$50 million gift to U children’s hospital honors medical pioneer Amplatz

The daughter of pioneering medical professor Dr. Kurt Amplatz has donated $50 million in his honor for the University of Minnesota’s children’s hospital under construction in Minneapolis.

Caroline Amplatz of Golden Valley, a homemaker and a former lawyer, said she wishes for the hospital to further her father’s record of “steadfast and unrelenting determination to improve and save lives.”

The donation is the second largest in the university’s history, and the largest ever from an individual. The largest donation was $65 million that the Minnesota Masonic Charities gave to the university’s cancer center last April for research, treatment and education.

The Amplatz donation is to be paid over 12 years.

Hospital to open in 2011
The hospital, which is scheduled to open in mid-2011, will be named University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital, the university and Fairview Health Services said in announcing the gift on Tuesday.

Kurt Amplatz, 84, was skiing in Aspen, Colo., Tuesday and couldn’t be reached for comment, said Molly Portz, who directs media relations for the university’s Academic Health Center.

Amplatz had been a professor of radiology for more than 40 years until he retired in 1999. He specialized in noninvasive techniques and he holds more than 30 patents on inventions. His most famous invention is the Amplatzer® septal occluder, a tiny device used to repair a congenital heart defect in children and adults. It replaced open-heart surgery as the treatment of choice for many thousands of patients.

Dr. Kurt Amplatz
University of Minnesota
Dr. Kurt Amplatz

“This gift provides our community a chance to honor one of the great pioneers of medical research and of Minnesota ‘s medical device industry,” university President Robert Bruininks said in the announcement.

A generation of giants
Amplatz was part of a generation of Minnesota giants in heart medicine, including Dr. C. Walton Lillehei, who led a team of surgeons to perform the first open-heart surgery, and Earl Bakken, the Medtronics founder who invented the first wearable artificial pacemaker.

Bruininks called Amplatz “a trailblazer who continues to be committed to improving patients’ lives through the development of innovative technologies.”

The new 96-bed children’s hospital will consolidate pediatric care that formerly was scattered in several campus facilities into one specialized building, said Ryan Davenport, a spokesman for Fairview Health Services. In all, the new hospital is expected to cost $275 million with $175 million secured in bonds and the remainder from donations.

A home for pediatric research
“The new facility also will house some of the country’s leading pediatric research programs,” said Mark Eustis, Fairview president and CEO. And the Amplatz gift will help pay for programs and infrastructure needed to support the research, he said in the University-Fairview announcement.

Among areas that will benefit from the gift is a lab designed to treat children with damaged hearts. It will allow for surgical intervention if necessary during a less invasive procedure, eliminating the need for more anesthesia and reducing the child’s hospital visits.

The gift also will support plans to create private rooms that are 75 percent larger than the standard hospital room, allowing more space for families and children to be together. The rooms are to be equipped with sleeper sofas, kitchen tables, refrigerators and microwaves. Plans also call for the rooms to have wide-screen TVs, allowing families to watch movies together and also explore the outdoors using a zoom camera on the hospital’s roof.

“Today we can celebrate for the children and their families who will benefit from this new hospital,” Caroline Amplatz said in her statement.

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Randi Reitan on 09/14/2009 - 02:40 pm.

    We give thanks to the Amplatz family for this extraodinary gift which is truly a gift of life for many dear children. We have a grandchild who was born with a damaged heart and one day I am sure he will benefit directly. Our gratitude is beyond words.

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