DeBakey Medical Foundation Supports Endowed Scholarship Fund for Baylor University Medical Humanities Students

July 14, 2009

Contact: Lori Fogleman, 254-710-6275

Follow us on Twitter: @BaylorUMediaCom

Baylor University announced today a $500,000 gift from the DeBakey Medical Foundation, establishing the Michael E. DeBakey, Selma DeBakey and Lois DeBakey Endowed Scholarship Fund in Medical Humanities at Baylor University. The scholarship will allow recipients, who will be designated as DeBakey Scholars, to continue the legacy of a family that has revolutionized the field of medicine in many ways.

"I would like to thank the DeBakey Medical Foundation for its generous gift to our students. Medical humanities, an undergraduate program unique to Baylor and just a few other universities, was created to foster the kind of intellectually mature, reflective and informed physicians and scholars that the DeBakey family represents," said Dr. Michael Attas, associate director of the medical humanities program and Waco cardiologist. "They have contributed a legacy to American medical education that represents everything our students should aspire to -- strong writing skills, cultural awareness, dedication to the intersection of the humanities and the sciences, awareness of the role of community in the practice of medicine and a recognition of the role of spiritual formation in the life of the well-rounded physician."

"The DeBakey Medical Foundation is pleased to present this grant to Baylor University in support of this exceptional program," said Gale Galloway, BBA '52, a DeBakey Foundation trustee. "I can think of no greater honor for a student than to be named 'a DeBakey Scholar.'"

The DeBakey Medical Foundation's gift supports Baylor students pursuing studies in medical humanities, a relatively new program at Baylor that incorporates the insights of disciplines ranging from literature to economics to religion into the practice of modern scientific medicine.

By providing a broad base of knowledge about the human experience, the medical humanities program produces students with the scientific background as well as the human understanding that will result in physicians able to care for their patients' well-being in addition to their wellness.

These are traits that Dr. Michael E. DeBakey himself valued. As his sisters, Selma and Lois DeBakey, once wrote, "always a voracious reader, he was conversant in history, religion, philosophy, literature, poetry, global cultures and policies and more. He was the leading spokesman of the medical profession and a fervent patient advocate."

In a career that spanned seven decades, DeBakey has been acclaimed as a founder of cardiovascular surgery and a true Renaissance man. Because of his work, once impossible life-saving procedures, such as coronary artery bypass, now are common operations. As a result of his World War II military service, he helped develop Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals to accommodate the wounded more quickly, and he later helped establish the Veteran's Administration Medical Center Research System.

In addition, DeBakey worked with his sisters to pioneer a new discipline, medical communications education. Lois and Selma DeBakey are both professors of scientific communication at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, and they developed a curriculum to teach doctors to think, read and write critically, and to express their ideas in clear, concise and cohesive language. Recognizing the importance of effective communication with patients as well as the medical community, the DeBakey family sought to fill the void.

DeBakey joined the faculty of Baylor University College of Medicine (now the Baylor College of Medicine) in 1948, serving as chairman of the Department of Surgery until 1993. He was president of the College from 1969-1979, then served as chancellor from 1979 until January 1996, when he was named Chancellor Emeritus. He was also the Olga Keith Wiess Professor of Surgery and Distinguished Service Professor in the Michael E. DeBakey Department of Surgery at Baylor College of Medicine, and he served as Director of the DeBakey Heart Center for research and public education at Baylor College of Medicine and the Methodist Hospital.

A few months before he died in 2008, DeBakey received the Congressional Gold Medal, rounding out his collection of some of the most significant awards an American citizen can receive, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom with Distinction, the National Medal of Science and the prestigious Lasker Research Award.

Before being recruited by Baylor College of Medicine in 1968, Selma DeBakey was the founding director of the Editorial Department of the Ochsner Clinic and Foundation in New Orleans and the founding editor of the Cardiovascular Research Center Bulletin, Ochsner Clinic Reports and guest editor of a number of peer-reviewed medical journals.

Lois DeBakey was professor of scientific communication at Tulane Medical School when she was recruited by Baylor. Earlier, she was Editor of Tulane Studies in English.

Together, the DeBakey sisters pioneered the teaching of biomedical communication and conducted the first medical school curriculum-approved courses in this subject; they have since conducted courses by invitation of major medical school and meetings throughout the United States and abroad. They have published numerous medical books, chapters and articles on writing, editing, publishing, visual supplements, ethics and related subjects. Their publications are considered classics and have been translated into a number of foreign languages.

Selma DeBakey received the Distinguished Service Award of the American Medical Writers Association and, with Lois, has served on the boards of various other professional organizations. Lois was named Distinguished Alumna by her alma mater, Newcomb College.

They have also served on various editorial boards, including those of the Journal of the American Medical Association and the Methodist DeBakey Cardiovascular Journal, as well as on the Methodist DeBakey Heart and Vascular Center Advisory Council, National Library of Medicine Board of Regents, American Heritage Dictionary Usage Panel and consultants to the Encyclopaedia Brittanica Medical and Health Database.

"The DeBakey family truly represents the best of our nation's wonderful heritage of medicine, and we feel that our students will be privileged and honored to be able to receive a scholarship given in their name," Attas said. "As it was my personal privilege to meet Dr. Michael DeBakey in my formative years in medicine, I feel deeply that the kind of students whom we will honor with the scholarship will serve well the legacy of his life and the remarkable body of work of Selma and Lois DeBakey. Our students will be blessed and honored to receive these funds, and we are truly thankful."

The DeBakey scholarship will benefit juniors and seniors pursuing a major or minor in Medical Humanities.