Symposium teaches from patient and doctor perspectives

Baylor surgical symposium

Dr. Todd Rosengart and Dr. Ken Mattox show former Vice President Dick Cheney the DeBakey Library and Museum

The halls of the Cullen building were buzzing with guests as the Michael E. DeBakey Department of Surgery Alumni Symposium & 20th Congress of the Michael E. DeBakey International Surgical Society got underway last month. Along with the many medical professionals from across the country was one special guest who spoke about his experience from a different perspective – that of a patient. His story was particularly unique since he helped to run the United States for eight years, all while living with heart disease.

Vice President Dick Cheney shared his 35 year-long battle with cardiovascular disease with the nearly 400 guests of the two-day event that focused on a wide range of surgical topics. The conference brought together leading physicians to share their knowledge and expertise with alumni and visiting medical professionals.

“With new research and collaborations, the field of surgery is changing and it is important to stay up to date on the improving techniques and technology that benefit patients today,” said Dr. Todd Rosengart, professor and DeBakey Bard Chair of the department of surgery at Baylor. “We were honored to have such a diverse group of presenters sharing their knowledge and expertise with guests, many of which were Baylor alumni joining us from 20 states.”

Rosengart, along with Dr. Ernesto R. Soltero, president of the Michael E. DeBakey International Surgical Society, were co-directors for the conference. The presentations were on a wide range of topics such as pediatric trauma, the history and future of congenital heart surgery, acute aortic dissection and even how training at Baylor prepares doctors for leadership in the community.

Cheney, however, spoke from the perspective of a patient. He talked about his first tingling in his left pinky that led him to a doctor and began his medical journey of heart ailments, what it felt like collapsing in his driveway years later, the ride through the streets of Tokyo in the back of an ambulance, his energy levels before and after receiving an LVAD, which kept him alive for 15 months, and his subsequent heart transplant.

“I was in end-stage heart failure; I’d run out of options. I really thought I was nearing the end. That was 17 months after I left the White House and before I got the ventricular assist device,” said Cheney, “Most of the things that saved my life didn’t exist in 1978, when I had my first heart attack.”

Cheney also met with Dr. Denton Cooley, distinguished emeritus professor of surgery at Baylor and president emeritus and founder of the Texas Heart Institute. Cooley is the physician President George W. Bush turned to concerning medical advice when vetting Cheney for the position of vice president.

Two awards were also given to some of Baylor’s pioneering surgeons.

Baylor surgical symposium

Dick Cheney checks out photographs in the DeBakey Library and Museum

The Distinguished Faculty Award was given to Dr. O.H. “Bud” Frazier, professor of surgery in the division of transplant and assist devices, to recognize him on his 1,000 left ventricular assist device surgeries along with his many other accomplishments. Frazier also directs the Texas Heart Institute’s Center for Cardiac Support. Over his career spanning more than 30 years he has performed more than 1,300 heart transplants and has co-authored more than 1,200 scientific publications.

The DeBakey Surgical Award was presented to Dr. Kenneth L. Mattox, distinguished service professor in the division of cardiothoracic surgery and chief of staff/chief of surgery at Harris Health System’s Ben Taub Hospital. He is recognized throughout the world as an innovator in trauma care. He helped develop the internationally renowned Ben Taub Hospital Emergency Center and Trauma Center and has authored the textbook “Trauma,”coauthoredtheSabiston Textbook of Surgery” and“Top Knife,”referred to by some as “the bible” of trauma care.  

To view a slide show of the event, please go the Baylor College of Medicine’s Department of Surgery Facebook photo album.