September 26, 2022

Vanderbilt mourns loss of physician-scientist van Eys

Jan van Eys, MD, PhD, clinical professor of Pediatrics, emeritus, died Sept. 24.


by Kathy Whitney

Jan van Eys, MD, PhD

Jan van Eys, MD, PhD, clinical professor of Pediatrics, emeritus, died Sept. 24. He was 93.

Dr. van Eys was born in the Netherlands and immigrated to the U.S. to attend graduate school at Vanderbilt, where he was awarded his PhD in biochemistry in 1955. He was a post-doctoral fellow at the McCollum Pratt Institute of the John’s Hopkins University and was appointed to the faculty at Vanderbilt in 1957, doing research in enzymology and metabolic regulation. From 1957 to 1966 Dr. van Eys was a fellow of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He was named professor of Biochemistry in 1971.

In 1966 Dr. van Eys earned his MD from the University of Washington. He returned to Vanderbilt to resume teaching and research in biochemistry, while completing his internship and residency in pediatrics and a fellowship in hematology/oncology.

He developed a hematology clinic and a hemophilia clinic in pediatrics at Vanderbilt in 1969, then established a hematology specialty in pediatrics in 1970. His research focused on Pyruvate Kinase deficiency and clinical research on hemophilia care. He was named professor of Pediatrics in 1973. Dr. van Eys was instrumental, with the help of John Flexner, MD, in founding the Cumberland Chapter of the National Hemophilia Foundation (now the state-wide Tennessee Hemophilia and Bleeding Disorders Foundation).

In 1973 Dr. van Eys was recruited to the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center as chair of Pediatrics where he pioneered the use of chemotherapy as primary intervention for young children with brain tumors. He had a joint appointment as professor of Pediatrics at the University of Texas Medical School, where he became chair in 1988. He also had an appointment as professor at the University of Texas School of Public Health. He published extensively in the fields of ethics, oncology and biochemistry. He served on many boards, most notably as chair of the board of the Institute of Religion in the Texas Medical Center.

Dr. van Eys retired from the University of Texas in 1994, returned to Nashville and was appointed clinical professor of Pediatrics and taught ethics courses to medical students and graduate students. He was a member of the Institutional Review Boards at Vanderbilt and at Centerstone.

Dr. van Eys passionately volunteered his time with Alive Hospice, the United Methodist Church, Miriam’s Promise, McKendree Village, and the Ulster Project of Nashville. He was a life member of the Board of the Tennessee Hemophilia and Bleeding Disorder Foundation and a past member of the Board of the National Hemophilia Foundation. He was a strong supporter of the arts, including the Nashville Opera, Cheekwood Museum and Botanical Garden and the chamber music ensemble, ALIAS.

Dr. van Eys is survived by his daughter, D. Catherine Fuchs, MD, professor of Psychiatry; his son, J. Peter van Eys, MDiv, D. Min; daughter-in-law, Patti Parkison van Eys, PhD; his partner, Judith Hodges; grandchildren Peter Dane van Eys, MDiv (Kielee Hobgood), Christian Jan Fuchs, MD, and Paul Adam Fuchs, MD (Alexis Braun); and two great-grandchildren. He is predeceased by his wife, Catherine van Eys, MEd; his son-in-law, Howard Fuchs, MD, professor of Medicine; and his grandson Jan David van Eys.

“My father loved his family, was intellectually curious about the world, and viewed his profession as an opportunity to use knowledge to effect change for the betterment of others both from within and outside of established systems. He was a man of faith who modeled wisdom and taught us to care for and respect self and others. His passion was advocacy for children,” said Cathy Fuchs, MD.

To make a memorial gift, please send a check made payable to Vanderbilt University Medical Center to:

Vanderbilt University Medical Center Development

P.O. Box 290369

525 Royal Parkway

Nashville, TN 37229

Gifts will support the Jan van Eys, M.D., Ph.D., Pediatric Hemophilia Research Fund. Please include a note with the check or indicate on the memo line that the gift is made in memory of Dr. Jan van Eys.

Gifts can also be made online at or to Miriam’s Promise or the Tennessee Hemophilia and Bleeding Disorders Foundation.