THE VISION OF THE FOUNDERS: A CONVERSATION WITH DR. LUDOLPH VAN DER HOEVEN (Community Blood Center honors the memory of co-founder Dr. van der Hoeven. He lived to see CBC celebrate its 50th anniversay in September of 2014)

Dr. Ludolph H. van der Hoeven. 1919-2015.

Dr. Ludolph H. van der Hoeven. 1919-2015.

This special tribute to Community Blood Center co-founder Dr. Ludolph van der Hoeven appeared in the CBC/CTS 2013 50th Anniversary Edition Annual Report.

The Vision of the Founders: A Conversation with Dr. Ludolph H. van der Hoeven

‘Blood had to be available at all times. Don’t say we can’t find it. There are people that can give it. Go and get them.’

Dr. Ludolph H. van der Hoeven has lived to see the blood center he co-founded flourish into a regional supplier of blood products and a world resource for tissue grafts. He has outlived many of the friends and colleagues who shared his vision and made Community Blood Center a reality, including co-founder Dr. James W. Funkhouser. He still lives independently in a high-rise apartment with a commanding view of Oakwood. It is filled with artwork and personal treasures, including paintings and photos of ancestors and his late wife Francine, his own paintings including portraits of his five children, and his beloved piano.

Our conversation with him took place May 15, 2014. His youngest daughter Carlijn was visiting from Arizona, and he would be leaving within days on a journey to Holland. When asked his own age on this golden anniversary year for CBC, his eyes twinkled with mischief. “Almost three billion seconds,” he said. “Think how many heart beats that is. That’s a lot. That’s awesome. I’m 94 and will be 95 on June 3rd.

“I was born in the Netherlands. I was in uniform in 1940 when the Germans invaded Western Europe. I left Europe in 1951, under the pressure of the aftermath of the war. I came to Dayton in January of 1962 to work at Good Samaritan Hospital.

I was in my 40’s at the time. Dayton hospitals had just started with open heart surgery. They needed for that a blood supply for patients more than they had ever used in the past. Now you opened a patient up and needed 10, 20, 30, 40 units of blood in a couple of hours and you had to be ready. Everything was different. I remember an instance on a Tuesday morning when we needed 40 units of B-negative blood for open heart surgery. So, the donor pool you need for that is huge. The blood was not there.”

How did hospitals meet that immediate need?

“To provide that blood we suddenly needed a public relations agency (for donor recruitment).

In the meantime we studied what the best method for Dayton was. We have the medical need. Blood service is a medical service – a medical need. We went to the Medical Society of Montgomery County. We formed a committee and we looked at blood centers in operation and decided on the system we wanted to have, which was to have local control.

My contribution to the search was my experience with systems without local control. It’s a medical service and it should have local control at any time blood is needed.

The Medical Society of Montgomery County appointed a study committee. We were very active. We visited other states and studied their systems. The crowning jewel is that we got hospitals to work together. Hospitals are competitive – they cannot agree. But in this instance we got them to work together, which was a major diplomatic achievement.

The model systems were in California and Milwaukee, and also at Hoxworth (in Cincinnati). It was a university setting (and already 25 years old when CBC was founded).

Everybody did a superb job. But we had to set the standard and they were the highest standards to be found. Blood had to be available at all times. Don’t say we can’t find it. There are people that can give it. Go and get them.”

Agreeing to the common goal of a blood center meant hospitals had to be willing to share the donor resources they had developed for their individual hospital blood banks. Family members were often asked at the hospital to donate for a loved one.

“Hospitals were a little stubborn. Each hospital had its small pockets of donors that were typically recruited. The board was competing with hospitals and with those little groups of blood donors. So we structured the board to be composed of doctors, hospital administrators, consumers and patients and carefully chose the group of people involved.

“The search committee asked who should be in charge. How would it represent all factions? It was learning what’s available, choosing what we want, and implementing it.”

The process that began in 1962 moved rapidly.

“Together with Dr. James Funkhouser from Miami Valley Hospital and Dr. Ross Seasly of Kettering Hospital we opened in 1964.

We were friends. Perfect. Never any negatives. We worked for a common goal we both believed in with complete respect for each other. We were very great friends.”

How did you know when you were ready?

“We said it. And we did it. We saw it through.”

Moving forward with the opening was bold, but not reckless. A final hurdle was to push for legislation that would protect the young blood center from medical liability cases that might emerge in a time when testing was still developing and transfusions carried risk.

“It was accepted. The quality was unassailable. Hepatitis was the main concern. A patient might get it. We couldn’t screen for it in those days. We needed a statement in law that blood was a service – not a product – to protect the center.

Only thing we could do to protect you is to follows the best rules worked out by the best specialists and follow that. No way could there be a 100 percent guarantee that we could protect you. We needed the legislation introduced to get into law. We had to present it that all blood banks in the state of Ohio asked for it. I was president of the Ohio Association of Blood Banks – its first president – and my sole purpose at the time was to get the legislature to pass that law.”

There was no safety net at first.

“It had to be done.

A very sophisticated system to assure you had blood evolved over time. First we had to have the volume, now we want to make sure all groups will be there. Mobiles started very early – as part of the overall plan. The first bus was purchased around 1979 or 1980.”

CBC formed with the cooperation of Dayton hospitals and launched with legislative liability protection in motion. But to succeed meant a fundamental change in the recruitment of blood donors, one that elevated the donor in status. The donor was no longer under pressure of obligation. They would be exalted as lifesavers, as heroes.

“The whole concept was turned around. The donor was no longer just sitting in a hall waiting. The donor was revered as the ‘king.’

From the beginning, instead of being paid, donors had the “Family Plan.” It was a relatively new concept in blood banking. Dayton was the first in the state. You donated blood – one pint – and in return you received the assurance you would not be charged for blood. It was a humanitarian approach. It was an essential program, almost unique, though it had been done somewhere else. One lady donated and got cancer and used 66 units in the year before she died, and it was all free.

We went to centers and looked for systems. Donor procurement was the term we used. At the Fidelity Building we had the Family Plan, and we gave a parking validation. We did not want to have any reason to discourage donations.”

CBC’s technical beginnings were humble.

“Equipment was a microscope – with only a single scope you looked through with one eye. We did cross-matching and that was it. Component separation was first for hemophiliacs and plasma.”

“He would spend many, many hours every day going by the blood center, making certain things were running well,” his daughter Carlijn interjected. “He was a quality control person.”

The Dayton Regional Tissue Bank was introduced 22 years after CBC’s founding and later became Community Tissue Services.

“At the first draft of the charter for the board we had included in that for blood as a liquid tissue and other tissue. At that time we were very limited, but we considered blood a liquid tissue from the very beginning in our conceptual thinking.

I’m very proud of the success and very proud of the Family Plan. I wanted people to come and donate. I wanted nothing to block people from coming. We had such a large area to serve. We did it with concern for the customers. No delays, blood available.

The amazing thing – of all the reports I ever got – it was, ‘What a relief we can get the blood when we need it.’ We had satisfaction in the fact that we were successful in what we set out to do. We were so determined to get the best for the community and we were able to be successful in that.”


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