Houston Treasures

Denton A. Cooley M.D.


Photo by: Evin Thayer Studios

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Denton Cooley, son of a Houston dentist, was born in 1920. He attended Houston public schools and graduated from San Jacinto High School. He graduated from The University of Texas (with highest honors and Phi Beta Kappa) where he was a member the Southwest Conference Champion Basketball teams of that era. He graduated with highest honors from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and served military duty in Austria between 1946 and 1948. He was on the faculty of Baylor College of Medicine until 1969, when he became Chief Surgeon at the Texas Heart Institute.

Dr. Cooley is a member or honorary member of over fifty professional societies around the world. Among his more than 120 honors and awards are the National Medal of Technology presented by President Clinton in 1999, the Medal of Freedom (the nation’s highest civilian award) presented by President Reagan in 1984, and the Rene Leriche Prize, the highest honor of the International Surgical Society for cardiovascular contributions. He has received honorary degrees from eight universities, has been named Honorary Fellow of four Royal Colleges of Surgery, and has received decorations from twelve countries.

He has contributed to the techniques for repair and replacement of diseased heart valves and is widely known for his pioneering surgical treatment of cardiac anomalies of infants and children. Dr. Cooley and his team have performed over 100,000 open heart operations at his hospital. Dr. Cooley believes his major accomplishment has been the creation of the Texas Heart Institute and developing a school of surgery. More than 800 surgeons are members of the Cooley Surgical Society. The Denton A. Cooley Building completed in 2002 for the Texas Heart Institute was provided largely by donations from patients, friends, and colleagues. It has facilities for education, research, and 12 operating rooms for cardiovascular surgery.

Dr. Cooley has been married for 56 years to Louise Thomas Cooley. They have five daughters and sixteen grandchildren. He enjoys his family at their ranch and at their Galveston beach houses. Dr. Cooley enjoys many hobbies, but currently is hooked on golf.

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