Heart Surgeon Michael DeBakey Dies At 99
LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:
This is Weekend Edition from NPR News, I'm Linda Wertheimer. If you or any of your loved ones are alive because of bypass surgery or a heart pump or an artificial heart, you can thank Dr. Michael DeBakey. Dr. DeBakey died Friday night of natural causes. He was 99. The heart surgeon helped develop devices and techniques to keep the old ticker going, starting in 1932 when he was still in medical school. That's when he invented the roller pump, a major component of the heart lung machine.
During his surgical career, Dr. DeBakey performed more than 60,000 operations. He once said he found performing heart surgery to be relaxing. Two years ago, he had surgery for a damaged aorta, benefiting from a procedure he developed. Dr. DeBakey also did early research on smoking and lung cancer, and took great satisfaction in finding the connections between human behavior, other risk factors and disease. In this November 2003 interview on NPR's Science Friday, Dr. DeBakey explained his belief in the importance of funding medical research.
Dr. MICHAEL DEBAKEY (Cardiovascular Surgeon): Why do we have to convince, particularly, you know, the people who are - who we ask to represent us in the budget? You know, I take a very strong position about this because for every citizen, and just think for your own self, what are the two most important priorities in the nation? First security, and second your health.
WERTHEIMER: Dr. Michael DeBakey, heart surgery pioneer. He died last night in Houston at age 99.
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