An eminent cardiac surgeon from Argentina, Dr. René Gerónimo Favaloro was the foremost surgeon who successfully conducted coronary heart surgery based on a new technique he developed at Cleveland Clinic, US. Born and brought up in La Plata, Argentina, Dr. Favaloro was inspired by Professor Mainetti of La Plata University to pursue further studies and research work on coronary arteries and coronary angiograms at Cleveland Clinic in the US. It was during his years at Cleveland clinic—particularly while doing research work at Sones laboratory—that Dr. Favaloro came up with a new method called ‘saphenous vein technique’ for treating coronary heart disease. His technique set a milestone for the medical world by giving hope and respite to many coronary heart patients. Eventually, he returned to his home country Argentina where he founded Favaloro Foundation to facilitate excellent medical services for the heart patients. He was awarded with John Scott Prize, the Golden Plate and the René Leriche Prize for his contribution in the field of medicine.
Childhood And Early Life
Dr. René Gerónimo Favaloro was born on 14 July, 1923 in La Plata, Argentina to Juan B. Favaloro, a carpenter, and Ida Y. Raffaelli, a dressmaker. His parents were expatriates from Sicily, Italy. He had a brother named Juan Jose who was also a surgeon. In his early years, René Gerónimo Favaloro was largely influenced by his uncle to pursue career in medicine. Soon after completing his undergraduate degree in 1941, Favaloro was inducted into Argentine army where he served for five years. However, in 1946, he left the service and continued his further studies in medicine at the La Universidad Nacional de La Plata and graduated in 1949. Thereafter, he completed his internship at a hospital in La Plata and, in 1962, moved to United States for further studies in thoracic and cardiovascular surgery.
While practicing medicine in La Plata, Favaloro got drawn towards the new developments taking place in the field of cardiovascular and thoracic surgery. He was advised by Professor Mainetti of La Plata University to follow his heart and grab the opportunity of studying at Cleveland Clinic, Ohio. Initially, Dr. Favaloro held reservations about relinquishing his practice in rural province of Argentina but joined Cleveland Clinic in 1962 and went on to work with Dr. Delos Cosgrove and Mason Sones. During this period, Favaloro devoted majority of his time researching on congenital and valvular diseases, coronary arteries, coronary angiograms in the Sones Laboratory that had the largest compilations of works on coronary angiograms. In 1967, he presented his ideas on using saphenous vein technique for coronary heart surgery. In the same year, he successfully conducted a coronary heart surgery on a 51-year-old woman. This was regarded as the first ever bypass surgery and became his most notable achievement. Following the successful heart surgery by Dr. Favoloro, the Cleveland Clinic conducted 171 more successful bypass surgeries for coronary heart patients over a period of one year. His method fundamentally transformed the treatment of coronary heart disease and set a milestone in medical history by giving ray of hope for heart patients. In his career span, Dr. Favaloro conducted over 13,000 heart operations.
At the peak of his career, Dr. Favaloro had a vision to set up a medical centre of excellence in his home country. So, in 1972, he came back to Argentina and started Favaloro Foundation to provide excellent medical services to heart patients in his country. Over the course of years, he imparted medical training to nearly 450 residents and held many courses, conferences and seminars through his Foundation. The “Cardiology for the Consultant” seminar was held once in two years. In 1980, Favaloro set up Basic Investigation Laboratory which was later renamed as the Institute of Investigation in Basic Sciences of the University Institute of Biomedical Sciences and was eventually christened Universidad Favaloro in August 1998.
Dr. Favaloro was associated with many leading organizations such as the American Association for Thoracic Surgery, the International Society of Cardiothoracic Surgeons, American College of Surgeons, the American Medical Association, the Pan American Medical Association and the Third World Academy of Sciences. He also held several lectureship positions and contributed with over 350 papers in scientific journals. He published six books including ‘Surgical Treatment on Coronary Arteriosclerosis’ published in 1970, ‘Don Pedro and Education’, ‘From La Pampa to the United States’, ‘The Memory of Guayaquil’, ‘Do You Know San Martín’ and ‘Memories of a Rural Doctor’.
Favaloro married Maria Antonia Delgado, his childhood sweetheart. The couple did not bear any offspring and shared all their affection with their pet dogs, viz. Gaga and Roberto. He established a clinic with his brother in La Pampa.
He appeared on numerous television programs and actively took part in many conferences held in his home country as well as overseas. His television program known as ‘The Great Medical Issues’ provided exhaustive information on the prevention, remedies and cure of diseases. This television program received two awards in the country.
Dr. Favaloro took his own life in 2000 AD by shooting at his heart. At the time, his Foundation was overburdened with debts and Dr. Favaloro’s efforts at getting help from the government to bail out his foundation from the financial crisis remained mostly unheard by the officials. Driven to desperation, he committed suicide on 29th July 2000. His ashes were sprinkled at Jacinto Arauz, Provincia de La Pampa.