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Michael DeBakey was an American surgeon, educator, statesman, and a pioneer in surgical procedures to treat defects and diseases of the cardiovascular system. He also built a premier medical center from the small Baylor University School of Medicine in Houston.
See the fact file below for more information on the Michael DeBakey or alternatively, you can download our 25-page Michael DeBakey worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- Michael Ellis DeBakey was born Michel Dabaghi, on September 7, 1908, in Lake Charles, Louisiana. He was the oldest of five siblings born to Lebanese immigrants Shaker Morris and Raheeja Debaghi. The family’s names were later Anglicized to DeBakey, and their oldest son’s name became Michael DeBakey.
- DeBakey’s siblings, Ernest, Lois, Sema, and Selena, all excelled in school. His younger brother became a surgeon like him, while two of his sisters pioneered scientific communication studies.
- DeBakey’s father owned rice farms, drugstores, and estate agencies, while his mother was an accomplished seamstress.
- The young Michael DeBakey helped out keeping books in the drugstore, where he was inspired to become a doctor after meeting several local physicians who frequented their pharmacy.
- As a child, DeBakey had a lot of interests. He learned how to sew from his mother, and he could already sew his own shirt at ten.
- DeBakey knew how to grow vegetables in his garden, an accomplishment for which he received awards.
- He was also so fascinated with the Encyclopedia Britannica that he finished reading it from beginning to end before entering high school. He also knew how to play several musical instruments.
- In 1927, DeBakey entered Tulane University to complete his premedical course, gaining his BSC after two years. He worked part-time in surgical labs and was mentored by Rudolph Matas and Alton Ochsner, who encouraged him to specialize in surgery.
- He was still in medical school when he invented a roller pump, initially used in blood transfusions, and which later became an integral component of heart-lung machines.
- DeBakey earned his MD in 1932. The following year, he did an internship at Charity Hospital in New Orleans until 1935. The new doctor also received an MS in 1935 after researching stomach ulcers.
- His mentors encouraged him to get further surgical training in Europe, so he studied with René Leriche at the University of Strasbourg for a year and later spent another year working with Martin Kirschner at Heidelberg University. He returned in 1937 and joined the faculty at Tulane University.
- In 1942, when World War II broke out, DeBakey served in the Surgical Consultants Division of the Army Surgeon General’s Office.
- He and his colleagues formulated a plan to improve surgical services and developed the Auxiliary Surgical Groups, aiming to provide surgical care to wounded troops near the front lines.
- They were deployed in 1943 and later evolved into MASH or the Mobile Auxiliary Surgical Hospital during the Korean and Vietnam Wars. After the wars, DeBakey was asked to stay in military service to help coordinate medical units to receive many returning soldiers.
- He was able to return to Tulane in 1946. Still, he had to keep shuttling to Washington for several years to serve on the Medical Taskforce of the first Hoover Commission, aiming to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the government programs.
- He also proposed to enable follow-up studies on veterans’ health using the vast medical records collected during the war. The National Research Council’s Medical Follow-Up Agency was created and produced a lot of information about the progress of countless medical conditions. In 1958, the Agency compiled a database of 16,000 pairs of twins who had served in the military. It still serves as a tremendous source of research.
- In 1948, DeBakey accepted an offer from the Baylor University College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, to head its department of surgery.
- DeBakey initially hesitated to take the position because it was a small school with no teaching hospital and clinical faculty.
- In his first year, he set up a surgical residency medical program based on a newly opened Veterans Affairs hospital and the local charity hospital, established surgical research laboratories, upgraded the medical curriculum, and hired qualified staff and faculty.
- He separated the Baylor College of Medicine from Baylor University in 1968 and became its CEO, then President from 1969 to 1979, as Chancellor from 1979–1986, and Chancellor Emeritus from 1986–2008. While performing his duties in the College of Medicine, he continued as the head of the surgery department until 1993.
- DeBakey’s innovative approach to the surgical treatment for vascular disease made him known as one of the world’s most famous surgeons.
- He also made Baylor one of the most prestigious colleges in medicine because of his leadership and reputation.
- DeBakey and Denton Cooley were the first Americans to perform surgery on the abdominal aortic aneurysm successfully. Soon, they were able to apply the technique on progressively more difficult aneurysm repairs in the upper section of the aorta.
- DeBakey consistently researched and improved surgical procedures. When the first heart-lung bypass machines were invented, he was among the first to use them to perform open-heart operations. He conceived new techniques to repair dissecting aneurysms and was the first to do procedures such as carotid endarterectomy and patch-graft angioplasty successfully.
- He performed the coronary bypass operation in 1964 and the first multiple-organ transplant in 1968 successfully.
- In 1966, he was the first to implant a left ventricular bypass pump successfully, and in 1996 with the collaboration of the NASA engineers, they started to develop a miniaturized axial-flow ventricular assist device, which he called the DeBakey VAD.
- DeBakey continued performing surgeries until he was 90. There was a rough estimate that he performed over 60,000 operations and trained several thousand surgeons.
LATER AND PERSONAL LIFE
- DeBakey married Diana Cooper, a nursing supervisor at Charity Hospital, in 1937 after returning from Europe and joining the Tulane faculty. The two had four sons, Michael, Ernest, Barry, and Denis.
- In 1972, Cooper died of a heart attack. DeBakey married a German actress, Katrin Fehlhaber, three years later. They had one daughter, Olga.
- He was diagnosed with a dissecting aneurysm in 2006 and had his personally trained surgeons perform surgery on him using the procedure he had devised 50 years ago.
- He recovered but died two years later due to natural causes two months before reaching his 100 birthday.
- DeBakey was once dubbed as “the Texas Tornado” by cardiologist Paul Dudley White for leaving an astonishing legacy in surgical innovation, medical education and research, and health care policy.
- Most of his colleagues remembered him as extremely demanding and a perfectionist in the operating room, which DeBakey countered as him just wanting to eliminate errors. He was, however, a calm, attentive, and caring doctor to his patients and their families.
Michael DeBakey Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about Michael DeBakey across 25 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Michael DeBakey worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about Michael DeBakey who was an American surgeon, educator, statesman, and a pioneer in surgical procedures to treat defects and diseases of the cardiovascular system. He also built a premier medical center from the small Baylor University School of Medicine in Houston.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Michael DeBakey Facts
- The Doctor’s Bio
- Describing DeBakey
- Educating the Future Surgeon
- The DeBakey Inquiry
- The Doctor’s Life
- Fact or Bluff
- The Surgeon’s Firsts
- DeBakey’s Criticism
- The Surgeon’s Speech
- Three Major Accomplishments
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