A Great Surgeon With Great Standards

January 26th, 2011
Jim Thomas

The word “Integrity,” evolved in meaning across the centuries. In Biblical times it signified a measure of economic self-sufficiency. In our time, it radiates adhesion—a consistent adherence to the right ideas, convictions, and standards. Many citizens, as well as thinkers, maintain it ranks first among the cardinal virtues.

No practitioner of the healing arts better exemplified Integrity than the greatest surgeon of the twentieth century—Dr. Michael Ellis DeBakey (1908-2008). He was a world-renowned Lebanese-American cardiac surgeon. In addition to surgery, he was a medical innovator, scientist, medical educator, and international medical statesman.

His innovations in cardiac medicine were of monumental importance. They included invention of the roller pump that became an essential component of the heart lung machine. He performed the first patch-graft angioplasty and the first coronary bypass heart surgery. The list is longer.

Here’s the point. The rich and famous came from all over the world for surgery by his skillful hands. He operated on more than 50,000 patients, including heads of state. However, the poor, the meek and the wretched were also admitted to his care at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. There he continued to operate until he was 90. He won the everlasting admiration and respect of colleagues, patients, and hospital administrators for the manner in which he attended all alike. Irrespective of whether the case was grave or routine, irrespective of the patient’s rank, status, position, race, or nationality—each and every one received the same high standards of skill, care, attention to detail, and surgical dexterity of this extraordinary physician.

Dr. Debakey died July 11, 2008, age 99. His career was a standing monument to professional integrity.

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