Who was René Favaloro? Google Doodle pays tribute to pioneering heart surgeon

Clémence Michallon

Dr René Favaloro, a pioneering Argentinian surgeon remembered for his contributions to coronary bypass surgery, is being remembered with a special Google Doodle on what would have been his 96th birthday.

Favaloro, a Buenos Aires native, is credited with bringing coronary bypass surgery into the clinical field – though he was reluctant to be called the “father” of such a procedure.

Born in La Plata on on 12 July,1923, Favaloro graduated in 1948 from La Plata University with a medical degree.

He began his career as a country doctor in the province of La Pampa, where during 12 years he “educated his patients about preventive medicine, established the first ‘mobile’ blood bank in this area, and built his own operating room, where he trained general and surgical nurses,” per a tribute written by Dr Denton A Cooley following Favaloro’s death in 2000.

Favaloro joined the Cleveland Clinic in 1962 and pursued his interest in thoracic surgery.

In May 1967, Favaloro operated on a 51-year-old woman with an occlusion on her right coronary artery. He performed a saphenous aortocoronary bypass, meaning he used a vein from the woman’s leg to re-route the blood flow around the blockage.

“Although he was always hesitant to carry the moniker of ‘father’ of coronary artery bypass surgery, he is the surgeon we should credit with introducing coronary bypass surgery into the clinical arena,” Cooley wrote of Favaloro in his tribute.

Favaloro returned to Argentina in the 1970s and created the Favaloro Foundation, a scientific institution dedicated to medical care, training and research.

He died by suicide on 29 July, 2000. His death triggered a national debate on the effects of Argentina’s late-Nineties recession, as well as the state of healthcare and scientific research in the country.