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

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

Inez Foley said it was a privilege to serve her country https://t.co/X124XQMggA via @frednewspost

48 mins ago
profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

“Coming to MD Anderson right away saved my life. And now, it’s giving me my best opportunity to stay that way,” says Linda Duggan.She shares her #breastcancer story: https://t.co/M8aKrfdF6J @WTereffeMD @AbigailCaudleMD #bcsm #endcancer

2 hours ago
profile_image

UTHealth

@UTHealth

The Accountable Health Communities Training Team at @UTexasSPH is working to integrate healthcare and public health implementation teams to address social needs of patients: https://t.co/A0WatIJj7X #ManyFacesOfUTHealth

2 hours ago
profile_image

BCMHouston

@bcmhouston

See how Dr. Priya Davar stays fit in this week's Healthy Habits. https://t.co/Ro6Gpdox4t #healthy #habits

2 hours ago
profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

Veterans help with recovery in areas hit hardest by Hurricane Michael https://t.co/9nujT461Kk via @WJHG_TV

3 hours ago
profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

#VAResearchInAction: A multisite VA study on coronary artery bypass graft surgery, published in 2009, has helped improve how doctors perform the operation by showing the advantages of on, vs off-pump surgery for patients https://t.co/IBg4XPc9Ub via @VAECHCS @VAResearch https://t.co/YBhlQlGRBN

5 hours ago
profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

Ready to help give #cancer the boot? Join us for our @BootWalk on Saturday, Nov. 9.Register today: https://t.co/5Fne3tyOUj #endcancer https://t.co/prUGIjYRK7

5 hours ago
profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

“As a doctor, I should’ve known better,” says #colorectalcancer survivor Dr. Kenneth Rolston of putting off a #colonoscopy: https://t.co/29x843CW8j #CancerMoonshot #endcancer

6 hours ago
profile_image

BCMHouston

@bcmhouston

Join Dr. Matthew Ellis and staff member Josh Newby tomorrow for the @KomenHouston's Metastatic Breast Cancer Webinar on clinical trials. Learn more: https://t.co/pcgeeYq6ox #metastaticbreastcancer #MetastaticBreastCancerAwarenessDay

6 hours ago
profile_image

BCMHouston

@bcmhouston

Did you know lowering your blood pressure 15 points cuts your heart attack risk by 60%? See what you can do to bring your number down. https://t.co/I3bPMst5Vk #bloodpressure #hearthealth

8 hours ago
profile_image

Houston Methodist

@MethodistHosp

@WambiCares @ANCCMagCon Thanks for the shout-out

22 hours ago
profile_image

Houston Methodist

@MethodistHosp

RT @ATTSportsNetSW: TK'S Keys to the Game brought to you by @MethodistHosp@RealToddKalas tells us his keys to the @astros Game 1 of the…

22 hours ago
profile_image

Houston Methodist

@MethodistHosp

@itsgreg72 Thank you for sharing your comment with us. Houston Methodist strives to deliver the highest quality, service and care to all our patients. We would like to discuss this issue. Please call 713.441.4100 or visit https://t.co/wPtazimDiv

22 hours ago
profile_image

University of Houston

@UHouston

RT @UHCougarFB: TOUCHDOWN COOGS!@BrysonSmith_17 with a dime to Jeremy Singleton.UC 14, UH 10 (11:36/2Q) #GoCoogs https://t.co/cvxE550l…

1 day ago
profile_image

University of Houston

@UHouston

RT @UHCougars: There is still time for @UHouston students to claim their tickets to today’s game!The TDECU Stadium box office is open!…

1 day ago