Denton Cooley on Findagrave
Birth: Aug. 22, 1920
Death: Still Living
Heart Surgeon, Researcher, Writer, Inventor, Medical Pioneer. Majored in Zoology while attending the University of Texas and was also a player on the varsity basketball team. While there he took pre-med courses and became interested in surgery, thus changing his life course. After attending the Texas College of Medicine in Galveston, Texas and earning his medical degree at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore in 1944, he went on to intern there. While interning at Johns Hopkins he assisted Dr. Alfred Blalock in the first 'blue baby' operation which corrected an infant's congenital heart defect. This experience was a turning point and he decided to specialize in heart surgery. Active duty with the Army Medical Corps in 1946 had him serving as Chief of Surgical Services in Linz, Austria and he was discharged with the rank of Captain in 1948. In 1950 he went to London to study with Lord Russell Brock, a British surgeon. Offered the position of associate professor of surgery at the Baylor University College of Medicine, he came back to Houston in 1951. His collaboration with Dr. Michael DeBakey began at that time. Great accomplishments were made in surgery while the two developed new methods of removing aortic aneurysms and worked on a heart-lung bypass machine. Cooley's design was successful at the Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas in 1955. He founded the privately funded Texas Heart Institute in 1962, was the first surgeon to successfully remove pulmonary embolisms and helped develop artificial heart valves. The International Surgical Society awarded him their highest honor, the Renee' Lebiche Prize in 1967. They called him 'the most valuable surgeon of the heart and blood vessel anywhere in the world'. Although not the first surgeon to transplant a human heart he did streamline the procedure and performed the operation successfully on May 03, 1968. The patient survived for 204 days with the transplanted heart. During the next year he performed 22 heart transplants. In 1969 he had no donor heart for a dying patient so he took a risk and implanted an experimental artificial heart. The patient survived for 65 hours and then received a human heart transplant. Ending his 19 year association with Baylor University in 1969 he turned his attention to coronary bypass operations and went to practice at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital, Houston, Texas. By the year 1972 he had performed over 1200 bypass operations and 10,000 open heart operations. The Denton A. Cooley Cardiovascular Surgical Foundation was founded in 1972. It consists of a group of surgeons trained by him and is located in the Texas Heart Institute. Dr. Cooley was awarded the National Medal of Freedom by President Ronald Reagan and the National Medal of Technology by President Bill Clinton. He invented fabric heart grafts that have been used in more than one million patients, along with many heart surgical tools.
(bio by: Julie Karen Hancock (Cooper) Jackson)