People

Denton A. Cooley, M.D., Dies at 96


tv5134_0020_v5
By Maggie Galehouse | November 18, 2016

Denton A. Cooley, M.D., a pioneer of cardiovascular surgery who performed the first successful human heart transplant in the United States and became the first heart surgeon to implant a total artificial heart in a human, died on Friday, Nov. 18.

He was 96.

In the early years of his career, when heart surgery was in its infancy, Cooley operated on a dozen patients a day.

“I did the first successful heart transplant in the United States, and I was so impressed with the fact that you could actually replace this pump for the whole circulatory system,” Cooley told TMC Pulse magazine in 2014. “The heart is one of the simplest organs in the body… not nearly as complex as the liver or the kidneys.”

Just two years ago, at age 94, Cooley worked 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., four days a week.

“I’ve always thought life was like a marathon,” Cooley said in 2014. “You want to save some effort for the last hundred yards and have a little kick at the finish. And that’s what I would like to do.”

Cooley went to the University of Texas, where he was a varsity basketball player. After two years at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, he transferred to Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, graduating in 1944. He went on to serve as a faculty member at what is today Baylor College of Medicine alongside the late Michael E. DeBakey, M.D., then the chairman of the Baylor department of surgery.

The 1950s and 60s ushered in exciting advancements in cardiovascular surgery—from the introduction of open-heart surgery, to transplantation, to mechanical assist devices—and Houston surgeons were at the center of it.

The Texas Medical Center was growing at that time, and Cooley saw an opportunity to create a heart institute in a clinical partnership with what is today CHI St. Luke’s Health–Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center.

Cooley founded the Texas Heart Institute in 1962 and served as its surgeon-in chief for more than 40 years.

“Dr. Cooley wanted to create an entity that would try, through research, to help people with cardiovascular disease,” James T. Willerson, M.D., president of the Texas Heart Institute, told Pulse in 2014. “He and his colleagues at the time were doing most of the heart surgery for the entire United States, in adults and children. But he wanted to do more than the surgery, and he believed that he could establish a Texas Heart Institute that would be involved in research and education—the education of young doctors, in all facets of cardiovascular disease.”

Cooley will be remembered for his great technical skills, enormous experience, and wonderful judgment about what needed to be done in individual patients.

Willerson told Pulse in 2014 that Cooley was “probably the very best heart surgeon who has ever lived.”

Read more about Dr. Cooley at https://www.facebook.com/texasmedcenter/posts/1794399344176656

 




Social Posts

profile_image

BCMHouston

@bcmhouston

RT @bcm_ocd: So excited to have Dr. Jeff Wood present the results of our NIH funded study examining personalized CBT vs. standard care CBT…

22 mins ago
profile_image

BCMHouston

@bcmhouston

RT @BCMHoustonJobs: We're hiring! Read about our latest job opening here: Instructor - Nurse Practitioner - https://t.co/ZKY1iNNTuY #Health…

22 mins ago
profile_image

BCMHouston

@bcmhouston

RT @BCMHouston_News: How can you tell if your baby caught a cold and how long will the symptoms last? @bcmhouston and @TexasChildrens exper…

23 mins ago
profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Army Veteran Louis D. Brinner, who served as a rifleman in Europe during WWII and turns 100 Nov. 22: https://t.co/g8CQSNuLTI

28 mins ago
profile_image

Texas Children's

@TexasChildrens

At @TexasChildrens, we know all about helping children and their families through stressful times like surgeries. Take a look at these helpful tools to use as you prepare for your child's surgery: https://t.co/4wyHxbjcxe https://t.co/xBp95faWly

56 mins ago
profile_image

Rice University

@RiceUniversity

Even though this lightweight material is full of holes, it's nearly as hard as diamond and stops bullets better than solid materials: https://t.co/N1QBG6C6yz https://t.co/XKyesrwt6c

58 mins ago
profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

@ShirleyHelenTx We're sending good vibes your way, Shirley. Please let us know if your husband needs anything while he's here.

1 hour ago
profile_image

TexasHeartInstitute

@Texas_Heart

A "silent heart attack" is caused by ischemia, a temporary blood shortage. Sometimes the shortage causes the pain of angina pectoris. But in other cases, there is no pain. These cases are called silent ischemia, or "silent heart attacks." https://t.co/UKu4mglkKJ

2 hours ago
profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

After seeing photos of herself from a family celebration, Adriana Mercado was shocked at how unhealthy she looked. Now, thanks to a walking routine, she’s lost 70 pounds and improved her overall health: https://t.co/dx7z4STihG @FocusedonHealth #endcancer https://t.co/NVmGyo6r8W

2 hours ago
profile_image

University of Houston

@UHouston

Coogs, we love you ❄️SNOW❄️ much! Happy #CougarRedFriday https://t.co/d43lBGfJBX

2 hours ago
profile_image

Rice University

@RiceUniversity

@debadrita_j Thank you!

2 hours ago
profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

@EstopinalCathy We're sorry to hear about your brother, Cathy. You're in our thoughts.

2 hours ago
profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

VA, Prostate Cancer Foundation seek solutions for aggressive prostate cancer https://t.co/uGXX5vPImo via #VAntagePoint

2 hours ago
profile_image

Rice University

@RiceUniversity

@debadrita_j This is beautiful! Can we share this on Instagram and credit you?

3 hours ago
profile_image

UTHealth

@UTHealth

RT @UTH_CVSurgery: Congratulations to Dr. Anthony Estrera @estrera_md, honored and appointed the Hazim J. Safi, MD, Distinguished Chair in…

4 hours ago