The Prinses Liliane Foundation

One of the things that I continue to enjoy is scientific research linked to the medical sector, especially cardiology and cancer research.  The chairmanship of the cardiological foundation Princess Liliane has played a decisive role in this.

It was in 1977 that King Leopold III and his wife Princess Liliane asked me to take over the presidency of the Princess Marie-Christine Foundation, which was founded in 1957 by the King and the Princess out of concern for paediatrics. I then took over the torch from Dr. Robert Dubois.

The Marie-Christine Foundation aimed to establish a children’s hospital in Brussels. When this goal was achieved in 1987, the Marie -Christine Foundation was transferred to the Princess Liliane Cardiological Foundation, to the other humanitarian foundation (founded in 1958).   During that transition in 1987, I was asked to become chairman of the merged institution, succeeding Jean Rey and Jean-Charles Snoy et d’Oppuers.

 With the Liliane Foundation, numerous colloquia on medical topics were organized at the castle of Argenteuil and at various universities, with the collaboration of top doctors including some Nobel laureates, such as Prof. Christian de Duve.

From the operation, we managed to send a lot of young Belgian doctors for specialization in the United States; this was also possible due to the extensive network I already had there.  It is clear that this project has been of undeniable importance in the scientific field, but no less for the interest in medical research and practice in the broader society.

In 2002, Princess Lilian died and the foundation came under the High protection of Princess Esmeralda.  After intense brainstorming, the Foundation decided to set out a completely new course and an adjusted policy in 2004. After all, the scientific communication had fundamentally changed in the medical sector over the years.  Prior to 2000, the Foundation had initially prioritized concrete material assistance to bring Belgian heart patients to innovative clinics in the U.S.; then to act as a patron to finance expensive and sophisticated medical equipment that was not yet available in Europe; and then, between 1959 and 1998, to organize no fewer than 26 colloquia on current medical topics.  After 2000 a new strategy was chosen. From now on, a recurring chair for a foreign international authority was installed, which would be interactive in Belgium for a week or longer, with a number of young Belgian researchers in the medical sector who are on the eve of their careers.  The reputed ‘International Scientific Council’ of the Foundation was responsible for a watertight scientific selection. In addition, each stay was patronized by one of the Belgian universities that have a medical faculty, and that with a regular turn role.   Visiting professors were expected to meet with specialized assistants, lecturers and researchers in each of the Belgian universities, in both parts of the country, and give lectures so that a multiplier effect spontaneously arose. In this way numerous authorities came to explain the latest innovations in their research and to put them into practice through clinic interventions, together with young Belgian doctors. 

Since the Foundation’s new course started in 2004, a new Board of Directors with twenty members has been appointed; in which the rectors of all universities with a faculty of medicine, a number of personalities from the world of economics and politics. 

Under my chairmanship, the Foundation has been successful for over thirty years since 1987.  We have built up an impressive international network, especially in the American scientific circles, and without its perfect interaction with an influential ‘Scientific Council’, which even featured a Nobel prize; and since 1977, with members of the royal family, in particular Princess Liliane and with Princess Esmeralda, whose husband Prof. Salvador Moncada himself is a renowned expert in cardiology.

Together with all these allies, we can still open many doors and convince many top doctors to pass on their invaluable expertise to promising young Belgian doctors.