Saturday, July 12, 2008

Goodbye to Dr. Michael DeBakey

I was saddened to hear of the passing of Dr. Michael E. DeBakey last night.

As someone who has worked at both Baylor College of Medicine and the Methodist Hospital, I can tell you that I've never known a figure in my lifetime that was more revered in a workplace.

He really was loved. At both institutions, there was a level of respect and admiration not only for the incredible history he brought to those places and the Texas Medical Center, but also the fact that well, well into his 90s he was still coming to work and contributing whenever needed.

I've been around famous people before, but I was never as nervous as I was when I was around Dr. DeBakey. You realized you were in the presence of greatness, someone who had literally saved the lives of so many people around the world by his contributions to medicine.

Some said he could be tough at times. I never saw that. Every time I was around him and saw him interact with others, he was gracious, kind and humble.

Once I remember I was working in the PR office at Baylor, when I got a call from NPR, requesting an on-air interview with him. They offered to send him a limousine, and he turned it down. Through his sister, Lois, he instead asked if he could ride over to the radio station with me in my car.

I remember being petrified wondering how I was going to maintain a conversation for that long with someone so legendary, but was relieved to find a man who loved to talk about Houston and how he had literally watched the city and the medical center grow up over the years.

I never got to see him in the OR. I was usually ushering a member of the press up to his office for an interview when I spent time with him, but it was always a distinct and special pleasure to be able to work with on the occasions I did.

My thoughts and prayers are with his family today.

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