This is the first in a multi-part reflection on the life of a physician I deeply admire.
Success and honor take on innumerable forms. For some, it is an institution that bears one’s name, for others, the immortality garnered by leaving an indelible legacy on your profession. For Dr. Rene Favaloro however, the highest honor had only one possible form, the maintenance of one’s principles in the tireless service of others. It was this unwavering adherence to the dictates of his heart and the needs of his fellow man that hampered his academic medical career in Argentina and propelled his development into a physician whose work, Dr. Mason Sones, himself a titan in the field, hailed as marking the dawning of a new era in 20th century Cardiology.
Rene Geronimo Favaloro was born in La Plata, Argentina on July 12, 1923, to Juan B. Favaloro, a carpenter, and Ida Y. Raffaelli, a dressmaker. The two primary influences in the young man’s life were not his parents but his maternal grandmother who instilled in him a deep affection for his native land and his uncle, a general practitioner who often allowed his young nephew to accompany him as he performed his duties. These two fostered in Favaloro the spirit and values which would come to define the rest of his life.
After graduating from high school and serving in the Argentinian military for 5 years, Favaloro began his medical training at Medical Science Faculty of La Plata University graduating with his MD in 1949. Studying under the Argentine surgical luminaries Federico Christmann and Jose Maria Mainetti, Favaloro developed the two foundations of his later reputation a fascination with thoracic surgery and a commitment to mentorship. This latter sentiment is perhaps best summarized in Dr. Favaloro’s assertion that “It must be understood that we are all educators. Every act of our lives has potentially significant implications.” A still deeper reflection of Dr. Favaloro’s commitment to education, however, are the hundreds of students who trained under him and carry on his legacy the world over.
Favaloro’s time at La Plata University introduced him to yet another factor that would shape his life and career; the conflict between the awards his skills earned and the rigid morality his heart demanded. As recounted in his Memoir of a Country Doctor, after completing his internship he applied for a position as auxiliary house doctor and received it on a temporary basis. When the post was to be officially confirmed, the doctor was requested to fill a form “and to write in a blank on the final line that I accepted the government’s policy and endorsement by the Peronist Party.” In Favaloro’s own words, he began to understand that the “future was cloudy, because in order to grow and prosper I would accept ideas and concepts which were absolutely distant from my previous formation and my spirit.” Rather than accept this bargain of professional advancement at the cost of personal debasement, Favaloro assumed the role of a country doctor in a small town called Jacinto Arauzone. He would hold the post for the next decade.
It can be argued that it is in this phase of his career that we most clearly perceive Rene Favaloro both as a physician and as a man. Jacinto Arauzone patient population numbered around 2,000 individuals and Favaloro was responsible for “everything, from internal medicine to pediatrics, obstetrics, emergency traumatology, and minor surgery.” This community where “the people have only one room where they cook, they live, they make love, where they have their children, where they eat” would hold a lifelong influence over Favaloro. The doctor was not the only one deeply impacted, during his tenure, he taught his patients the principles of basic hygiene, established the rudiments of preventive care in the community and established the region’s first blood bank consisting of donors who could be called upon when and where a transfusion was needed. Converting his home into a clinic, Dr. Favaloro in cooperation with his brother dedicated his entire self to the service of his chosen patient population to marked results drastically reducing child mortality and malnutrition. Until the end of his life, he would refer to himself as “a country doctor.”
 Nunca recibí distinciones a título personal. Para mí el “nosotros” siempre estuvo por encima del “yo”.
 Fuster, V., and J. T. Willerson. “Rene G. Favaloro, MD: The Passing of a Pioneer.” Circulation 103, no. 4 (January 30, 2001): 480-81. doi:10.1161/01.cir.103.4.480.
 “Debe entenderse que todos somos educadores. Cada acto de nuestra vida cotidiana tiene implicancias, a veces significativas.”
 Vinter, Hannah. “Shot Through the Heart: The Life and Death of René Favaloro.” The Argentina Independent. July 29, 2010. Accessed October 13, 2015. http://www.argentinaindependent.com/socialissues/urbanlife/shot-through-the-heart-the-life-and-death-of-rene-favaloro/.
 Boullon, Fernando. Favaloro: El Corazón En Las Manos: Historias Y Anécdotas Del Hombre Que Revolucionó La Cirugía Cardíaca De La Argentina Para El Mundo. Buenos Aires: Random House.
 Nagourney, Eric. “Rene Favaloro, 77, a Leader In Early Heart-Bypass Surgery.” The New York Times. July 31, 2000. Accessed October 13, 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/2000/08/01/world/rene-favaloro-77-a-leader-in-early-heart-bypass-surgery.html.