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Honoring a pioneer

Daughter’s $50 million gift in father’s honor names children’s hospital

As she stood before a crowd saluting her with a loud standing ovation, Caroline Amplatz, J.D., was momentarily overcome by emotion. University of Minnesota officials had just announced Amplatz’s $50 million gift to its children’s hospital in honor of her father, retired University professor and medical device pioneer Kurt Amplatz, M.D. In recognition of the gift, the hospital, which is building a new facility, will be called University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital.

“Thank you for joining me and honoring my father,” Caroline Amplatz said at the event. “My hope is that the Amplatz Children’s Hospital will follow in my father’s footsteps with steadfast and unrelenting determination to improve and save lives. If it does, it will be the best in the world.”

The state-of-the-art Amplatz Children’s Hospital will be a 96-bed, 227,000-squarefoot facility that consolidates the hospital’s 50 pediatric specialties in one patient- and family-centered location. It also will house some of the country’s leading pediatric research programs.

Ground was broken last summer for the new facility, slated to open by mid-2011.

A true innovator

Called “the father of interventional radiology” by many, Kurt Amplatz is a pioneer in the use of noninvasive techniques for treating several medical conditions. His most famous invention, the tiny wire mesh Amplatzer® Septal Occluder, is used to repair a congenital heart defect in children and adults. The device is inserted through a catheter in the patient’s groin and has replaced open-heart surgery for tens of thousands of people worldwide.

Amplatz, 85, a University radiology professor for four decades who holds more than 30 patents, also invented devices such as high-resolution x-ray equipment, heparin-coated guide wires, sheathed needles for angiography, and specially shaped cardiac catheters.

“He tinkered all of the time,” says Amplatz’s longtime colleague and friend John Bass, M.D., a pediatric cardiologist at the University. “He’s still tinkering away.”

Caroline Amplatz recalled the day she learned her father had written 630 academic papers — an average of one or two papers every two weeks at that point in his career. (He also has authored 75 books.)

“That’s a man who has ideas every day of his life,” she says.

A fitting legacy

Department of Pediatrics chair and Amplatz Children’s Hospital pediatrician-in-chief Aaron Friedman, M.D., says this gift honors Amplatz and shows confidence in the hospital’s future.

“What’s special is that this children’s hospital now bears the name of someone who knows what we did and what we do, someone who was innovative and wanted to learn, someone who took his tinkering, as he called it, to the bedside to help children,” Friedman says. “That is who we are.”

Caroline Amplatz’s gift, to be paid over 12 years, will help fund the programs and infrastructure needed to support research and care at the Amplatz Children’s Hospital.

Among the areas that will benefit is a pediatric hybrid catheterization lab designed to accommodate both a cardiac surgical team and an interventional cardiology team to treat children with damaged hearts.

The gift will also support Adopt A Room, a philanthropy-funded program that creates private, family-friendly, high-tech rooms that let kids control aspects of their environment during hospital stays.

Caroline Amplatz sees the hospital’s name as a fitting way to honor her father’s legacy.

“Every day he’s alive, the world is a better place,” she says.

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