William J. Heetderks

Associate Director National Institutes of Health


Dutch American Heritage Award 2005 Recipient

Associate Director National Institutes of Health

William J. Heetderks, MD, PhD is the Associate Director of Extramural Science Programs at the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering of the NationalInstitutes of Health.

Dr. Heetderks attended University of Michigan where he completed bachelors and masters training in electrical engineering and received the PhD in Bioengineering in 1975.  He joined the faculty of electrical engineering at Cornell University.  In 1981 he took a leave of absence to study medicine at the University of Miami and after obtaining his MD degree in 1983 he resigned from Cornell and joined the National Institutes of Health in the Washington, DC area.

The focus for most of his professional career, which was also his research focus when he was at Cornell, has been on neural prostheses such as the cochlear implant to restore hearing in deaf individuals and the free-hand system to restore hand movement to paralyzed individuals.  Another area of significant activity has been work on a brain communication interface for individuals who are “locked-in” and have no ability through muscle movement.

Willem Heetderks, Dr. Heetderks’ great-grandfather moved to the United States from the Netherlands in the late 1800’s with his four brothers and settled in western Michigan.  His grandfather was a farmer and shopkeeper and his father an accountant.  His mother’s family came from the Netherlands about one generation earlier.  This was part of a significant migration of the Dutch at that time and there remains a sizable Dutch community in western Michigan.  A great uncle, Arnold Mulder, has written several novels about the early days of this community.

In the Netherlands Dr. Heetderks ancestors can be traced back to the early 1800’s.  The exception is his grandmother’s family, van Keppel, who trace their origins back to the eleventh century.

Kathy, Dr. Heetderks’ wife, is also of Dutch heritage and is likewise from western Michigan.  The Heetderks have five children and four grandchildren, the oldest of whom is also named Willem Heetderks.

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