Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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Cardiac Pioneer DeBakey Receives Congressional Gold Medal

April 24, 2008

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Conference Room at VA Headquarters Honors Heart Surgeon

WASHINGTON – Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake applauded the recognition given to Dr. Michael E. DeBakey, a Houston-based cardiac pioneer with long ties to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), for receiving the Congressional Gold Medal during a special ceremony at the U.S. Capitol.

“I can think of no one more deserving than Dr. DeBakey to receive this nation’s highest civilian award,” said Peake.  “Dr. DeBakey has given of himself tirelessly in the field of medicine, not only to veterans but for the well-being of all Americans.”

Peake also announced VA is dedicating a conference room in VA headquarters in honor of Dr. DeBakey.  The medical pioneer’s name will be inscribed on an eighth floor conference room.

DeBakey’s name is hung on at least one other VA facility.  In December 2003, President Bush signed a public law officially changing the name of the Houston VA Medical Center to the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center.

“As a surgeon and veteran myself, I understand the unique contributions that Dr. DeBakey has made to this department as well as to the medical community,” said Peake. 

Considered the father of modern cardiovascular surgery, DeBakey’s career spans more than six decades.  By the beginning of World War II, he already had a national reputation in the field of vascular disease. 

His work after coming on active duty with the Army surgeon general’s staff is credited with developing the mobile army surgical hospitals, or M.A.S.H. units, popularized during the Korean War, upon which modern improvements in battlefield are based.

In 1949, the medical director of the then Veterans Administration, Dr. Warren Magnuson, asked Dr. DeBakey to organize medical staffing at the VA hospital in Houston, which he did with the help of full-time faculty at the Baylor University College of Medicine.  As chief surgeon at the Houston VA Hospital, DeBakey also created an accredited residency program for the facility.

“We, in the VA, are honored by the staunch support Dr. DeBakey has given our department through the years,” said Peake. “He has left a lasting impression on VA, its employees and countless veterans by his compassion, expertise and commitment to the men and women who have served in uniform.”

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