Leo Bokeria: in love with the heart

  • Authors: Kostina A.1
  • Affiliations:
    1. Voronezh State Medical University named after N.N. Burdenko
  • Pages: 91-93
  • URL: https://www.new.vestnik-surgery.com/index.php/2415-7805/article/view/8918

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This man is a true doctor who values human life above all else. Leo Bokeria has been treating the hearts of children and adults for 58 years, performing 5-6 operations a day on an open heart. A man who saves thousands of people is still faithful to the oath of the great Hippocrates: a doctor should help anyone who asks for it.

Full Text

- "I am often asked - where is the soul? And the soul is where the heart is"Listing his regalia may take a long time, but the most important of them is the doctor of the heart. This man is a true doctor who values human life above all else. Leo Bokeria has been treating the hearts of children and adults for 58 years, performing 5-6 operations a day on an open heart. A man who saves thousands of people is still faithful to the oath of the great Hippocrates: a doctor should help anyone who asks for it.

Childhood and youth

The Doctor of the heart was born in an ordinary Georgian family in 1939. It was hard times, his mother wanted to get rid of the third child, but fate decreed otherwise. In the first year of Leo's life, the Great Patriotic War began, and in the third year the future "doctor of hearts" father died. As Bokeria himself tells, the death of the pope and Victory Day are two of the most memorable dates in life. Then his mother, a primary school teacher, had to raise her son and 2 older sisters alone. Leo knew from school that he would become a doctor. His post-war childhood influenced his choice of profession, he grew up during the war, saw many deaths, wounded soldiers whose lives were saved by doctors. The first attempt to enter the Odessa Medical Institute was unsuccessful, but the second was a winning one - his whole life was connected with the first Moscow Medical University. Dr. Hearts joined vascular surgery in 1968. But why cardiac surgery? Leo, as a child, wanted to become a surgeon, it was believed that if a doctor, then necessarily a surgeon, there was no alternative. Following his motto: "If you live and work in the city, then live and work only in the center," Leo Bokeria decided to perform operations in the center of the human body, and the center is the heart. The student scientific circle, in which experiments are carried out on the hearts of dogs, became the beginning of the future profession of a doctor.

Education and career development

At the age of 20, Leo entered the 1st Moscow Medical University. Sechenov. Upon graduation, he was enrolled in postgraduate studies at the Department of Operative Surgery and Topographic Anatomy under the guidance of Academician Vladimir Kovanov. In 1968, after graduating from graduate school, Bokeria began working as a senior researcher at the Bakulev Institute of Cardiovascular Surgery. After a while, he became the head of the hyperbaric oxygenation laboratory, a well-known method of applying oxygen under high pressure. Since 1977, Leo Antonovich has held the position of Deputy Director for Scientific Work, head of the Department of surgical treatment of cardiac arrhythmias. Sixteen years later, the institute was reorganized into the Scientific Center of Cardiovascular Surgery named after A.N.Bakulev. In the autumn of 1994, he was appointed director and chairman of the Academic and Dissertation Council, became president of the A. N. Bakulev National Medical Research Center for Cardiovascular Surgery (FSBI "NMIC SSH named after A. N. Bakulev" of the Ministry of Health of Russia).

Thousands of lives

"The patient will never stay on the operating table," says Leo Bokeria. The hyperbaric oxygenation method is his most important student work, for which he received the Lenin Prize in 1976. He recalls how it was: "I came from the library of foreign languages and told a friend that I needed an unnecessary supporting autoclave." Leo made a camera out of it, a "barrel of Bokeria", which became a salvation for kids with blue heart disease. His method saved many lives, because just yesterday these children were doomed. Equally important was the development of a heart-lung machine for people suffering from cardiac arrhythmia. Leo had the greatest personal experience with this pathology, there are two thousand operations. For this work he was awarded the USSR State Prize in 1986 . A number of open-heart surgeries with a combination of hyperbaric oxygenation and artificial circulation were the first in surgical practice, concluding that Leo and his team performed dozens of operations with the prefix "for the first time in the world" at the Institute. A.N.Bakuleva.Leo Antonovich has developed a transmyocardial treatment method for inoperable patients. Thanks to which he was awarded the Prize of the Government of the Russian Federation. And he received the Man of the Year award for developing the main provisions of surgical treatment of aneurysms of the aortic arch, ascending division and operations for congenital heart defects. But these are not all the achievements and inventions of Leo Antonovich - some of the most basic, which brought him great success, and most importantly - saved thousands of lives of children and adults.

Saving a life, for the sake of life

Every day Leo Antonovich is told “thank you". Bokeria had patients whom he not only saved their lives, but also inspired by the profession. It will be about the boy Zaur, who turned out to be a hostage in Beslan. During the tragedy, a fragment entered his heart, the child did not even notice it. In the morning, his temperature rose, his parents brought the boy to the republican clinic, where doctors found a foreign body right in the heart. Zaur was urgently sent to the hospital where the "doctor of hearts" worked. Bokeria put the child on the operating table, connected him to a cardiopulmonary bypass machine, opened his chest and took out a fragment. Now Zaur Kozyrev is a cardiac surgeon and a graduate student of Bokeria, who thanks him daily for his life.

Family and first love

During all the trials of Leo Antonovich, the love of his life was nearby, to whom he gave his heart: a close and irreplaceable person - his wife Olga. Leo fell in love in his youth, when they were students. "I met my love at the anatomy exam. Olya Soldatova was the only one who passed it for a five. Big beautiful eyes, a smart face, very smooth legs," the doctor recalls. Now they have two daughters who are honored doctors of the country. They proudly bear the surname “Bokeria", following the Hippocratic oath, like their father. Today Ekaterina Leonidovna saves the lives of children with arrhythmia in utero, and Olga Leonidovna is an adult cardiologist and corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

House of the Heart

The "House of the Heart" is a Bokeria clinic, a place where patients are "born again", in which thousands of hearts are saved. The doctor's only goal is to save a life. The walls of the hospital are hung with drawings, photographs, and thanks of patients. The heart doctor remembers each of his patients and is ready to talk about them for hours. At the age of 83, the doctor continues his service to people: he stands at the operating table, performs one of the most difficult open-heart operations, gives life and hears endless words of gratitude."I know only one perpetual motion machine. The heart is the only device that can live for a hundred years and at the same time provide life for the brain, legs, arms, and everything else. I'm really in love with my heart"- Leo Antonovich Bokeria.


About the authors

Anastasia Kostina

Voronezh State Medical University named after N.N. Burdenko

Author for correspondence.
Email: nikita_pugachev_02@mail.ru
ORCID iD: 0000-0002-4235-2560


Kostina Anastasia Romanovna



ORCID 0000-0002-4235-2560

Voronezh State Medical University named after N.N. Burdenko


Russian Federation, 10 Studentskaya str., Voronezh, 394036, Russia

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