Birthday: July 12, 1923
Died At Age: 77
Sun Sign: Cancer
Born in: La Plata, Argentina
Famous as: Cardiovascular Surgeon
Died on: July 29, 2000
place of death: Buenos Aires
City: La Plata, Argentina
Cause of Death: Suicide
awards: 1993 - Diamond Konex Award
1993 - Golden Plate Award
1979 - John Scott Prize
1987 - Distinguished Alumnus Award
1987 - Gairdner Foundation International Award
1989 - René Leriche Prize
1992 - Gifted Teacher Award
Dr. Rene Geronimo Favaloro was a famous cardiac surgeon from Argentina who is best remembered for conducting the first planned coronary artery bypass surgery, using a technique he invented himself. He was also the first surgeon in Argentina to perform successful heart-transplant surgery. A highly prominent personality in the Argentine medical fraternity, he founded the famous Favaloro Foundation, a well-known scientific institution in Argentina, which is dedicated to teaching medicine as well as medical research. After spending a long time working in Ohio in the United States, when he returned to Argentina he realized that there was a lack of an institution of similar excellence to Cleveland Clinic, the place where he had worked. Therefore, with the help of several collaborators, he finally founded the Favaloro Foundation in 1975. He also trained more than 450 surgeons not just from all over Argentina, but from all over the Americas. This foundation is famous for its honesty and passion as well as for maintaining medical ethics. Favaloro was deeply concerned about the health of the general public, and along with his brother, took many efforts to improve public health, which included educating public teachers and nurses.
Childhood & Early Life
Rene Favaloro was born on July 14, 1923, in La Plata, the capital city in the Province of Buenos Aires. His father was Juan B. Favaloro, a carpenter, and his mother was Ida Y Raffaelli, a dressmaker. He had a brother, who also became a surgeon.
From an early age Favaloro had a passion for football, though he never considered making a career out of it. It was an uncle who was a physician who inspired the boy to become a doctor.
In 1941 he received his bachelor’s degree from Rafael Hernández National College, after which he joined the Argentine Army, to serve during the World War II. After being discharged as a Lieutenant in 1945, he started his medical studies at the University of La Plata. He received his degree in 1949, following which he went to Polyclinical Hospital in La Plata to serve an internship.
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Rene Favaloro had to move to Jacinto Arauz, a poor village situated around 300 miles away from La Plata, to take the place of a country surgeon who had fallen ill. Soon he became interested in developments in cardiovascular intervention and also developed an interest in thoracic surgery.
During one visit to La Plata, he met Professor Mainetti who suggested to him to go to Cleveland Clinic in the United States. Since Favaloro was working in a rural area, he initially hesitated, but later realized that upon his return from the United States, he would be able to contribute much more to his country and community. Thus he went to the US.
At Cleveland Clinic, he served as apprentice to Dr. Delos M. Cosgrove, who was also the co-chairperson of the center. He also studied with Mason Sones, who is considered the father of coronary cineangiography.
In 1967, Rene Favaloro performed heart bypass operation on a 51-year-old woman. Though two other surgeons, Dr. David Sabiston and Dr. Garrett, had performed heart bypass surgeries earlier, neither of the operations had been reported in a medical journal. Thus Favaloro’s surgery became the first planned heart bypass operation to be reported.
Favaloro’s technique involved first stopping the heart and then taking a section of vein from the leg of the patient. After that, one end was sewed into the aorta while the other end was attached to the blocked artery. This technique, which was the fundamental work of Favaloro’s career, became quite famous, and within a year 171 surgeries were performed at the Cleveland Clinic alone. Later, it became a standard procedure for heart bypass surgeries.
In 1971, he gave up his career in Cleveland Clinic and returned to Argentina as he had always wanted to serve the people of his country. He soon realized the importance of having an institution of similar excellence to Cleveland Clinic and began collecting funds.
In 1975, he established the famous Favaloro Foundation with the support of the Cleveland Clinic. He not only trained doctors from all over Argentina as well as the Americas, but also conducted several courses, seminars and conferences, to improve the level of standard of his institution.
The ‘Basic Investigation Laboratory’ was established by him in 1980, which was financed with his own money. Later, in 1992, the ‘Favaloro Foundation Institute of Cardiology’ was also opened in Buenos Aires. It started providing highly specialized services in the fields of cardiology, cardiovascular surgery, as well as heart, lung, and bone marrow transplants along with many other areas.
Rene Favaloro operated on the famous businessman cum boxing promoter Tito Lectoure in 1990. He also performed numerous bypass surgeries on poor and needy patients for free, though the costs were extremely high. He felt that for him, it was a moral obligation.
He strongly emphasized on the prevention of diseases and spread awareness on how following basic rules of hygiene would help in reducing diseases as well as the mortality rate. His institution, to fulfill his objective, used to have illness detection and prevention programs. Because of their skilled professionals, specialized technology, and medical ethics, the Favaloro Foundation still stands as one of the largest institutes for cardiology all over the Americas.
Rene Favaloro wrote several books during his career. ‘Surgical Treatment of Coronary Arteriosclerosis’ can be regarded as one of his most famous works. This book focuses on his famous technique which he had invented for heart bypass surgery.
'Memories of a Rural Doctor' was another one of his well-known works. In it, he mainly discusses his career while working in the village Jacinto Arauz, and the sad life of the people there, and how he worked hard to improve their lifestyle.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1951 Rene Favaloro married Maria Antonia Delgado, with whom he had a relationship since they were in high school. They shared a happy and peaceful life. However, they didn’t have any children.
Favaloro was quite frustrated at the state of the world. He realized that though his interest was only in curing people and creating a better world, he still didn’t receive the necessary support or funds from the governmental agencies for this noble endeavor. Disillusioned and sad, he shot himself dead at his home in Buenos Aires on July 29, 2000. The whole country was aggrieved at his death. Though his death was tragic, his life had taught humanity a lesson in selfless service.