Michael E. DeBakey, M.D., born Sept. 7, 1908, in Lake Charles, La., was the first of five children of Lebanese immigrants Shaker Morris and Raheehja DeBakey. Valedictorian of his high school class, he pursued a college education at Tulane University.
At Tulane, he earned enough credits by the end of his second year to enter medical school. He combined his final undergraduate courses with medical studies. As a result, he received his B.S. in 1930, his M.D. in 1932, and an M.S. in 1935. During his final year in medical school, he created the roller pump. Two decades later, it became a crucial component of the heart-lung machine that paved the way for open-heart surgery.
Following an internship at Charity Hospital in New Orleans, he continued his studies in Strasbourg, France, and Heidelberg, Germany. Returning to the United States in 1937, he joined Tulane's faculty. At the beginning of World War II, he volunteered to serve in the armed forces. As Colonel Michael DeBakey, he served on the Army Surgeon General's staff. During this time, he published a number of papers about treating chest wounds and vascular injuries in injured military personnel. His work led to the development of mobile army surgical hospitals or MASH units. In addition, he helped establish the system of treating military personnel returning from the war, a concept that evolved into the Veterans Affairs Medical Center System, now the Department of Veterans Affairs. For his service, he received the U.S. Army Legion of Merit Award.