The Van Kampen Family

The Van Kampens were reaching for a glimmer of hope when they came to Loyola University Health System (Loyola) in 1999 seeking treatment for family patriarch, the late Robert Van Kampen, founder of Van Kampen Investments.

Mr. Van Kampen was in dire need of a heart transplant. He had gone through unsuccessful experimental treatments at another medical center and had been sent home to die. “The family had been through a horrific 2 ½ years watching Bob go through treatments that were taxing on him,” recalled Scott Pierre, Mr. Van Kampen’s son-in-law. “We were at a dark point when Bob arrived at Loyola, but the doctors and other health specialists we met there ignited our hope for life.”

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Cardiovascular specialists evaluated Mr. Van Kampen and put him on the transplant list, but his condition quickly deteriorated. He underwent emergency surgery to implant an artificial heart. “The surgery went well, but my father in-law contracted a blood disease a couple of weeks later and died,” Mr. Pierre said.

Although the Van Kampen family’s experience with Loyola was limited to three weeks, in that short time the high caliber of compassionate care Loyola specialists give to their patients strongly impressed them. In appreciation of the care given to Mr. Van Kampen in his last weeks, his wife and the rest of the family — three daughters, three sonsin-law and 12 grandchildren — made a $2 million pledge to the Department of Thoracic & Cardiovascular Surgery at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine (Stritch).

“My mother-in-law, Judith Van Kampen, really felt a sense of gratitude for the willingness of the entire Cardiology Department to take Bob in and give him hope,” Mr. Pierre recalled. “We’ve always been a family of faith, a family with hope in life eternal. But even though we don’t fear death, we wanted to offer Bob the chance to live as long as the Lord allowed.” surgery to implant an artificial heart. “The surgery went well, but my fatherin-law contracted a blood disease a couple of weeks later and died,” Mr. Pierre said.

The family made their donation in several increments, with the most recent gift of $958,000 given to support cardiothoracic research, including investigation by cardiothoracic surgeon Robert Love, MD, to reduce the rate of human heart and lung transplant rejection. In honor of the family’s overall philanthropic support, and specific research support, the laboratory where Dr. Love and his fellow investigators conduct their work will be named the Van Kampen Cardiothoracic Research Laboratory at Loyola University Health System.

“Mr. Van Kampen and his family went through a long ordeal with heart disease and came up against the limitations of our ability to overcome his highly sensitized immune response while he was awaiting transplantation,” said Dr. Love. “As difficult as that has been for the Van Kampens to bear, the family’s generosity in supporting our research will allow us to develop more tools with which to treat future patients in similar difficult situations.

Dr. Love is investigating methods to desensitize the immune response to Collagen V, which triggers an autoimmune response problematic for organ transplant patients. He explained that in both heart and lung disease, the injury process causes certain proteins involved in collagen structure, (normally hidden inside the architecture of collagen fibers) to become exposed to the immune system. These proteins, or Type V Collagen fibers, cause the body to mount an immune response designed to eliminate foreign tissue. Chronic, ongoing tissue rejection is the chief obstacle to long term survival for patients who have undergone heart and lung transplantation.

The Van Kampen’s latest gift will cover the cost of research equipment and tools, as well as support for existing faculty members and a new research technician. It also will finance ongoing research in cardiopulmonary failure.

In addition, the gift will fund surgical tools and educational activities, specifically the establishment of a research forum in Loyola’s Van Kampen Conference Facility to promote ongoing research cooperation in investigating heart and lung failure.

The Van Kampen Conference Center in the Stritch Cardiovascular Institute was created in 2005 with an earlier installment from the family’s $2 million gift. The center offers a significantly improved meeting space, state-of-the-art audio-visual equipment, more work stations with computer connections to accommodate staff and fellows, and head-lamp cameras worn by surgeons that record surgeries. The cameras were an especially important addition, as they allowed cardiovascular surgery staff and fellows to view these complex procedures, enhancing both post-graduate education and surgical care.

The Van Kampen family has a history of philanthropy and has given gifts to religious organizations spanning the globe. “We’ve given to ministries around the world, but this donation was a unique situation in that it hit closer to home,” Mr. Pierre said. 

Mr. Van Kampen initiated the philanthropic activities as a way to remind himself and his family of their obligations. “Bob always had a principle: ‘To whom much is given, much is required,’” Mr. Pierre recalled. “As a family, we’ve been blessed with a lot and feel we have the responsibility of being good stewards of that which is entrusted to us.”

For more information about making a gift for research in the Department of Thoracic & Cardiovascular Surgery, contact development.

A Legacy of Faith & Hope