President Signs Bill Giving DeBakey Top Civilian Honor

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HOUSTON — Famed Houston heart surgeon Michael DeBakey has been awarded the nation's top civilian honor — the Congressional Gold Medal.

President Bush finalized the award Tuesday by signing a bill approved recently by the Senate and the House of Representatives. The 99-year-old surgeon is considered the father of modern cardiovascular surgery.

He pioneered now-common procedures such as bypass surgery and invented a host of devices to help heart patients.

DeBakey joined Baylor University College of Medicine in Houston in 1948. By 1992, he had performed more than 50,000 surgeries.

Previous winners include Mother Teresa and George Washington.