Craig A. Miller
Published by Oxford University Press (2020)
At the end of the short preface to this biography the words colossal and colossus were standing before me. This is the story of the mind of a man for mankind, with a prestigious work ethic that matched his ambition.
Although this biography of Michael E DeBakey is replete with personal vignettes, it traces the odyssey of his surgical training, with hints of humour on his steady climb up the research and clinical ladder.
Throughout his early career, research projects were savoured like a box of assorted chocolates. This, unsurprisingly, continued during the war years where he was one of the guiding lights of medical treatment throughout these dark days. His innovations offered hope then and for future of his specialty – cardiovascular surgery.
He was a man of place, progress, with positive career prognosis, both for physical infrastructure and the concurrent building of clinical practice. In retrospect one cannot but see a pre-determined trajectory.
Contemporary surgical procedures are described in such a way as to allow the reader to ‘feel’ what were at the time innovative techniques. As the innovative developments in vascular surgery progressed this book takes us into the theatre and into the mind of a pioneer. The oxymoron of confident trepidation being emphasised as an antidote to perceived hubris. Another brake upon the mirage of a fairy tale life, was the slow emergence of medical politics.
The journey through DeBakey’s life takes on an international flavour as his expertise and collaboration was sought after across the world. At times the events related almost read as a top rate fictional drama, enhanced by the warm realisation that they did actually happen. Collaboration, mentoring and nurturing of future leaders in the field was also a big component of who he was.
Throughout the book, from his birth to his insouciant self-diagnosis of his own demise, he is the force majeure of this odyssey.
This book is a plinth for the statue of giant in the field of cardiovascular surgery.