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Title: Blog by Novelist William S. Frankl, MD

A Great Physician Has Died

Dr. Michael Ellis DeBakey died on July 11, 2008.  He was a world-renowned surgeon, scholar, researcher, educator, inventor, leader, soldier, statesman, humanitarian, and philanthropist with a lifetime of accomplishments so enormous as to be almost inconceivable.
His medical inventions began while he was a medical student at Tulane University.  He invented the roller pump for use in blood transfusions.  Years later it became an indispensable part of the heart-lung machine that launched open heart surgery.
In 1942, he enlisted in the United States Army and was assigned to the office of the surgeon general.  Throughout World War II and early thereafter, he helped establish Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals( MASH Units), a registry for war injuries, the Veteran Administration Hospitals, and the National Library of Medicine.
In 1948, Dr. DeBakey became chairman of the Department of Surgery at Baylor University College of Medicine in the newly formed Texas Medical Center in Houston. He and his associates pioneered and advanced the field of cardiovascular surgery, making the Texas Medical Center a health care mecca that offered new life-saving operations and therapies even to the present day.
In 1964, Dr. DeBakey obtained the initial National Institutes of Health funding to develop a total artificial heart. Two years later, he performed the first successful implantation of a left ventricular assist device for the treatment of heart failure. In 1968, he was among the first in the United States to establish a heart transplant program. In 1969, he became the first president of the Baylor College of Medicine while still serving as chairman of the Department of surgery. In 1975, Dr. DeBakey participated in this establishment and funding of the National Heart and Blood Vessel Research Development Centers. He was also instrumental in creating the Michael E. DeBakey High School for Health Professions, a magnet school combining the best of the Houston Independent School District with on-site training at the Baylor College of Medicine.
Dr. DeBakey performed about 60,000 surgeries. His awards, recognitions, and achievements are too numerous to list. However, several deserve mention: the Albert Lasker Clinical Research Award; the Presidential Medal of Freedom with Distinction presented by President Lyndon B. Johnson; the National Medal of Science presented by President Ronald Reagan; and the Congressional Gold Medal presented by President George W. Bush.
Dr. DeBakey died unexpectedly on July11, 2008, just short of his 100th birthday, September 7, 2008.
His achievements were enormous. Medical giants such as he are rare, especially these days. He will be missed.

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