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NLM Receives Generous Gift from The DeBakey Medical Foundation

Funds Will Support Enhanced Access to the Michael E. DeBakey Archives at the NLM and Establishment of Related Programs in the History of Medicine

The National Library of Medicine (NLM) has received a generous gift from The DeBakey Medical Foundation to support development, expansion, and enhanced public access to the NLM’s collection of Michael E. DeBakey archives and associated collections, and to develop related programs in the history of medicine. Initial activities will include digitizing the bulk of the DeBakey archives and making them more readily available for study and analysis, as well as the establishment of Michael E. DeBakey Fellowships in the History of Medicine and a related lecture series.

Michael E. DeBakey, MD (1908–2008), was a legendary American surgeon, educator, and medical statesman. During a career spanning 85 years, his work transformed cardiovascular surgery, helped to develop the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH), raised medical education standards, and informed national health care policy. He pioneered many operative procedures, including aneurysm repair, coronary bypass, endarterectomy, which routinely save thousands of lives each year. He performed the first successful implantation of a left ventricular assist device and some of the first heart transplants. His inventions included the roller pump (a key component of heart-lung machines), as a medical student, as well as artificial hearts and ventricular assist pumps. Among innumerable other contributions, Dr. DeBakey was a visionary supporter of the NLM, playing a pivotal role in its transformation from the Armed Forces Medical Library in the 1950s, in the establishment of the National Network of Libraries of Medicine in the 1960s, in launching NLM’s outreach initiatives in the 1990s, and in promoting the digitization of its indexes to pre-1960s journal articles. A video profile of Dr. DeBakey is available on the NLM Web site.

The NLM’s collection of Michael E. DeBakey archives dates from the early 1900s to 2009. Containing correspondence, administrative records, diaries, transcripts, publications, speeches, conference and awards material, subject files, photographs, and audiovisual media, the collection reflects the vast expanse of Dr. DeBakey’s life, achievements, and interests as a world-renowned medical statesman, innovator, and champion of humanitarianism and lifelong learning. NLM has already digitized selected items from the DeBakey archives for the Michael E. DeBakey Profiles in Science site. Materials in the DeBakey archives have rich connections to the archives of other individuals and organizations, including NLM’s own archives, as well as to many published works in the NLM collection.

"This wonderful gift from The DeBakey Medical Foundation provides the NLM with a tremendous opportunity to make the records of Dr. DeBakey’s remarkable and wide-ranging contributions and achievements readily available to the world and to promote additional public use and understanding of the Library’s rich collections in the history of medicine." said NLM Acting Director Betsy Humphreys.

Lois DeBakey, PhD, sister of Michael E. DeBakey and vice president of The DeBakey Medical Foundation, as well as a key former member of the NLM Board of Regents, stated "Because of the wide-ranging, diverse roles of Dr. Michael DeBakey as academic administrator, peerless pioneering cardiovascular researcher and innovator, gifted medical educator, international medical statesman, fervent patient advocate, and medical consultant to US Presidents and heads of state worldwide, his archives, in good measure, are a historical record of the state and progress of medicine during his long, highly productive professional career. It is fitting," she continued, "for the National Library of Medicine to be the curator of the Michael E. DeBakey, MD, Archives, for he played a central role in the establishment of the NLM in Bethesda, Maryland, where he served two terms as chairman of its Board of Regents and actively participated in many of its programs. The Trustees of The DeBakey Medical Foundation are pleased that the world-acclaimed NLM will continue to develop the Michael E. DeBakey, MD, archives and establish the Michael E. DeBakey, MD, Fellowships in the History of Medicine, the Michael E. DeBakey, MD, Lecture in the History of Medicine, and other appropriate memorials."

Details of the expanded access to the Michael. E. DeBakey archives held by the Library, as well as the Michael E. DeBakey Fellowships in the History of Medicine and an associated annual Michael. E. DeBakey Lecture in the History of Medicine, will be announced later this year.

Debakey with honorary consultants for the Army Medical Library
Michael E. DeBakey (rear row, second from right), among fellow honorary consultants to the Army Medical Library, 1950
. Six years later, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed legislation that transferred to the Library to the US Public Health Service, renamed it the National Library of Medicine, and paved the way for it to located in Bethesda, Maryland, on the campus of the National Institutes of Health.

Courtesy National Library of Medicine


Debakey with Board of Regents
Michael E. DeBakey (rear row, fourth from right), among fellow members of the NLM Board of Regents, during its first meeting, held on March 20, 1957
. The meeting took place at the Army Medical Library, known as the “Old Red Brick,” located on Independence Avenue, on the National Mall, in Washington, DC. DeBakey was one of the most influential advocates for moving the Library to the campus of the National Institutes of Health.*

*DeBakey ME. The National Library of Medicine. Evolution of a premier information center. JAMA. 1991 Sep 4;266(9):1252-8.

Courtesy National Library of Medicine


Dr. Lindberg with DeBakey on 90th birthday
Donald A.B. Lindberg, National Library of Medicine Director from 1984 to 2015, and Michael DeBakey, celebrating DeBakey’s 90th birthday in the rotunda of the NLM Building, October 7, 1998
. DeBakey’s actual birthday was September 7. In this picture, DeBakey holds a gift of a piece of the previous home of the Library, the Old Red Brick, dating from 1880s and the time of John Shaw Billings, who built and modernized the Library of the Surgeon General’s Office, the original forerunner of the National Library of Medicine.

Courtesy National Library of Medicine


Established in 1961 by Michael E. DeBakey, the DeBakey Medical Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting and advancing medical education and evidence-based biomedical research, with the ultimate goal of improving healthcare.

The NLM is authorized to accept donations in support of its mission.

Since its founding in 1836, the National Library of Medicine https://www.nlm.nih.gov has played a pivotal role in translating biomedical research into practice and is a leader in information innovation. NLM is the world's largest medical library, and millions of scientists, health professionals and the public around the world use NLM services every day.

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