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Adib Jatene, an immense legacy to Brazilian medicine

November 14, 2014, will be marked forever in the history of Brazil as the day that the national medicine lost one of its greatest references: cardiologist Adib Jatene.

Born in Xapuri, Acre, son of a Lebanese rubber tapper, he wrote one of the finest chapters in the history of Brazilian medicine. With a medical degree from University of São Paulo's Faculty of Medicine (FMUSP), awarded in 1953, where he also became professor emeritus, he accumulated positions at Hospital do Coração (HCor) and Instituto Dante Pazzanese, two national references in cardiology.

Jatene was a pioneer of heart surgery in the country. In addition to having created the first artificial lung-heart machine at Hospital das Clínicas, in the 1950s, he was responsible for the first bypass surgery in Brazil in 1968. His contributions in favor of techniques for the development of cardiology put his name among the most respected cardiac surgeons in the world. One of the procedures developed by him to correct transposed arteries in neonates became known worldwide as "Jatene's surgery", adding up to an impressive history of more than 20,000 operations and nearly 700 scientific papers published in the national and international literature as author or co-author. One of them, related to the intracavitary correction technique and published in The Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, reached, in the medical literature only, over 400 citations.


Even without joining any political party, Jatene took part on several occasions in the national political scene. He was state secretary of health in São Paulo, between 1979 and 1982, and twice minister of health in the administrations of Fernando Collor, for eight months, and Fernando Henrique Cardoso, from 1995 to 1996. It was in this last administration that he created the Provisional Contribution on Financial Transactions (CPMF), a tax intended solely to fund the national health sector. Ministry of Health officials remember one of his favorite habits in those days: enter the cafeteria queue or have breakfast with servers, seeking to gather opinions on our health system. Unmotivated, he left the ministry when he realized that the government started to divert health budget funds collected through the tax he envisioned.

Last year, he returned to the government to chair a committee of experts to create a project aiming at changes in medical education. He walked away again after the Dilma Roussef administration launched, without any prior discussion, the More Doctors program. His main concerns in terms of national public health were proper medical education, health financing and the Family Health program, which was highlighted in a recent article published in Folha de S.Paulo newspaper: "Physicians must be experts in people," he wrote.

The Journal of the Brazilian Medical Association (Ramb) honors Professor Adib Jatene in recognition of his example as physician and public figure, his dedication to medicine, and unwavering integrity throughout his life. We are certain that this legacy will remain, inspiring professionals to defend medicine with honor, ethics and dignity, as he never gave up doing.


"The Brazilian Medical Association mourns the passing of Prof. Dr. Adib Domingos Jatene, who worked hard for the sake of medicine and health. Medical science loses one of its icons, who has inspired generations. May the pain of loss be comforted by the important legacy he left as a doctor, teacher, researcher and citizen."

Florentino Cardoso, president of the Brazilian Medical Association.

"Permanent reason for inspiration for all those around him, Jatene managed to bring together the most absolute accuracy in medical procedures and a humane treatment, always maintaining a close relationship with each one of his patients. His ethical and fair stance was, and will be, a beacon shedding light on all medicine. I owe much of my career to him, who always had a friendly and encouraging word to offer. Working for years with him in the operating room and ICU was a lesson I will never forget. To be the director of the Faculty of Medicine at University of São Paulo, where Jatene received his medical degree, and to be in the position he held with both talent and dedication, fills me with pride and responsibility. I must also mention his career as an agent of public life, and key figure in the implementation of the Unified Health System, benefiting millions of patients. Brazil loses one of its most brilliant public figures."

José Otavio Costa Auler Junior, director of the University of São Paulo's Faculty of Medicine.

"Dr. Adib Jatene was the most talented man I met in medicine. He had the highest of the intellectual qualities: creativity. He was a great surgeon and tireless worker, who invented new and lasting things. He was righteous; he did not envy nor was vain; on the contrary, he recognized the value of others and encouraged careers. He had great administrative vision, not only about medical institutions, but also in relation to health in the country. He was a natural leader who indicated paths, led with courage, persuaded by example and thus conquered the trust of his colleagues. His judgments were wise. Dr. Adib deserves to be called a great man, an indelible mark in the history of Brazil."

Protásio L. da Luz, Cardiology senior professor at Instituto do Coração, Faculty of Medicine, University of São Paulo.

"Dr. Adib was a person predestined to be all that he was. If he had been an engineer, he would have been the best of all; if he had been a lawyer, he also would have been the best of all; if he had chosen any other profession, I am sure he would have been the best of all because of his discipline and enormous capacity for work. Brazil has excellent surgeons, but few like him. Professionals like Dr. Adib do not appear that often."

Fulvio Pillegi, professor emeritus, Faculty of Medicine, University of São Paulo.

"Prof. Adib Jatene left the Brazilian medicine a legacy of inestimable value, his contributions to cardiology and cardiac surgery were many. Besides being a brilliant physician and teacher, Dr. Adib acted with great skill as Health State Secretary and Minister."

Sérgio Almeida Oliveira, professor emeritus of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, Faculty of Medicine, University of São Paulo

"On November 19th, cardiovascular surgery and the Brazilian medicine as a whole lost one of its greatest exponents. The life story of Adib Jatene is extraordinary, from Xapuri, Acre, where he was born until the time of his death, in São Paulo. Jatene was an innovative professional. He proposed and performed original techniques and also contributed to the development of the cardiac surgery products industry. His accomplishments allowed this medical specialty to gain international recognition, especially within Latin America.

Unfortunately, Professor Jatene is gone, but he left so much of himself, and took much of us who had the privilege of knowing him closely."

Noedir Stolf, head of the cardiology team at Beneficência Portuguesa de São Paulo.

"Prof. Adib D. Jatene leaves a legacy not only to Hospital do Coração, but also to the entire Brazilian society and, dare I say, to the international medical and scientific community. Prof. Adib is one of those characters that will always be in our memories, whether because of his teachings, or for his achievements and developments, but mostly for his principles. The innovations he created in the area of cardiac surgery, with development of techniques for correction of congenital heart abnormalities, benefited thousands of children around the world, and opened the borders of the Brazilian medicine and specifically cardiology to first world countries. In the realm of education, he participated directly and indirectly in the formation of numerous cardiologists. Today, many of them have international recognition in their respective fields, planting good seeds in various places of our country and abroad. As a human being, he always attempted to develop sustainable social practices, focusing on the most vulnerable population, and promoting the return of family doctors in Brazil, in order to meet the needs of our public health system. As a politician, he served thinking in the sustainable development of the health of the Brazilian people, at municipal, state and federal levels. Last, as head of his family, he honored his wife, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren with a personal history that will be recorded forever in the list of illustrious personalities of Brazilian society of all time. All those who had the pleasure of knowing him more closely will miss him greatly."

Carlos Alberto Buchpiguel, superintendent physician at Hospital do Coração.

"Professor Adib Jatene was a master for all Brazilian physicians. His commitment to medicine and health guided his career, with great activism in favor of society. He has my gratitude forever for having done so much. I hope that his example will continue to guide all doctors, for as Euryclides Jesus Zerbini used to say, nothing and no one can resist work."

Carlos Vital Tavares Corrêa Lima, president of the Federal Board of Medicine.

"'Work does not kill. What kills is anger', would say Professor Adib. Talking to him was always encouraging. Last year, while studying for a public competition to become full professor of cardiology at USP, I would sometimes feel a little tired, but all I needed was to enter his office and listen to his ideas on public health to feel extremely motivated once again."

Roberto Kalil Filho, cardiologist.

"Adib Domingos Jatene, a recent loss to the cardiology and medicine, was a physician who had one of the most comprehensive and successful performances in Brazilian medicine, with meritocratic and clear visibility in all scenarios of his professional life. With undisputed talent, irreparable systemic view and didactics, professor Jatene consolidated the teaching of cardiovascular surgery in the main institutions of our country. Always dealing with healthcare, teaching and research in an inseparable and translational manner, he idealized, completed and accomplished much, products of his brilliance, perseverance and unparalleled capacity to work. Jatene's surgery, one of those great examples, magnifies the Brazilian scientific literature since 1975 with this great contribution that is not only quoted in all databases, but is also the reference point of cardiovascular scientometrics in our country. His erudition, great systemic view, and especially his daily civil practice defined his management career from state secretary to minister of health. This very ability to manage and undertake consolidated institutions of excellence, such as the Dante Pazzanese Institute of Cardiology (IDPC) and Hospital do Coração (HCor) in São Paulo, also leading him to the higher ranks at University of São Paulo's Faculty of Medicine (FMUSP). Aware of the importance of integrative medical societies, he was a leader in several organizations, and even president of the Brazilian Society of Cardiology in the biennium 1985-7. When we think of the great names in Brazilian medicine, we think of physician Adib Jatene, a scientist, teacher, association leader, entrepreneur, manager and one of our greatest examples of comprehensive medical doctor. Noted for his immense contribution in the cardiovascular field and his immortal legacy of excellence, competence, transparency, tireless work and good citizenship, Jatene will always be a name of reference in our memories and our institutions."

Angelo A. V. de Paola, president of the Brazilian Cardiology Society.

"Professor Adib Jatene was the first president and founder of the São Paulo State Cardiology Society, standing out with huge importance in the context of cardiology not only in São Paulo, but throughout Brazil. He was internationally immortalized thanks to his contributions and innovations in major surgical procedures, which revolutionized the cardiac specialty and which are now practiced by surgeons worldwide. For his work in support of cardiology, Socesp will honor Dr. Jatene permanently as of its next annual Congress, in June 2015, introducing a master lecture that will be named after him."

Francisco A. H. Fonseca, president of the São Paulo State Cardiology Society.

César Teixeira
Managing Editor
Revista da Associação Médica Brasileira (Ramb)

Publication Dates

  • Publication in this collection
    Nov-Dec 2014
Associação Médica Brasileira R. São Carlos do Pinhal, 324, 01333-903 São Paulo SP - Brazil, Tel: +55 11 3178-6800, Fax: +55 11 3178-6816 - São Paulo - SP - Brazil