DeBakey Gold Medal

Hundreds of colleagues and friends of Dr. Michael DeBakey were on hand at Baylor College of Medicine today as he was given the actual Senate bill that awarded him the Congressional Gold Medal. Houston Public Radio's Jim Bell reports.

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The Congressional Gold Medal is this country's highest civilian award, and DeBakey is getting it for his almost mythic status in medical circles. His 70 plus years of medical inventions and innovations in heart surgery techniques are used around the world. Countless American soldiers owe their lives to the system of Veterans Hospitals he proposed after World War Two, and the Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals -- MASH Units -- he developed during the Korean War. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison says that's why DeBakey is especially deserving of the Congressional Gold Medal.

"When I learned all he's done for our veterans, and for saving lives on the battlefield, I said this rises to a different level, and I wanted to make sure he won this hugely prestigious award." 

It really does take an act of Congress to get a Congressional Gold Medal, and it took Hutchison three years to get Congress to approve this one. She joined Houston Congressmen Al Green and Kevin Brady at Baylor College of Medicine in presenting DeBakey the actual bill that was passed by both houses of Congress and signed by President Bush. DeBakey says he's deeply honored because this award comes from the American people.

"It represents, in a way, a people's award. The citizens of this country, through Congress, have decided to give me this award. That's about as high as you can get."

The United States Mint is now working with DeBakey and his family on the design of his Gold Medal, and when it's finished, it will be presented at the White House sometime next year before his 100th birthday. Jim Bell, Houston Public Radio News.