Pediatric Heart Surgery: From Minnesota to the World
In 1969, a young medic serving in Vietnam asked his father in Minnesota to help three Vietnamese children who needed heart surgery. His father and the community stepped up to lend their expertise and saved children who would have otherwise died. A new organization was born from their success.
Our approach has changed over the years, but our commitment to helping children with heart disease has never wavered.
Our Early Years
Our early years were shaped by forces that came together to make Minnesota a world leader in heart surgery, medical device development and philanthropy. Celebrated cardiac surgeons at the University of Minnesota built their early practices working with children born with heart defects. Their desperate parents and these pioneering doctors were co-participants in advancing heart surgery while striving to give these children a chance at normal life.
One of those pioneering surgeons was Children’s HeartLink founder Dr. Joseph Kiser. When Dr. Kiser and his partner, Dr. Frank Johnson, accepted responsibility for Vietnamese children suffering from congenital heart disease in 1969, they set in motion a commitment to improving global health.
It took a village to ensure that the foreign-born children had the resources to fly, sometimes by themselves, to Minnesota for surgery and recovery. Minnesota hospitals and surgical teams juggled schedules and paperwork, and offered their services free-of-charge, to perform these operations. The children were housed, nursed and nurtured—often for months—by local families and congregations dedicated to improving the lives of children from Vietnam, Greece, Ethiopia and Korea.
During the 23 years that children were transported to Minnesota, 643 patients received treatment. Medical missions to underserved countries began in 1993, and over the next 9 years, 814 children were treated.