Ground-breaking early heart transplant surgeon to share memories of his medical firsts in honor of another transplant history-maker, Stanford Medical Center’s Dr. Norman Shumway


Legendary heart transplant surgeon Denton Cooley, MD, could easily just talk about his own achievements on June 20 as the debut speaker for the first annual lecture in honor of Stanford’s own heart-transplant pioneer, Norman Shumway, MD, PhD.

Shumway and Cooley, along with heart surgeons Christian Barnard in South Africa and Micheal DeBakey at Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, became household names in 1967 and 1968, when, one after another, they performed the first human heart transplants. Now, the procedure has become almost routine, thanks to solutions developed by Shumway at Stanford Hospital, Cooley and others to overcome crucial obstacles in diagnosis, tissue rejection, and donor heart preservation. The pair—and other physicians they trained—continued to break lifesaving ground over the decades in transplant technique and heart repair.

The friendship between these two dates back so far that Cooley, 88, said he can’t remember exactly when they first met, but they shared similar philosophies of practice and dedication to their patients and teaching. They also loved golf and were founding members of the 12-person-only Senior Cardiovascular Surgical Society, which met for 10 years in locations featuring great courses—Torrey Pines in Southern California, Camelback in Arizona and Innisbrook in Florida.

Both also showed remarkable vigor. Shumway, who died at his Palo Alto home in 2006 of cancer, operated until his retirement at age 70. Cooley stopped this year, but continues to do 6:30 a.m. rounds with residents at the Texas Heart Institute at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital. Cooley founded the institute in 1962 as a center for education, research and patient care.

Cooley said he feels complimented that he will be the first to give a Shumway Lecture, but he will not give any great oration. “I don’t want to be one of those seniors who talks about the good old days,’’ he said. “I’ll talk more about personal matters and the accomplishments of Shumway.”

His lecture will begin at 4 p.m. June 20 at the Clark Center Auditorium.

About Stanford Hospital & Clinics

Stanford Hospital & Clinics is known worldwide for advanced treatment of complex disorders in areas such as cardiac care, cancer treatment, neurosciences, surgery, and organ transplants. Ranked #15 on the U.S. News and World Report annual list of “America’s Best Hospitals,” Stanford Hospital & Clinics is internationally recognized for translating medical breakthroughs into the care of patients. The Hospital is part of the Stanford University Medical Center, along with the Stanford University School of Medicine and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford. For more information, visit

Reprinted with permission. Media Contacts: Sara Wykes, Writer (650-721-6263 )

Denton Cooley, MD

Norman Shumway, MD, PhD
(1923 - 2006)