As friends of pediatric medicine in Arizona know, plans for a new Phoenix Children's Hospital have been in discussion for some time now. But those plans didn't really get up and running until someone pulled up a chair.
To the surprise of almost no one, that someone turned out to be Dr. Herbert J. "Tim" Louis.
A member of the Phoenix Children's Hospital Foundation Board of Directors since 1993, Dr. Louis recently contributed $2 million to endow a chair of pediatric orthopedics at the new hospital - a remarkable donation that was instrumental in kicking the hospital's "Building Better Care for Kids" capital campaign into high gear.
"His was the first significant gift of this kind to the new hospital," said Burl Stamp, President and CEO of the Foundation. "It's a major investment that ensures the continued excellence of pediatric orthopedic care in this community."
"It's by far the largest contribution I've ever given," said Louis. His desire to bring to the Valley a pediatric orthopedic program that will "serve the whole community" led him to Phoenix Children's as "the most stable place - and therefore the best place - for me to leave an orthopedic program that would be significant.
"The chair is most important," Louis said. "What it should do is attract an orthopedic surgeon who is nationally known, who will augment the training program with what he brings to it, and who will enhance the research and educational resources for orthopedists here in the Valley." What the new position should not do, he said, is "compete with private practitioners."
For Louis, a 40-year resident of the Valley, the near-completion of the new pediatric medical center marks the culmination of a long-cherished dream that he has worked hard to nourish in the hearts of his fellow doctors and community leaders.
"It's so exciting," he said. "We were on the verge of having this a few times over the last 20 years. I was on the original blue-ribbon committee that investigated the possibility of launching a children's hospital here in the Valley."
The plans for the new Phoenix Chil-dren's Hospital, he said, are "just wonderful," and "economically, it makes good sense."
The best way to make that point to others, he has found, is by taking them on a tour of the current Phoenix Children's.
"I show them what is going on there," he said. "It is so crowded. Children's hospitals are just like that. They are expensive, and they need enthusiasm, hours and dollars."
He has contributed all three in full measure, through private practice and as longtime director of orthopedics for Children's Rehabilitative Services (CRS).
"The best thing about orthopedics," he said, "is that you deal with all kinds of patients, young and old, and I enjoy that. But the enthusiasm of children with severe disabilities - their eternal optimism - is what I guess would be the most 'fun.'"
The state-sponsored CRS program led him to extensive work on the Navajo and Hopi reservations, as well as in virtually every hospital in the Valley. Along the way, he made time to be a consultant with Luke Air Force Base, and to travel to remote parts of Honduras and Zimbabwe, providing short-term training for local surgeons.
"You learned to teach within the limited resources that are there," Louis said. "Problems are the same all over the world, when you have insufficient resources."
Perhaps that's what spurred Louis to invest so much in resources closer to home. His Louis Foundation, Inc., created to provide funding for a variety of medical, educational and social service institutions, has distributed more than $1,880,000 in support over the last 34 years. He is also a member of the Phoenix Thunderbirds, and, along with his wife, Julie, is a major donor to organizations as diverse as the Crisis Nursery and the Desert Botanical Gardens.
But Louis's best investment may be what he gave of himself to the dozens of medical residents who came through his orthopedic training program.
"If it weren't for him, a lot of orthopedists in this community wouldn't be here," said Dr. Del Worthington, an orthopedic surgeon who studied under Louis. "It was a very good program. He was just terrific. He devoted a lot of time, and he led by example."
"The most important thing in my professional life," Louis said. "The thrill of teaching - surrounding yourself with people who are brighter, and younger, and more enthusiastic than you - is tremendous."
The thrills were complimented by "Distinguished Service" awards from the Maricopa County Medical Society and Arizona Medical Association. Plus, every doctor who studied with him - in a program not affiliated with any university - passed the boards.
"The biggest thing that Tim Louis has going for him, as a physician and as a person, is his humility," said Dr. David Ott, another former resident. "He has always been open to listening to his patients, and to new ideas. He never lets his emotions get in the way of his thought processes.
"His integrity was unquestioned. Anyone who has absolute integrity and humility - well, you've got a pretty good recipe for success there."
Happily, it's a success Dr. Louis, Julie, and their family have opted to invest in the families of Arizona, through their generous support for Phoenix Children's Hospital.