The father of the coronary bypass surgery René Gerónimo Favaloro would have turned 96 today and while the Argentinian surgeon isn't alive to see it, Google is celebrating his birthday and achievements in a new Google Doodle.
Born on 12 July 1923 in La Plata Buenos Aires, Favaloro spent most of his time in Buenos Aires working over the years to improve healthcare in his home country. Upon grading from La Plata University in 1949 with a medical degree Favaloro bucked conventional wisdom opting to fill in for a colleague who was a country doctor instead of pursuing a career as a thoracic surgeon.
Favaloro Shelved Career to Help a Farming Village in his Hometown
Favaloro spent 12 years in La Pampa, the small farming community, working hard to educate his patients on the benefits of preventative medicine. He was credited with creating the first blood bank in the farming village and built an operating room from the ground up, using it to train doctors and nurses.
While Favaloro shelved his interest in thoracic surgery for more than a decade as he tended to his local patients, the fire never burned out. In 1962 he joined the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, working with Mason Sones, who had pioneered the practice of interpreting coronary and ventricular images in a process known as cineangiograpy.
After pouring over thousands of cinenangiograms Sones had performed Favaloro concluded that artery bypass grafting was a possibility. That work led Favaloro and his colleagues to look into using the saphenous vein for the restoration of perfusions to the heart.
Favaoloro Made History with First Successful Bypass Surgery
On 9 May 1967, Favaloro made history by performing the first saphenous aortocoronary bypass on a 51-year-old woman who had a blockage in her right coronary artery. The famed surgeon attached the patient to a heart and lung machine stopped her heart and used a vein from her leg to get blood to flow around the blocked artery.
The surgery was a success and paved the way for the procedure to be performed a zillion times saving the lives of countless patients since then. By 1968 Favaloro and his colleagues were combining that technique with valve replacement and ventricular aneurysmectomy, enabling them to perform bypasses for acute infarction, which is the death of tissues due to a lack of blood supply to the area.
Favaloro Responsible for Training Many of Latin America's Surgeons
Favaloro didn't stay long at the Cleveland Clinic, returning to Argentina in 1971 where he established the Favaloro Foundation. Similar to Cleveland Clinic, the foundation was focused on research and teaching, churning out well-trained surgeons and developing modern equipment to treat people, even those who couldn't afford it.
Thanks to the Favaloro Foundation people living in Latin America got access to highly trained surgeons and cardiologists that previously weren't available anywhere in the region. The famed surgeon won many accolades over the years including the International Recognition Award bestowed on him in 1992.
Favaloro died on 29 July 2000 at the age of 77. “‘We’ is more important than ‘I.’ In medicine, the advances are always the result of many efforts accumulated over the years,” wrote Favaloro.