Haley Sulka and Natalie Hahn, MUSC planned giving officers, recently sat down with Jon van Heerden, M.D. to learn a little more about him and why he supports MUSC.
PG: Tell us a little about yourself and how you came to work at MUSC.
JVH: I was a general surgeon a the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., for nearly 40 years. During that time, I would always remind my residents that I’d never in my life done a day’s work. It was never work, but a privilege. When I retired, I knew I wanted to get out of the cold and move to the Southeast. A few days after moving to Seabrook Island, my phone rang and it was Dr. Fred Crawford welcoming me to the Lowcountry and inviting me to dinner. I went to dinner with him and at the table with us were two young surgeons: Dr. David Cole and Dr. David Adams. It took about five minutes for me to realize that the dinner was an interview. I ended up signing on to teach MUSC residents endocrine surgery and eventually becoming the vice chairman of education in the Department of Surgery under Dr. Cole, who was the chair at the time.
PG: What inspired you to start supporting MUSC philanthropically?
JVH: I’ve always had the giving spirit in me. I live by this Khalil Gibran quote, “You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” Working in the Department of Surgery, I eventually met Vera Ford, director of development, and she was my avenue. She was the one who got me involved with using my IRA to make contributions. I called my financial advisor and he explained that when I turned 70 that it was something we could easily do. I am giving less to the government and more to the charities I support. It’s just easy.
PG: How do you envision your gifts impacting MUSC?
JVH: My colleague from Mayo, Edward Rosenow, wrote a book titled, “The Art of Living...The Art of Medicine.” One of my favorite quotes from the book is, “What counts most in life is what you do for others.” I chose for my IRA to support the David B. Adams, M.D. Endowed Chair in GI Surgery fund because David epitomizes just what an ideal surgeon should be. He is a recognized expert in his field.
This expertise is coupled with his remarkable personality traits which include kindness and compassion, a gift for listening, a sense of humor and an appreciation of the moment. He is a true lover of life. I trust MUSC and its leaders to take my donation and use it for the greater good.
PG: Is there anything else you’d like to share about your time at MUSC?
JVH: If I hadn’t had dinner with those three men after moving here many years ago, I don’t know where I’d be. I’m indebted to MUSC, I owe MUSC. I am grateful.
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