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Michael E. DeBakey
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    (September 7, 1908-July 11, 2008)
    Born in Lake Charles, Louisiana
    Birth name was Michel Debaghi
    Pioneer of open-heart surgery, bypass surgery and angioplasty
    Invented the pump for the heart-lung machine
    Received the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1969), National Medal of Science (1987) and Congressional Gold Medal (2008)
    He had a decades-long feud with fellow heart surgery pioneer Denton Cooley.
    He was know for directing withering remarks ('I am surrounded by incompetents') to surgical residents.
    He fired aides over trivial mistakes.
    He was a name-dropper who chatted about the ailments of his famous patients.
    He wore white cowboy boots into surgery.
    Although he pioneered the surgical treatment for aortic dissection, when he suffered the condition himself (2005), he resisted undergoing surgery.
    He said of his reputation, 'If you were on the operating table, would you want a perfectionist, or someone who cared little for details?'
    He published one of the first studies linking smoking and lung cancer (1939).
    Working for the Surgeon General during World War II, he helped develop the concept of Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) units.
    He supervised a quintuple-byass on Boris Yeltsin (1996), who called him 'a magician of the heart.'
    He performed surgery into his 90s.
    He performed an estimated 60,000 operations over his lifetime.
    The Journal of the American Medical Association noted, 'Many consider Michael E. DeBakey to be the greatest surgeon ever.' (2005)

Credit: C. Fishel

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