Dr. DeBakey Receives Congressional Gold Medal on April 23, 2008


President Bush honors Dr. Michael E. DeBakey and commemorates his many life accomplishments and contributions to the nation with the Congressional Gold Medal at the United States Capitol Rotunda on April 23, 2008.

Dr. Michael DeBakey Congressional Gold Medal

The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian award which may be bestowed by the United States Congress. Each Congressional Gold Medal is individually designed to reflect the accomplishments of the recipient. Public law also authorizes the United States Mint to produce and sell bronze reproductions of the medal.

Dr. DeBakey has been the recipient of many notably worldwide honors. In 1969 he received the nation’s highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, from President Lyndon B. Johnson. In 1987 President Ronald Reagan presented him with the Presidential Medal of Science, which is given to recognize outstanding contributions to knowledge in the physical, biological, mathematical, engineering sciences and social and behavioral sciences.

Dr. DeBakey comments about the Congressional Gold Medal

When Dr. DeBakey was asked what the Congressional Gold Medal meant to him, he replied:


"I feel very fortunate to be born here (United States of America) and, therefore, automatically became a citizen. …

I think the individual in this country has a better chance of self-fulfillment than anywhere else in the world, no matter what his origin may be or no matter what financial level he came from. The opportunity here is greater. …

I simply had the good fortune to be born here. And then to get the Congressional Gold Medal from Congress adds a great deal to my pride."


Bronze Duplicates of Medal for Public by U.S. Mint: designs, prices and how to order

In addition to the Congressional Medal, the United States Mint was authorized in Public Law 110-95 to produce two bronze duplicates of the medal for sale to the public.

Obverse medal design

Engraved on the medal’s obverse or tails side is an image of Dr. DeBakey in full hospital scrubs, with a surgery in progress in the background.  Inscriptions on the obverse are:

  • “Michael E. DeBakey, M.D.,”
  • “Act of Congress” and
  • “2007.” 

Reverse medal design

The reverse or tails side depicts a human heart placed prominently over a globe representing the universal influence of Dr. DeBakey’s teachings on cardiovascular procedures.  A ribbon encircling the heart bears the following quote by Dr. DeBakey: 

“The pursuit of excellence has been my objective in life.” 

United States Mint Sculptor-Engraver Don Everhart designed both the obverse and reverse of the Michael DeBakey Congressional Gold Medal. 

Medal prices and purchasing

The following table shows the available bronze duplicates and the U.S. Mint prices:

Bronze Duplicates by Size
Dr. Michael E. DeBakey, M.D. Bronze Medal 3″
Dr. Michael E. DeBakey, M.D. Bronze Medal 1 1/2″

Beginning noon (ET) on April 23, bronze duplicates of the medals may be purchased through the Mint page:

Medals of the United States Mint

Or, by calling the U.S. Mint toll-free number at 1-800-USA-MINT (872-6468).

Several Dr. Michael DeBakey life accomplishments

Dr. DeBakey has experienced a remarkable career and life, helping countless people. A listing by the Library of Congress details several of his achievements:

      (1) Michael Ellis DeBakey, M.D., was born on September 7, 1908, in Lake Charles, Louisiana, to Shaker and Raheeja DeBakey.
      (2) Dr. DeBakey, at the age of 23 and still a medical student, reported a major invention, a roller pump for blood transfusions, which later became a major component of the heart-lung machine used in the first successful open-heart operation.
      (3) Even though Dr. DeBakey had already achieved a national reputation as an authority on vascular disease and had a promising career as a surgeon and teacher, he volunteered for military service during World War II, joining the Surgeon General’s staff and rising to the rank of Colonel and Chief of the Surgical Consultants Division.
      (4) As a result of this first-hand knowledge of military service, Dr. DeBakey made numerous recommendations for the proper staged management of war wounds, which led to the development of mobile army surgical hospitals or `MASH’ units, and earned Dr. DeBakey the Legion of Merit in 1945.
      (5) After the war, Dr. DeBakey proposed the systematic medical follow-up of veterans and recommended the creation of specialized medical centers in different areas of the United States to treat wounded military personnel returning from war, and from this recommendation evolved the Veterans Affairs Medical Center System and the establishment of the Commission on Veterans Medical Problems of the National Research Council.
      (6) In 1948, Dr. DeBakey joined the Baylor University College of Medicine, where he developed the first surgical residency program in the city of Houston, and today, guided by Dr. DeBakey’s vision, the College is one of the most respected health science centers in the Nation.
      (7) In 1953, Dr. DeBakey performed the first successful procedures to treat patients who suffered aneurysms leading to severe strokes, and he later developed a series of innovative surgical techniques for the treatment of aneurysms enabling thousands of lives to be saved in the years ahead.
      (8) In 1964, Dr. DeBakey triggered the most explosive era in modern cardiac surgery, when he performed the first successful coronary bypass, once again paving the way for surgeons worldwide to offer hope to thousands of patients who might otherwise succumb to heart disease.
      (9) Two years later, Dr. DeBakey made medical history again, when he was the first to successfully use a partial artificial heart to solve the problems of a patient who could not be weaned from a heart-lung machine following open-heart surgery.
      (10) In 1968, Dr. DeBakey supervised the first successful multi-organ transplant, in which a heart, both kidneys, and lung were transplanted from a single donor into 4 separate recipients.
      (11) In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Dr. DeBakey to the position of Chairman of the President’s Commission on Heart Disease, Cancer and Stroke, leading to the creation of Regional Medical Programs established `to encourage and assist in the establishment of regional cooperative arrangements among medical schools, research institutions, and hospitals, for research and training’.
      (12) In the mid-1960s, Dr. DeBakey pioneered the field of telemedicine with the first demonstration of open-heart surgery to be transmitted overseas by satellite.
      (13) In 1969, Dr. DeBakey was elected the first President of Baylor College of Medicine.
      (14) In 1969, President Lyndon B. Johnson bestowed on Dr. DeBakey the Presidential Medal of Freedom with Distinction, and in 1985, President Ronald Reagan conferred on him the National Medal of Science.
      (15) Working with NASA engineers, he refined existing technology to create the DeBakey Ventricular Assist Device, one-tenth the size of current versions, which may eliminate the need for heart transplantation in some patients.


Audio messages by Dr. DeBakey from Baylor College of Medicine

Dr. DeBakey, chancellor emeritus of Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) shared his further thoughts on several things, including the honor of the Congressional Gold Medal. You can listen to his comments by visiting BCM’s, DeBakey awarded Congressional Gold Medal, or by the following these BCM audio links (RealPlayer required):

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