In the last portion of this series, we covered the early life of Rene Favaloro culminating with his rural clinic in Jacinto Arauzone. We will now discuss the next stage of his life as he left Argentina for America and the page of medical history.
Despite his passion for his work in Jacinto Arauzone and his native Argentina Favaloro was driven by his fascination with thoracic surgery and journeyed to the Cleveland Clinic Foundation with the intention to merely observe what was then the bleeding edge of cardiothoracic innovation in spite of his lack of American medical credentials and limited English. Eventually, Dr. Donald Effler, a physician at the Cleveland Clinic, seeing his aptitude allowed Dr. Favaloro despite his lack of certification to scrub in and participate as a second assistant. Dr. Favaloro subsequently became Dr. Effler and Dr. Grove’s permanent assistant. In this capacity, he undertook a wide variety of supplementary tasks such as helping the anesthetist and the extracorporeal pump operator and removing drains postoperatively. Humble as always, Dr. Favaloro approached these labors with the same degree of enthusiasm and physical stamina that he applied to all his activities.
May 9th, 1967 marked the moment when the observer became the innovator. On this day “Dr. Favaloro performed the first documented saphenous aortocoronary bypass in a 51-year-old woman who had total occlusion of the proximal third of the right coronary artery. Eight days later, Dr. Sones confirmed by angiography that the bypass was patent; 20 days later, angiography showed the total reconstruction of the artery.” This success marked a revolution in the treatment of patients with ischemic heart disease; leading Dr. Sones to suggest dividing “20th-century cardiology into the pre-Favaloro and the post-Favaloro eras.”