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Rene Favaloro: 1923-2000: Heart Surgeon

Returned To Argentina

The pioneering heart surgeon turned his back on a lucrative medical career in the United States in order to bring his expertise back to his homeland. "Although he could have had a brilliant medical career at one of the most prestigious and well-endowed medical centers in the United States—which would have made him very rich—Favaloro resigned," according to the London Guardian. He returned to Argentina in 1972 to create a top-level teaching clinic and performed the nation's first heart-transplant operations. Favaloro raised the $55 million it took to found his heart clinic, the Favaloro Foundation, which opened its doors in 1992. There, he treated thousands of patients, often at no charge, and trained hundreds of surgeons.

The 25th anniversary of Favaloro's first bypass surgery was celebrated at the Cleveland Clinic in 1992. Pottenger, the first patient, was still alive at 79 and attended the event. Favaloro constantly downplayed his achievements. "I'm still a simple country doctor," he said in 1992, according to the London Times. "De-spite the technology, the most important thing is to talk to the patient and make contact with the patient. The patient is not only the illness, he has a soul."

Favaloro was author of more than 300 scientific papers and wrote the study Surgical Treatment of Arteriosclerosis in 1970. He also wrote an autobiography, The Challenging Dream of Heart Surgery: From the Pampas to Cleveland, in 1994. While Favaloro was known and honored the world over for his achievements, he was disenchanted with this level of international success. Truth be told, his international renown contrasted sharply with the lack of recognition—and practical support—he received in Argentina.

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: Trevor Edwards Biography - Accepted Wisdom from His Mother to Francisco Franco (1892–1975) BiographyRene Favaloro: 1923-2000: Heart Surgeon Biography - Interest In Medicine Began Early, Returned To Argentina, Clinic Struggled With Financial Difficulty