Legend lost: Dr. Denton A. Cooley passes leaving a legacy in cardiovascular surgery

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A memorial service for Dr. Denton A. Cooley will be held at 11 a.m. Monday, November 28, at Trinity Episcopal Church. Due to space constraints, Texas Children’s will be airing the live service at several locations across our medical campus. Please see the list below for locations. For all Texas Medical Center locations, please present your employee badge from a TMC institution.

  • The Denton A. Cooley auditorium at CHI St. Luke’s – Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center
    B1 level of the Denton A. Cooley building (Green elevators)
  • Cullen Auditorium at Baylor College of Medicine
    One Baylor Plaza, Houston, TX 77030
  • Texas Children’s Hospital auditorium
    Abercrombie Building, B1 Level (AB120.01)
  • Helen B. Taussig Auditorium in Texas Children’s Heart Center
    West Tower 19th Floor (B19536)

For more information or to see if new locations have been added, please visit www.dentonacooley.org.

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The medical community lost a legend November 18, 2016 with the death of Dr. Denton A. Cooley, founder of the Texas Heart Institute and Texas Children’s Hospital’s first chief of cardiovascular surgery. Dr. Cooley died of declining health. He was 96.

Throughout his lengthy career, Cooley made enormous strides in both adult and pediatric cardiovascular surgery, developing many of today’s commonly used cardiovascular procedures and devices. He is best known for performing the first successful human heart transplant in the United States as well as implanting the first mechanical heart and left ventricular assist device.

Cooley also is widely known for operations to correct congenital heart anomalies in infants and children. At Texas Children’s he was a major force behind the creation of the Heart Center, believing young people needed to be treated by surgeons specially trained in pediatric surgery.

“Texas Children’s Hospital was the epicenter of Cooley’s explosive career in pioneering cardiovascular surgery,” Surgeon-In-Chief Dr. Charles D. Fraser Jr. said. “He and his colleagues were doing things no one else in the world were doing, paving the way for Texas Children’s to be the leading place in the world for pediatric cardiac surgery.”

Cooley’s skill and innovations were not limited to the operating room or the laboratory. He founded a managed health care plan that was the first to bundle cardiovascular services into one fixed fee, saving millions of health care dollars. He also established a number of educational programs and served as a spokesperson for cardiovascular technology.

One of his most significant contributions to the field of cardiac care was his founding of the Texas Heart Institute at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital. The nonprofit has become a recognized world leader in research, education and patient care. It also is widely known for its many significant contributions in the fight against heart disease.

Near the end of his life, Cooley said he thought the greatest part of his legacy would be the programs he established at the Texas Heart Institute to train younger surgeons and cardiologists.

“That training will have the most lasting effect going forward for future generations,” he said.

Throughout Cooley’s career, he won many awards for his contributions to the field of cardiac care, including the Medal of Freedom in 1998. Undoubtedly, millions of people have been helped by Cooley’s surgical innovations and we here at Texas Children’s are among them.

Please visit www.dentonacooley.org for more information about the life of Dr. Denton A. Cooley and to leave your condolences. More specifically:

  • Click here to watch interviews with Cooley and videos about his life.
  • Click here to view a photo gallery spanning Cooley’s career and personal life.
  • Click here to view a timeline that highlights many of his accomplishments.
  • Click here to leave your condolences.
  • Click here to read a blog by Surgeon-in-Chief Dr. Charles D. Fraser, Jr.