega Zorba. The valedictorian of his high school class, he attended Tulane University. There he acquired his B.S. degree in 1930 and attended medical school. He earned his medical degree in 1932 and an M.S. in 1935. In 1932, while he was still a student, he invented the roller pump used in the heart-lung machine.

Following graduation from medical school, DeBakey continued his education at Charity Hospital in New Orleans and in Europe. Upon his return to the United States in 1937, he joined the Tulane faculty, where he stayed until he volunteered for World War II. During the war he served in the Office of the Surgeon General, where he recommended the establishment of mobile army surgical hospital (MASH) units to serve wounded soldiers on the front line. He also helped to create the systems for treating soldiers returning from war, which became the Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center System, and for following veterans with specific medical problems, which became the VA Medical Research Program. When the war ended, DeBakey returned to Tulane. In 1948 he moved to Houston to join the faculty of Baylor University College of Medicine, where he has remained throughout his life.

By the 1950s DeBakey's energies were focused on the diagnosis and treatment of arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). He pioneered revolutionary operation after revolutionary operation, many of which eventually became standard medical practice and saved countless lives. Between 1950 and 1953, using his wife's sewing machine, he created Dacron artificial arteries to replace damaged sections. Other procedures he pioneered were the removal and graft replacement of an aneurysm (swelling caused by weakness in an artery wall), the removal of blockage in a carotid artery (the artery of the neck carrying blood to the brain), the resection and grafting on the ascending aorta and on the section of the aorta that curves over the heart, and the patch-graft angioplasty to reverse narrowing of an artery.

Throughout the 1960s DeBakey continued his achievements in heart surgery. He and his team developed the then-controversial left ventricular assist device (LVAD). In 1966 the LVAD kept a patient alive until she could be weaned from the heart-lung machine. By the late 1960s DeBakey and his team had developed an artificial heart, which was tested in calves. The device was unsuccessful, so the team returned to researching LVAD. Later, two members of the team implanted a similar artificial heart without success, validating DeBakey's decision not to proceed.

In the early 1960s DeBakey developed coronary bypass surgery when he realized that the sections around diseased vessels were healthy, and that routing the flow of blood around the diseased vessels allowed normal blood flow to resume, preventing a heart attack. In 1964 he performed the first aortocoronary artery bypass surgery by using a vein from the patient's leg to bypass the damaged area. This, too, has become a standard surgical procedure. Other medical achievements in the 1960s included his involvement in interactive telemedicine and his performance of transplants. In 1963 DeBakey's demonstration of open-heart surgery was broadcast abroad. DeBakey performed the first twelve heart transplants in 1968 and supervised the first successful multiple-organ transplant the same year. A heart, two kidneys, and a lung were transplanted from one donor to four patients. Later, DeBakey stopped performing transplants until the drugs to combat rejection of transplanted organs improved.

DeBakey applied his prestige to influencing public medical policy—even if that policy went against the feelings of other physicians. He was appointed by President Lyndon Baines Johnson to head the Commission on Heart Disease, Cancer and Stroke in 1964. This commission recommended establishing intensive care centers for these diseases and community centers for diagnosis and emergency care. The commission also found that there were major differences in the quality of health care available in medical centers in major cities as opposed to smaller cities and rural areas, and that physicians delayed learning new life-saving techniques—a finding that angered the American Medical Association. Although many physicians were opposed to Medicare, DeBakey urged President Johnson to support it. He also helped Mary Lasker seek funding for medical research by helping her lobby Congress. In 1942 Lasker and her husband had founded the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation to raise awareness of certain diseases and the need for more research funding. In 1944, the Lakers began honoring physicians and scientists for achievements in research. Many winners went on to receive Nobel prizes. The Laskers believed that only with government assistance could there be enough money for medical research. Lasker began lobbying Congress. She convinced Congress to fund research on cancer, heart disease, mental illness, blindness and other diseases. Lasker worked tirelessly to pass the National Cancer Act, which revamped the National Cancer Institute and increased its money for research. DeBakey was active in these efforts to secure government funding during the administrations of several presidents, from Harry S. Truman through Jimmy Carter.

In 1968, when the Baylor University College of Medicine faced a financial crisis, they turned to DeBakey. He suggested separating the medical school from the university and establishing a new board of trustees from Houston's business and civic leaders. The medical school received a charter from the State of Texas, and DeBakey became the president. The school's finances improved, DeBakey began recruiting new talent, and Baylor University College of Medicine evolved into a prestigious institution.

DeBakey married Diane Cooper on 15 October 1936. They had four sons. Cooper died of a massive heart attack in 1972, and DeBakey remarried two years later. He and his second wife, Katrin Fehlhaber, had one daughter. During the 1960s DeBakey earned numerous awards. He was corecipient of the Albert Lasker Award for Clinical Research (1963), and recipient of the Eleanor Roosevelt Humanities Award (1969), and the Presidential Medal of Freedom with Distinction (1969). In his nineties DeBakey still was considered the "Texas Tornado." He operated, wrote, and lectured around the world. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the United Nations in 1999 and was cited as a "Living Legend" by the Library of Congress in 2000. DeBakey's significance lies in his continued achievement into his nineties—he has never stopped inventing, researching, and lecturing.

Biographical information about DeBakey is in Denise Adams Arnold, "Michael Ellis DeBakey," Notable Twentieth-Century Scientists (1995), and Lawrence K. Altman, "Dr. DeBakey at 90: Stringent Standards and a Steady Hand," New York Times (1 Sept. 1998).

Sheila Beck

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Debakey, Michael Ellis

DEBAKEY, Michael Ellis

DEBAKEY, Michael Ellis. American, b. 1908. Genres: Medicine/Health. Career: Baylor College of Medicine, Chairman, Dept. of Surgery, 1948-93, Distinguished Service Professor, 1968-, President, 1969-79, Chancellor, 1978-96, Olga Keith Wiess Professor of Surgery, 1981-, Chancellor Emeritus, 1996-; DeBakey Medical Foundation, Houston, President, 1961-; DeBakey Heart Center, Director, 1985-. Journal of Vascular Surgery, Founding Ed.; Cardiovascular Research Center Bulletin, Editorial Committee, Chairman; Contemporary Therapy, Ed., Section on Cardiovascular Surgery, Contemporary Surgery, and Surgical Section on Cardiovascular Disease; Year Book Publishers, Year Book of General Surgery, Chicago, Ed., 1957-71. Publications: The Blood Bank and the Technique and Therapeutics of Transfusions, 1942; (co-author) Battle Casualties: Incidence, Mortality, and Logistic Considerations, 1952; Christopher's Minor Surgery, 7th ed., 1955, 8th ed. (co-ed.), 1959; (co-author) Cold Injury: Ground Type, 1958; (co-author) Buerger's Disease, 1963; A Surgeon's Diary of a Visit to China, 1974; The Living Heart, 1977; (ed.) Advances in Cardiac Valves, 1983; (co-ed.) Factors Influencing the Course of Myocardial Ischemia, 1983; The Living Heart Diet, 1984; The Living Heart Brand Name Shopper's Guide, 1992; The Living Heart Guide to Eating Out, 1993; The New Living Heart Diet, 1996; The New Living Heart, 1997. Contributor to professional books and journals. Address: Baylor College of Medicine, One Baylor Plaza, Houston, TX 77030, U.S.A.

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Michael Ellis DeBakey

Michael Ellis DeBakey

1908-

American cardiologist who pioneered the fields of heart transplantation and telemedicine. An internationally renowned surgeon, teacher, and medical statesman, DeBakey is recognized for a number of medical accomplishments. He was the first to successfully perform a coronary artery bypass and to implant a partial artificial heart in a human patient. He also helped NASA develop a miniaturized artificial heart. DeBakey revolutionized medical training and treatment by developing a satellite-based system that electronically linked remote sites of the world to the Texas Medical Center in Houston.

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