|Vol. 20, No. 19||October 15, 1998|
50 Years at the Baylor College of Medicine
In the 50 years since Dr. Michael E. DeBakey assumed the position of chairman of surgery at Baylor College of Medicine, the art of cardiovascular surgery has been defined by his work. His commitments to Baylor's affiliated hospitals - notably The Methodist Hospital, the Houston Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the Harris County Hospital District - have greatly contributed to those hospitals' reputations of excellence. Dr. DeBakey's belief in Baylor's network of affiliated hospitals has resulted in one of the very finest teaching programs in the world.
This special edition of the Texas Medical Center News commemorates Dr. DeBakey's immense pioneering work. The special section beginning on page 7 includes remembrances and testimonials from friends and colleagues, a brief narrative of his career, and a selection of photographs. To celebrate Dr. DeBakey's 50 years at Baylor, the college is hosting a scientific colloquium on Nov. 5 (see page 9).
In early October this year, Germany granted permission for human clinical trials of a ventricular assist device designed by Dr. DeBakey and engineers at NASA. The tiny axial flow pump, about the size of two AA batteries, was designed to assist a patient's failing heart while waiting for a transplant. Dr. DeBakey thinks the pump, about one-tenth the size of existing ventricular assist devices, might well be used for longer periods, taking over for the damaged heart and even allowing it to recover.
The tiny axial flow pump is the most recent example of Dr. DeBakey's imagination and commitment to healing the ailing human heart.
His work on the Dacron artificial artery in the early 1950s demonstrated a surgical treatment for diseased arteries. Dr. DeBakey's surgeries on the aorta itself in the mid-1950s, and on the carotid artery also, demonstrated that aneurysms could be resected and the arteries successfully grafted. Perhaps no other surgeries have been so trailblazing.
Coronary bypass surgery, which is almost considered routine today, was pioneered by Dr. DeBakey in the mid-1960s. In 1965 he introduced the use of telemedicine, televising live open heart surgery from The Methodist Hospital to a university hospital in Geneva.
He was the first to demonstrate - in 1966 - the successful use of the left ventricular bypass pump.
His work in transplantation - the first multi-organ transplant operation, with four recipients receiving the organs from one donor, was performed at the Methodist/Baylor center - and in artificial hearts during the late 1960s and 1970s again demonstrated that radical surgical approaches can yield success.
More recently, Dr. DeBakey has focused on the mystery of atherosclerosis and its relation to the blockage in some major arteries; his analysis of over 15,000 patients indicates that while a high fat diet (and other risk factors) may contribute to developing heart disease, it does not appear to cause atherosclerosis.
The Texas Medical Center News is proud to publish this issue honoring Dr. Michael E. DeBakey - surgeon, educator, medical statesman.
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