The most striking thing to Dr. Theodore “Tad” Boeve ’88 about his work is the juxtaposition of sorrow and joy.
He is the Richard DeVos Endowed Director for Heart and Lung Transplant Surgery and Mechanical Circulatory Support at Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His team launches into action as one family is experiencing deep grief and another family is anticipating new hope.
“It is a staggering thing to witness,” said Boeve. “One family is dealing with tragic loss, and immediately following is the joy that comes to another family, seeing their loved one back in their lives, doing all of the things they had been longing to do together.”
Boeve has deep respect for organ donors and their families and encourages people to consider that special method of caring for others. He also delights in the celebration and gratitude of the transplant beneficiaries.
He is awed by God’s creation of the human heart and fascinated about what can be done in treatment and surgery to keep that organ beating.
“The heart is amazing,” he said. “We can stop it, work on it and restart it. To me, it’s foolish thinking to believe this all happens by chance. I’m reminded daily of the creative God behind the heart’s structure and function.”
What’s becoming more distressing to Boeve is the dramatic increase in drug overdoses as a major cause for donor organ availability. He is an advocate of substance abuse programs of all kinds and to strategies that remedy the loneliness, pain and depression behind the addiction.
He became Spectrum Health’s transplant program director this May after the retirement of the internationally known founder, Dr. Asghar Khaghani. Boeve came to Spectrum in 2012 and worked alongside Khaghani as the program developed.
“ I’m reminded daily of the creative God behind the heart’s structure and function.”
Dr. Theodore "Tad" Boeve '88
Boeve’s team of three surgeons conducts about 20 heart transplants, 25 lung transplants and 60 left ventricular assist device procedures per year. In his role as director, he will focus on program quality, growth and innovation.
“Mr. DeVos and his family gave a tremendous gift to the community when they helped us start this program,” he said. “We are focused on stewarding that gift for the benefit of our patients.”
Boeve recalls his collegiate choice of Calvin as being threefold—friends, soccer and medicine—but adds that the rigors of the premed program had him spending a little less time in the dorms and on the playing field and much more time in the classroom and the lab.
He remembers a number of influential professors, but in general credits Calvin for two things. First, the times he was “shown mercy for errors in judgment” in the residence halls and in the classroom; and second, the “solid education” that prepared him for the University of Michigan School of Medicine.
After Michigan, Boeve and wife Sherry Brink ex’85 spent the better part of nine years at the University of Iowa in residency and on research (with one stint in Massachusetts). They returned to Michigan for a position at Muskegon’s Mercy Health in cardiothoracic surgery. That proximity to Grand Rapids eventually led to a connection to Spectrum’s transplant program.
The Boeves have four children, and their oldest, Johanna, is a graduate of Calvin’s nursing program and works in the Meijer Heart Center, the same building as her dad.
“I don’t want to be known as a heart surgeon, but as a person of faith who serves a risen Savior,” he said. “The grace I was given at Calvin was a lesson learned, to be ready to give people second chances.”
It turns out that in his work, Boeve does just that—enables those with serious heart and lung issues to have another chance at a vibrant life.