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Saturday, July 12, 2008

R.I.P. Dr. Michael DeBakey and Tony Snow

I've heard this morning already news of the deaths of two Americans, one prematurely and the other after a full life, but both remarkable men.

Dr. Michael DeBakey was a legend who forever changed both cardiovascular medicine and the City of Houston. Exactly three years ago this week, I was in the cardiac care unit at The Methodist Hospital, and as such I was the very direct beneficiary of the legacy he built there and at its affiliated medical school, Baylor College of Medicine. And he died there last night, of natural causes, at age 99 — after a full life of singular professional distinction. I doubt any single physician or scientist is likely to have so phenomenal an impact on medical science in the 21st Century as he did in the 20th.

Tony Snow, by contrast, died far too young, struck down at age 53 at the peak of his career. I cannot help but think that his death to cancer was a tragic loss not just to his family and friends, but to our entire country. But for his illness, I wonder how much more effective the Bush Administration's second-term communications with its constituents might have been.

Posted by Beldar at 08:15 AM in Current Affairs | Permalink


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(1) Michael Brophy made the following comment | Jul 12, 2008 5:33:56 PM | Permalink

Thanks for noting and your link about Dr. DeBakey. Some academicians are notorious for their aggresion in demanding perfection from those in training with them. Dr. Seldin here in Dallas has some similar history. He reputedly told a medical student once, 'Here's a dime. Call your mother and talk to somebody who cares!' I heard of Dr. DeBakey and his rounds in Dallas, the only person not on Southwestern Medical School faculty that I did.

(2) Greg Q made the following comment | Jul 13, 2008 2:14:50 PM | Permalink

I doubt any single physician or scientist is likely to have so phenomenal an impact on medical science in the 21st Century as he did in the 20th.

Nothing against Dr. DeBakey (I may very well be using his work some day), but I'd say Dr. Alexander Fleming (discoverer of Penicillin) beat out Dr. DeBakey for the 20th Century.

As for the medical heroes of the 21st Century? Here are some candidates:

1. Safe genetic therapy: Gaining the ability to turn off existing genes in a human (including, but not limited to, adult humans), and adding new genes, with the same, or different, regulation as the existing gene (since sometimes it’s the regulation of the gene that’s the problem).

2. The “real” “mapping” of the human genome: We currently have a set of DNA sequences of human genomes. But we have no real clue what they mean. Figuring out where the genetic components of height, weight, intelligence, athletic ability, etc. reside, as well as where to find all the genetic diseases, is going to be a big task, and a big help once it’s done.

3. Functional medical nanotech: This one will be bigger than anything else, assuming we can do it. Machines in your body to hunt down rips and tears, and repair them. To find the places where plaque is accumulating in your arteries (or in your brain), and remove it. Find early stage cancerous cells, and kill them. Go into your joints, and build more cartilage when your body falls behind, and thus stop arthritis. Go into your bones, and build more bone when your body fails to keep up: no more osteoporosis. Hunt down, destroy, and cause to be excreted “excess” fat cells (goodbye dieting). Examine your food intake, and manufacture any amino acids, or other “vitamins” you need that aren’t merely trace elements, when you need them (goodbye malnutrition, so long as you can get calories).

4. Superior medical prosthetics: We’re starting to get there (see the case of the double amputee runner who was told he couldn’t compete in the Olympics because his artificial legs were better for running than real ones. Happily, that decision was reversed), but we have a long way to go. Highly functional artificial ears, and eyes, will end up helping a lot of people.

This started as a comment, and ended as a post on my blog. :-)

(3) stan made the following comment | Jul 15, 2008 10:09:57 AM | Permalink

Tony Snow, Davidson '77, was an ideal example of the quote attributed to Churchill (wrongly) "if you're not a liberal at 20, you have no heart. If you're not a conservative at 40, you have no brain."

He used to joke about how far left he was in college. He really was. But he saw the light as he aged.

He certainly had an excellent brain, but no one ever had a bigger heart. He was the best. His friends miss him terribly.

(4) tad made the following comment | Jul 17, 2008 9:42:22 PM | Permalink

few people know that Dr DeBakey practiced in New Orleans at the Ochsner Clinic before moving to Houston

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