Born in 1920, Cooley graduated with highest honors from the University of Texas Austin and earned his medical degree from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Cooley assisted in correcting an infant’s congenital heart defect, an operation known as the “Blue Baby” procedure.
The International Surgical Society awarded him the Reneé Lebiche Prize, its highest honor, in 1967, calling him “the most valuable surgeon of the heart and blood vessel anywhere in the world.”
Cooley performed his first human heart transplant in May 1968, just months after Dr. Christiaan Barnard had performed the world’s first successful human heart transplant.
In 1969, Cooley implanted an artificial heart in a human being for the first time. The patient, Haskell Karp, lived for 64 hours with the implanted device before it could be replaced with a donor’s heart.
President Ronald Reagan awarded Cooley the Medal of Freedom - the nation's highest civilian honor. President Bill Clinton gave him the National Medal of Technology—the highest honor for technological innovation in the U.S.
Former Houston Mayor Annise D. Parker proclaimed Feb. 28, 2012, the last day of the nationally recognized Heart Month, as Dr. Denton A. Cooley Day in Houston.
Source: Dr. Denton Cooley
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