Remembering legendary surgeon Dr. Denton Cooley

Wednesday, Nov 23, 2016

Dr. David L. Callender, President

Dear UTMB family:

It is with great sadness that we observe the death Friday of Dr. Denton A. Cooley, one of the finest cardiovascular surgeons in the world.

Dr. Cooley was a living legend in medicine, a pioneer in the fields of heart transplantation, artificial heart surgery and congenital heart defect repair. In 1968, he performed the first successful human heart transplant in the U.S. and the first human implantation of a total artificial heart in the world a year later. He held numerous patents for surgical tools and blood perfusion equipment used in operations.

In 1962, Dr. Cooley founded the Texas Heart Institute in the Texas Medical Center, which he considered one of his greatest accomplishments. He served more than 40 years as the surgeon-in-chief of the premier cardiovascular research and education institution. During that time, Dr. Cooley performed more than 65,000 open heart surgeries. Collectively, he and his surgical teams are credited with more than 118,000 open heart operations.

In addition to countless honors and awards bestowed upon him around the world, Dr. Cooley was the recipient of both the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Medal of Technology.

For UTMB, Dr. Cooley was a loyal and generous alumnus who was deeply committed to seeing our university continue its progress. He endowed a distinguished professorship in surgery, helped support the Surgical Simulation Center here and gave generously to the Jennie Sealy Hospital. A surgical waiting room in the new hospital bears his name.

UTMB is proud to have had a role in helping to shape Dr. Denton Cooley’s remarkable career, and we will miss our inspirational, dedicated friend.

Dr. David L. Callender, MD, MBA, FACS

A memorial service for Dr. Denton A. Cooley will be held in Houston on Monday, Nov. 28 at 11 a.m. The service will be streamed online. Details are below:

•    Full memorial website:
•    Livestream link:
•    Guestbook: