Rene Gerónimo Favaloro was born on July 14, 1923 in La Plata, Argentina.
He attended elementary school in a modest neighborhood school, where the teaching method was based on students participation, duty and discipline. Thanks to his parents (his mother was seamstress and his dad a carpenter) he learned to value effort and work; while his grandmother shared with him the love for nature and the land. Later into his career, he dedicated his doctorate thesis to his grandmother: "To my grandmother Cesárea, who taught me to see beauty even in a poor dry branch".
After finishing high school, he enrolled in the Faculty of Medical Sciences of the National University of La Plata and while in his third year of studies, he began to attend the Polyclinic Hospital and increased his love for medicine by getting in touch with patients for the first time.
After graduating in 1949, he practiced as a rural doctor for twelve years in La Pampa province, which shaped him with a social conscience that would affect all the activities in his personal and professional life. During the years that he, along with his brother, worked in La Pampa, they created a welfare center and raised the social and educational level of the region.
With the help of teachers, church representatives, administrative personnel and housewives, they slowly started achieving a change of attitude in the community by almost eliminating infant mortality, reducing birth infections and malnutrition, put together a blood bank and a database of donors who were available whenever they needed and made public speeches within the community where they provided health care guidelines.
Favaloro was impressed with the first cardiovascular interventions and believed they were the marvel of a new age. Little by little he started to feel more and more interested in thoracic surgery, and was simultaneously thinking in finishing his rural doctor practice and traveling to the United States to get a masters degree. He wanted to take part of the revolution and not to be a mere observer. In one of his trips to La Plata he talked with his teacher Mainetti, who advised him that the right place to go in the USA was The Cleveland Clinic.
At the age of 40 he went to work as resident surgeon doctor at the Cleveland Clinic, where he eventually became the Plant Surgeon. In this period he developed the technique of the aorto-coronary by-pass, in cooperation with his colleague Mason Sones, who developed the cinecoronariography, indispensable study prior to the surgery.
Initially, the main part of his work was related to the congenital and valvular heart disease, but his research took other directions. Every day, after finishing his work in the surgery room, Favaloro spent hours reviewing cinecoronarioangiographies and studying the anatomy of coronary arteries and their relation with the cardiac muscle.
At the beginning of 1967, Favaloro began to think about the possibility of using the safena vein in coronary surgery and put these ideas into practice for the first time in May of that year. The standardization of this technique, called the "bypass" or revascularization myocardial, was the essential work during his career, which earned him international prestige, since the procedure radically changed the history of coronary disease treatment. In his book titled "Surgical Treatment on Coronary Arteriosclerosis", published in 1970 and edited in Spanish with the name of "Tratamiento Quirúrgico de la Arteriosclerosis Coronaria", he provides an in depth detail of this new treatment. Nowadays, between 600.000 and 700.000 surgeries of this type are performed every year in the United States only.
His contribution was the result of long researches and deep knowledge of his field. Favaloro insisted that his findings were not personal but the result of team work that took the well-being of the patient as the first objective.
Doctor Favaloro was the first to successfully perform a bypass surgery by replacing the obstruction of the coronary artery of a 51 year old woman at the Cleveland Clinic in May of 1967. This marked "the beginning" of bypass surgery, which gradually improved with new technology.
Favaloro changed the history of coronary disease.
Favaloro returned to Argentina in 1971, hoping to develop a medical center similar to the Cleveland Clinic combining medical attention, investigation and education. The result of this plans were the creation of the Favaloro Foundation in 1975. Since then, more than 400 medical residents were formed under his supervision and innumerable courses, seminars and congresses were organized.
In 1980 Favaloro created the Laboratory of Basic Investigation -financed with his own money- that eventually became the Institute of Investigation in Basic Sciences of the University Institute of Biomedical Sciences, which, in turn, opened its way, in August of 1998 to the creation of the Favaloro University. Today the university has a Medical Sciences Faculty and an Engineering Faculty.
In 1992 the Institute of Cardiology and Cardiovascular Surgery of the Favaloro Foundation was inaugurated with the theme "advanced technology at the service of medical humanism" specialized in cardiology, cardiovascular surgery, cardiac, lung, hepatic, renal and narrow bone transplants, among others.
Favaloro continued his efforts of emphasizing on the prevention of diseases and teaching his patients basic rules of hygiene that helped diminish the diseases and the mortality rate. He never wasted the opportunity of reporting issues such as unemployment, inequality, poverty, armament, pollution, drugs, violence, etc, and was convinced that only people are aware of a problem it is possible to correct it or, even better, to anticipate it.
Favaloro received innumerable international distinctions such as the John Scott Prize 1979 (City of Philadelphia, USA), the creation of the Teachers' Board of Cardiovascular Surgery "Dr René G. Favaloro " (Tel Aviv's University, Israel, 1980); a distinction from the Conchita Rábago de Giménez Díaz Foundation (Madrid, Spain, 1982); the award "Teacher of Argentine Medicine" (Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1986); the Distinguished Alumnus Award of the Cleveland Clinic Foundation (Ohio, USA, 1987); The Gairdner Foundation International Award (Toronto, Canada, 1987); the René Leriche Prize granted by the International Society of Surgery (1989); the Gifted Teachers' Award (American College of Cardiology, 1992); the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement (1993); the Prince Mahidol Prize (granted by His Majesty the King of Thailand, Bangkok, Thailand, 1999).
Favaloro insisted that every students have to compromise with society and quoted "I would like to be remembered as a teacher more than as a surgeon", reason why he dedicated as much time as he could to teaching and encouragement, as well as developing educational programs and writing books about medicine, education and society...
He lived in the Palermo neighborhood in the city of Buenos Aires and a crisis of personal and economic nature tied to the continuation of his Foundation, led it him to commit suicide at the age of 77 years. His unexpected disappearance is a painful loss for the humanity.