A Heart for Heroism

February 9, 2017 Sergio Tinoco

Every now and then, remarkable people come into the world and make tremendous contributions for the benefit of the human race.

One such person is Dr. Denton A. Cooley, born August 22, 1920, founder of the Texas Heart Institute, and a literal lifesaver. He made breakthroughs in the field of medicine, making him a hero of many. When no human heart was immediately available, Dr. Cooley performed the first implantation of an artificial one.

According to Dr. O Howard Frazier, Dr. Cooley made heart surgery safe. However, the road to this immense success wasn’t easy. In 1951, Dr. Cooley met Dr. Michael DeBakey who was his mentor and former partner.

Both men were equally amazing in the world of surgery. It was Dr. DeBakey who developed the artificial heart. However, this led to a forty-year feud (ending just a year before Dr. DeBakey’s death in 2008) when Dr. Cooley used it in a surgery.

Dr. DeBakey then accused Dr. Cooley of violating regulations on human experimentation as the artificial heart had not yet been proven to be effective. However, Dr. Cooley contended that he performed the operation regardless of the implications to save a patient’s life, which was their duty as doctors first and foremost.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Dr. Cooley, while working with Dr. DeBakey, was able to develop a technique in order to repair torn aortic aneurysms. Both doctors were also able to perfect the use of a heart machine.

Not only that, Dr. Cooley also became known for his work on the congenital heart defects in children. His skillful surgical hands were vital to the success in operations done on them.

Dr. Cooley led a team of other brilliant surgeons and together they were able to perform 118, 800 open heart surgeries. He also did not retire. Instead, he devoted his time as president emeritus at the Texas Heart Institute.

He received numerous awards for his work namely, the Presidential Medal of Honor (the highest award for a civilian), the René Leriche Prize, and the National Medal of Technology. Dr. Cooley authored twelve books and over a thousand articles.

Like Dr. Cooley, it takes one to be willing to take risks to be recognized for the efforts exerted. Along the way, there will be people who won’t share the same ways and beliefs, but one must remain steadfast and true to the goals one has set in order to surely achieve them.

Not everyone may be recognized as a hero. However, with enough courage, determination, and perhaps encouragement, we can all be heroes in our own little ways.


Altman, Lawrence K. 2016. “Dr. Denton Cooley, Whose Pioneering Heart Surgery Set Off a 40-Year Medical Feud, Dies at 96.” The New York Times, November 18. Accessed January 24, 2017.

Maugh, Thomas H. II. 2016. “Denton Cooley, Texas surgeon who performed first successful heart transplant in U.S., dies at 96.” Los Angeles Times, November 18. Accessed January 24, 2017.

Texas Heart Institute. 2016. “Denton A. Cooley, MD.” November 18. Accessed January 24, 2017.

Wikipedia. “Denton Cooley.” Accessed January 24, 2017.

22 responses to “A Heart for Heroism

  1. Dr. Cooley must have been a very brave and confident person.
    He sets a good example.
    Everybody should strive to possess such qualities.

    1. Henry,

      Yes, Dr. Cooley was very brace and confident. He chose to never give up on his goal. In life we all face challenges that will try to keep us from achieving what we want the most. We must always be strong and keep on taking the next step forward.

      Sergio Tinoco

    1. Derek,

      Dr. Cooley faced many obstacles throughout his journey, but he never gave up and in the was able to establish a procedure that has saved countless lives.

      We all have a journey. I chose Dr. Cooley because he is another example of great achievements taking place for never giving up.

      Sergio Tinoco

  2. The blog Sergio A. Tinoco wrote about, is how a doctor took a risk to do good.I personally enjoyed the blog because the author put his thought in the blog, but in 3rd person point of view.He told us,the students in 3rd person that the doctor never gave up on a goal that he had set.I also thank Dr.Cooley because he has now help generation to generation save million of lives in(CBH)or(CABG) Heart surgery.

    1. Correct, Daniella. I was intrigued by his focus and determination to accomplish his goals regardless of the challenges he faced. Many lives have been saved because he chose to remain strong.

      Sergio Tinoco

    1. This is true Celine, but also consider the tough journey he had throughout his medical career. Dr. Cooley faced many challenges in order to get his medical procedure validated and finally approved.

      Sergio Tinoco

  3. I think people that can complete tasks under pressure are amazing people, while Dr. Cooley didn’t have the heart, he still made it happen. It was wrong for someone to accuse him for doing wrong, even through he wasn’t the one who made the heart. This is a inspirational story, and i think that everyone should read it.

  4. I actually want to be like this man, he stopped at nothing in order to protect humanity. This is why i look up to your reports, alot actually, But i have a quick question: Could anyone have a heart like his, Or could some of the meanest people on earth never change?

    1. That’s a great question Charisma and sadly one I don’t have an exact answer for. I have met some mean people throughout my career and have often wondered the same thing. History has clearly shown us a few mean people as well. All we can do, I believe, is continue moving forward with our goals and hopefully make believers out of the naysayers that we encounter.

      We must always prepare for the worst, hope for the best, and keep moving forward no matter what.

      Sergio Tinoco

  5. I think this is an amazing story, even though it hadn’t been approved yet,he still preformed the surgery to save the life. He put his job at a very high risk so that life could be lived. It is just too bad that he spent 40 years of his life trying to prove that he wasn’t expirementing on humans.

  6. Sergio A. Tinoco,

    This a a great little story and a still wonder what other hurdles and outcomes this story has to offer.

    1. Amberlean,

      That’s right. Like Dr. Cooley, we will all face our own obstacles and come across people that find it so hard to believe in our own abilities to achieve our goals, to fulfill our dreams. We must always remember to keep pushing through those challenges and keep moving forward. Our greatest obstacle is the person we see in the mirror. We have to convince that person every day that our goals are achievable.

      Sergio Tinoco

    2. i agree with you i hate when people treat other people different because of there race but this guy is different that’s good :3

    1. Brian,

      Consider the journey this doctor had to go through in order to achieve that heart surgery. There were plenty of hurdles along the way that tried to keep Dr. Cooley from achieving such an amazing goal. The doctor NEVER GAVE UP!!

      Sergio Tinoco

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