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Medal honors DeBakey

Just days after his 99th birthday, Houston physician Dr. Michael DeBakey was given a present when the U.S. House of Representatives voted Oct. 1 to suspend the rules and pass a bill awarding him a congressional gold medal.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson, R-Texas, who sponsored the measure, said the bill was ?to acknowledge the lifetime achievements of Dr. Michael Ellis DeBakey, a public servant and world-renowned cardiologist.?

According to Houston?s Methodist Hospital, DeBakey has performed more than 60,000 cardiovascular procedures. He was born in Louisiana and went to Tulane University medical school. He has five children
When he was only 23 years old and still in medical school, DeBakey successfully developed a roller pump for blood transfusions, the precursor and major component of the heart-lung machine used in the first open-heart operation. This device later led to national recognition for his expertise in vascular disease.

Following service in World War II, DeBakey proposed national and specialized medical centers for those soldiers who were wounded or needed follow-up treatment. This recommendation evolved into the Veterans Affairs Medical Center System and the establishment of the commission on Veterans Medical Problems of the National Research Council.

Some 60 years ago, in 1948, he joined the Baylor University College of Medicine, where it started its first surgical residency program and was later elected the first president of Baylor College of Medicine. Then, 16 years later, in 1964, he performed the first successful coronary bypass surgery.

His numerous medical accomplishments had led to national recognition: DeBakey has received both the Presidential Medal of Freedom with Distinction from President Johnson and the National Medal of Science from President Ronald Reagan. Still active, DeBakey recently worked with NASA engineers to develop the DeBakey Ventricular Assist Device, which may eliminate the need for some patients to receive heart transplants.

Congressional gold medals have a long history. The first of some 300 recipients was Gen. George Washington, who was given the award by a grateful Congress in 1776. Other recipients have been chosen through the years based on achievements and service to the nation. Duplicates are nearly always created in bronze and sold to interested collectors.

The measure cleared the Senate and House and was presented to the President on Oct. 2. By law, he has 10 working days to sign or return the measure to Congress, or it becomes law without his signature.

 Even as one bill moves to become law, another has started the process. On Oct.  4, S.2140, a bill to award a congressional gold medal to Francis Collins, in recognition of his outstanding contributions and leadership in the fields of medicine and genetics. was introduced by Sen. Byron L. Dorgan, D-N.D.

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