The world of cardiology still holds a spot front and center in the realm of medical technology, so it only seems fitting to celebrate the birth of Michael Ellis DeBakey, MD, whose birth on Sept. 7, 1908 was followed by his passing very nearly 100 years later to the day, July 11, 2008.
In the ten decades between those two dates, the physician was published more than a thousand times in medical journals and in bound books. DeBakey’s name would become synonymous with pioneering efforts in circulatory system surgery, but the man who was born Michael Dabaghi in Lake Charles, Louisiana, would come out with his first innovation at the relatively tender age of 23, when according to the Baylor College of Medicine website, DeBakey invented the roller pump, which would collect dust for 20 years before the world realized the role it could play in the heart-lung machine.
DeBakey is also credited with having performed the first carotid artery endarterectomy, which took place in 1953, although the first endarterectomy of any kind had been performed on a femoral artery seven years earlier by Joao Cid dos Santos, MD, whose debut of the procedure is said to have taken place at the University of Lisbon.
What else you ask? DeBakey is credited with having pioneered the use of Dacron grafts, is said to have performed the first patch-graft angioplasty, and was one of the first surgeons to invite film crews into the OR to record a surgical procedure. Those who enjoy the live-action procedures routinely seen at gatherings such as TCT have DeBakey, among others, to thank for the availability of such video access.
Ironically, DeBakey suffered an aortic dissection in 2005, an event that nearly claimed his life. When he died three years later, DeBakey had unfortunately been preceded in death by his first wife and two sons, although his second wife and five other children would survive him.
Among the institutions that would also survive DeBakey’s passing is the Foundation for Biomedical Research, which supports the ethical use of animals in medical testing. Another institution of sorts, the left ventricular bypass pump, was also a product of DeBakey’s med-tech family tree.
Only occasionally is humankind blessed with the gifts of a truly rare talent – dare I say genius? – such as DeBakey’s, but his reputation is also based on longevity. DeBakey’s career spanned the latter years of the Great Depression, a world war, the fall of the Iron Curtain, dozens of congresses and a dozen U.S. presidents. DeBakey is said to have practiced medicine up to the time of his death, a standard of dedication to his craft that eclipses even his brilliance in cardiology.