Renowned Houston heart surgeon, Dr. Denton Cooley, dead at 96

denton-cooley

HOUSTON — Renowned Houston heart surgeon, Dr. Denton Arthur Cooley, has died. He was 96.

Cooley is famously known for performing the first implantation of a total artificial heart. He is also founder and surgeon in-chief of The Texas Heart Institute, chief of Cardiovascular Surgery at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital, consultant in Cardiovascular Surgery at Texas Children’s Hospital, and a clinical professor of Surgery at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

Wikipedia lists his accomplishments and life. Cooley graduated in 1941 from The University of Texas at Austin, where he was a member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity and the Texas Cowboys, played on the basketball team, and majored in zoology. He became interested in surgery through several pre-med classes he attended in college and began his medical education at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. He completed his medical degree and his surgical training at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, where he also completed his internship. At Johns Hopkins, he worked with Dr. Alfred Blalock and assisted in the first “Blue Baby” procedure to correct an infant’s congenital heart defect.

In 1946 Cooley was called to active duty with the Army Medical Corps. There, he served as chief of surgical services at the station hospital in Linz, Austria, and was discharged in 1948 with the rank of captain. He then returned to complete his residency at Johns Hopkins and remain as an instructor in surgery. In 1950 he went to London to work with Lord Russell Brock.

In the 1950s Cooley returned to Houston to become associate professor of surgery at Baylor College of Medicine and to work at its affiliate institution, The Methodist Hospital.During the 1950s, Cooley began working with Michael E. DeBakey. During that time he worked on developing a new method of removing aortic aneurysms, the bulging weak spots that may develop in the wall of the artery.

In 1960, Cooley moved his practice to St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital while continuing to teach at Baylor. In 1962 he founded The Texas Heart Institute with private funds and, following a dispute with DeBakey, he resigned his position at Baylor in 1969.

On March 13, 1972, the Denton A. Cooley Cardiovascular Surgical Society was founded at the Texas Heart Institute by the Residents and Fellows of Cooley to honor him. Founding President Philip S. Chua had envisioned this exclusive Society to foster academic, professional and personal camaraderie among cardiac surgeons in the United States and around the world through scientific seminars and symposia. There are now more than 900 cardiac surgeons from more than 50 countries around the globe who are members of the Denton A. Cooley Cardiovascular Surgical Society.

Cooley and the heart surgeon Michael DeBakey had a professional rivalry that lasted more than 40 years. They made amends in a public rapprochement on November 7, 2007, when DeBakey was 99 years old (Cooley was 87).