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Book and Media Reviews
April 11, 2012

100,000 Hearts: A Surgeon’s Memoirs

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliation: Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston (

JAMA. 2012;307(14):1535. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.440

Denton Cooley was one of the pioneers of cardiac surgery and is arguably the most famous cardiac surgeon of all time. 100,000 Hearts is the story of his life and career as told by him. As he mentions in the preface, the book is aimed toward a lay audience; to that end, he includes a useful glossary of medical terms as well as an appendix presenting illustrations of cardiac anatomy and disease.

Cooley is the classic example of the right man (who combined great skill, ambition, and ego) at the right place (Johns Hopkins and Houston) at the right time (from the beginning of heart surgery to the present). A native of Houston, a star athlete, and a member of the “Cowboys” at the University of Texas who still has a “T” literally branded on his chest, Cooley began medical school at the University of Texas at Galveston but through a series of circumstances soon found himself at Johns Hopkins and a favorite pupil of Alfred Blalock, one of the unquestioned fathers of cardiac surgery. As an intern, Cooley participated in the first “blue baby” operation (Blalock-Taussig shunt) and as such acknowledges that he was “privileged not only to witness the dawn of heart surgery but also to participate in the evolution of the field.” Apart from Cooley, no living cardiac surgeon has witnessed the entire history and evolution of this important branch of medicine.

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