To the editor:
Michael E DeBakey, 99, was recently awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest award rarely given by Congress to distinguished individuals (requiring co-sponsorship by two-thirds of Congressional membership).
He is only the fourth physician to receive this award. Others were Walter Reed, M.D. (discovered mosquito transmission of yellow fever), Jonas Salk, M.D. (developed polio vaccine) and Thomas A. Dooley, III, M.D. (humanitarian and author).
Dr. DeBakey's parents emigrated from Lebanon to Louisiana where he was born, They placed great value on education. Michael read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica in high school. He attended Tulane University and as a medical student began research on a mechanical blood pump. He became a vascular surgeon as well as outstanding author, teacher and researcher. He is credited with inventing and perfecting scores of medical devices, techniques and procedures.
Dacron arteries, arterial bypass operations, artificial hearts, heart pumps and heart transplants are fairly common in today's medicine, thanks in part to Dr. DeBakey.
Dr. DeBakey developed the Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals (M.A.S.H.) concept for the military, which led to saving thousands of wounded in all conflicts since the Korean War. He led the movement to establish the National Library of Medicine, now the world's largest medical library.
Dr. DeBakey's writings are reflected in more than 1,300 medical articles, chapters and books. This amazingly prolific surgeon performed more than 60,000 cardiovascular procedures and helped train thousands of surgeons who practice throughout the world.
Even at the age of 99, Dr. DeBakey remains active and speaks very well. He credits his parents and his traditional Christian upbringing as the biggest influences in his life.
"The traditional values of honesty, integrity, compassion and service are still relevant," he said. "I believe all of us should strive to make some contribution, however small or grand, to society and should observe the Golden Rule in living our lives. If that rule were universally observed, we would have attained that precious goal-peace."
Edward F. Ragsdale, M.D.
President, Madison County Medical Society