Leaving A Legacy

September 1, 2009

Baylor has announced a $500,000 gift from the DeBakey Medical Foundation, establishing the Michael E. DeBakey, Selma DeBakey and Lois DeBakey Endowed Scholarship Fund in Medical Humanities at Baylor University. The scholarship will allow recipients, who will be designated as DeBakey Scholars, to continue the legacy of a family that has revolutionized the field of medicine in many ways.

"I would like to thank the DeBakey Medical Foundation for its generous gift to our students. Medical humanities, an undergraduate program unique to Baylor and just a few other universities, was created to foster the kind of intellectually mature, reflective and informed physicians and scholars that the DeBakey family represents," said Dr. Michael Attas, BA '69, associate director of the medical humanities program and Waco cardiologist. "They have contributed a legacy to American medical education that represents everything our students should aspire to--strong writing skills, cultural awareness, dedication to the intersection of the humanities and the sciences, awareness of the role of community in the practice of medicine and a recognition of the role of spiritual formation in the life of the well-rounded physician. Our students will be blessed and honored to receive these funds."

"The DeBakey Medical Foundation is pleased to present this grant to Baylor University in support of this exceptional program," said Gale Galloway, BBA '52, a DeBakey Foundation trustee. "I can think of no greater honor for a student than to be named 'a DeBakey Scholar.'"

The DeBakey Medical Foundation's gift supports juniors and seniors pursuing studies in medical humanities, a relatively new program at Baylor that incorporates the insights of disciplines ranging from literature to economics to religion into the practice of modern scientific medicine.

By providing a broad base of knowledge about the human experience, the medical humanities program produces students with the scientific background as well as the human understanding that will result in physicians able to care for their patients' well-being in addition to their wellness.

DeBakey has been acclaimed as a founder of cardiovascular surgery and a true Renaissance man. Because of his work spanning seven decades, once impossible life-saving procedures, such as coronary artery bypass, now are common operations. As a result of his World War II military service, he helped develop Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals to accommodate the wounded more quickly, and he later helped establish the Veteran's Administration Medical Center Research System.

In addition, DeBakey worked with his sisters to pioneer a new discipline, medical communications education. Lois and Selma DeBakey are both professors of scientific communication at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, and they developed a curriculum to teach doctors to think, read and write critically, and to express their ideas in clear, concise and cohesive language. Recognizing the importance of effective communication with patients as well as the medical community, the DeBakey family sought to fill the void.

DeBakey joined the faculty of Baylor University College of Medicine (now the Baylor College of Medicine) in 1948, serving as chairman of the Department of Surgery until 1993. He served in various positions, including president of the College from 1969-1979, and then chancellor from 1979 until January 1996, when he was named Chancellor Emeritus. 

In 2008, DeBakey received the Congressional Gold Medal, rounding out his collection of some of the most significant awards an American citizen can receive, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom with Distinction, the National Medal of Science and the prestigious Lasker Research Award.