Namesakes: Who is Amplatz?

A listener wrote in today asking us who the new Amplatz Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis is named after.

The short answer is Dr. Kurt Amplatz, whose daughter Caroline has pledged $50 million to the hospital over the next 12 years.

A longer answer should describe Dr. Amplatz as a pioneer of the medical device industry who holds more than 30 patents and is still working well into his eighties.

A 2003 New York Times profile describes him as:

An avid tennis player and inventor whose continuing contributions to pediatric cardiology have been described as legendary…

Because of the inventions that bear the Amplatz name, fragile infants and children born with life-threatening heart defects and adults who are discovered to have them can be spared risky open-heart surgery, chest wall incisions and lengthy recoveries. Instead, the defects are repaired through a catheter inserted in the groin. Most patients go home to normal lives the next day.

Dr. Amplatz grew up in Austria during WWII and came to the United States to finish his medical training. The Minnesota Historical Society has an hour-long interview with him as part of their oral history collection. Here is an excerpt from the transcript:


Well, originally, I came from Austria, and things were going very badly in Austria after the war [World War II]. We were occupied by Russia. We had very little to eat; as a matter of fact, 800 calories a day. I had been studying in Fribourg, Switzerland; Paris, France; and Zurich, Switzerland, so I thought it may be interesting to go to the United States.

My intention was only to stay one year, but after one year, I liked it so much that I took a year’s internship at Brooklyn, St. John’s Hospital in Brooklyn. Then I was looking for a residency program and I wrote thirty letters, and I got only one answer. That was the Mayo Clinic. So I flew there for an interview in the wintertime. I remember I landed in Rochester and it was snowing and people were so slow, and they talked so slowly, and I thought, I will never survive in a place like this.

He retired from the University of Minnesota in 1999 but still works as a research consultant at the company he founded, AGA Medical Corporation.

Have you been wondering about the namesakes of any other spots in the metro? Tell us in the comments and we’ll find an answer for you.

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