University of Minnesota Receives $50 Million Gift for New Children's Hospital
Feb. 11, 2009, Pioneer Press — Dr. Kurt Amplatz invented a cardiac device that closes abnormal holes in children's hearts. Now, his daughter has donated $50 million to close a gap in the budget for the new University of Minnesota Children's Hospital.
The pledge, announced Tuesday, is the second largest in the U's history and comes on the heels of a $40 million pledge by Best Buy founder Richard Schulze for a U diabetes center. Amplatz's daughter, Caroline, made the donation in honor of her father, after whom the hospital will be named.
"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," she said in a written statement. "I know that by embracing this history, the new pediatric hospital will be the best in the world."
The money covers half of the $100 million in philanthropic donations that leaders of the university and Fairview Health Services sought to build the $275 million hospital. The 96-bed facility on Fairview's Riverside campus in Minneapolis will open in 2011.
University President Robert Bruininks called Amplatz a "trailblazer" in the spirit of Dr. C. Walton Lillehei, who pioneered open-heart surgery, and Earl Bakken, who invented the pacemaker.
Amplatz, who retired from the U in 1999, has 30 patents to his credit. His most famous invention is the Amplatzer, which closes an abnormal hole that can form in the septal wall that divides the right and left sides of the
The tiny device, which is threaded inside an artery and then expanded inside the heart, is sold by Plymouth-based AGA Medical. The growing company reported $170 million in sales last year and has filed for a public stock offering. Amplatz, 84, founded the company before selling his ownership stake. He remains on its board of directors.
Amplatz is one of the fathers of interventional radiology, yet "in many ways, Kurt is kind of unknown and unsung," said Dr. Frank Cerra, the university's senior vice president for health sciences, at a ceremony honoring the donation.
Using an ordinary needle and polyethylene tubing in 1958, Amplatz performed one of the world's first percutaneous catheterizations and helped pave the way for minimally invasive surgeries and procedures.
Caroline Amplatz, an attorney, said the idea for the donation and hospital name came only three weeks ago, when she arrived late to a meeting of the university's pediatrics foundation board and heard discussion about naming opportunities.
"The best things in life come together when nobody is looking," she said.
The funding over 12 years will help finance infrastructure and programs at the hospital, including a hybrid catheterization lab that will improve the speed and efficiency of surgeries to repair defective hearts.
The new children's hospital was announced two years ago, after failed attempts by the Fairview, Allina and Children's hospital systems to build a new pediatric facility together. Children's is now renovating both of its pediatric hospitals in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Having the new university hospital named after one of its pioneers seems fitting, said Mark Eustis, Fairview's president and chief executive officer.
"I think the name is a lot better than having a corporate name on top of the hospital," he said.