Tuesday, November 27, 2007

DeBakey and Cooley

There is a very nice article in the New York Times today (thanks to Dr Anonymous for the tip) on the forty plus year feud between Dr. Michael A. DeBakey (now 99 yr) and Dr. Denton A. Cooley(now 87 yr). It highlights some important medical/surgical history.

"The breach began in 1960, when Dr. Cooley left Dr. DeBakey’s practice at Methodist and moved the few hundred yards to St. Luke’s Hospital, where he later established the Texas Heart Institute. But it was an incident in 1969 that turned the rift into a full-blown feud.

It happened when Dr. Cooley, without approval from Dr. DeBakey or Baylor, commandeered an artificial heart from his former partner’s lab and implanted it in a patient at St. Luke’s.

Over the years, Dr. DeBakey has called that first-ever use of a total artificial heart a theft, a betrayal, unethical and “a childish act” to claim a medical first. Dr. Cooley defended the implant as a desperate, if ultimately unsuccessful, act to save a life."

8 comments:

Roy and Lori said...

You have a very nice blog! I
really enjoyed reading some
of the post! Take care and
have a wonderful holiday
season!

rlbates said...

Thank you very much Roy & Lori. I hope you have a wonderful holiday season too.

Sid Schwab said...

Quite a story. One of my most important mentors trained under deBakey, and I heard lots of stories, both good and bad. Two enormous egos, those. But great surgeons. From what I understand Cooley was much the better technically. It's nice that they had some sort of reconciliation, and amazing that deBakey is still alive!

Bruce said...

When I was a fellow at a neighboring hospital in Houston, I used to go to conferences at Methodist. One Saturday morning, a sports car whipped into a spot by the loading dock and out hopped Dr. DeBakey, dressed in scrubs, wearing a paper surgical cap, and carrying a Circle-K plastic coffee mug. Without looking up, he rushed into the hospital. A memorable sight.

Talk to anyone who trained at Baylor in those days and you will get a dozen stories.

Alessandro said...

I had the good fortune to train under both Drs. Cooley and DeBakey. There is more to the rift between them than what was described in the article.

The most interesting thing I found working under both men was the incredible difference in their personalities. Dr. Cooley was a true gentleman and scholar. Dr. DeBakey, on the other hand, was arrogant and rude. He was notorious for making other doctors, residents and medical students get off the elevator because he didn't want to ride with them. (He would stick a key in, turn off the elevator, and wait for them to get off; then he'd turn the key back on, and go where he wanted to go.)

DeBakey had fallings out with lots of people as a result of his attitude.

In contrast, everyone loves Dr. Cooley.

rlbates said...

Thanks for your comment Alessandro. Do you have a blog? Would love to read your stories.

Anonymous said...

I worked with Dr. DeBakey over 17 years and I rode the elevator many times and he never asked me to get off the elevator. Dr. DeBakey was tough, but fair and he made you want to be the best and do your best. He was always kind and gentle. I have seen him do many, many generous acts. Dr. Cooley was a jerk, and a hypocrite. He had no right stealing that heart out of Dr. DeBakey's lab. He was trying to grabe the spot light and make himself bigger than he really was. I knew a scrub nurse of his, and she said he could be a real sh*** sometimes, an angel he is not.

Anonymous said...

What planet do you live on? Not everybody liked Cooley, hell his onwn kid did not like him much. One of his daughters killer herself because he was such a rotten father. She left a note telling him, he loved his work so much, he could use her heart after she was dead, then maybe she could get some of his attention and time.