For an hour or so on the operating table, each of my patients had my total attention. . . . In most cases, we were nearly strangers, yet all of these people put their hearts in my hands for a brief period. At the same time that I touched their hearts, they also touched mine.—Denton A. Cooley, M.D.
Pioneering surgeon Dr. Denton Cooley performed his first human heart transplant in 1968 and astounded the world in 1969 when he was the first surgeon to successfully implant a totally artificial heart in a human being. Over the course of his career, Cooley and his associates have performed more than 100,000 open heart operations and have been forerunners in implementing new surgical procedures. Of all his achievements, however, Cooley is most proud of the Texas Heart Institute, which he founded in 1962, in Houston, with a mission to use education, research, and improved patient care to decrease the devastating effects of cardiovascular disease.
In his new memoir, 100,000 Hearts, Cooley tells about his childhood in Houston and his experiences as a basketball scholarship recipient at the University of Texas. After medical school at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston and at Johns Hopkins, Cooley served in the Army Medical Corps. While at Johns Hopkins, Cooley assisted in a groundbreaking operation to correct an infant’s congenital heart defect, which inspired him to specialize in heart surgery.
Cooley’s detailed descriptions of what it was like to be in the operating room at crucial points in medical history offer a fascinating perspective on how far medical science has progressed in just a few decades. Dr. Denton Cooley and the Texas Heart Institute are responsible for much of that progress.