Legacy Leader: Dr. Frederick Hatch

Updated:Jul 16,2015

Dr. Frederick Hatch and his wife Virginia live comfortably on a five-acre property amidst a 72-acre tree farm in New Hampshire. But it wasn’t always this way. When Dr. Hatch was a young researcher, partially funded by the American Heart Association, he and Virginia would scrape together checks received for his research to help feed their four young children.

Virginia recalls a particular Saturday morning, waiting for a check to arrive. “One day, we were waiting for the GI Bill check that we needed by noon to come in the mail,” she recalled. “So we got in the car and drove the mail route trying to find the mailman. We finally found him and he had our check! That was called being poor.”

Dr. Hatch’s early training in medicine caused the couple to frequently move around the country while he was studying at Dartmouth, Harvard and MIT.  He was deferred from the draft because he was studying chemistry and medicine. He was eventually drafted during the Korean War, however, he was not sent overseas. He instead worked in the Army Nutrition Laboratory for three years, which was a very useful assignment.

Early in his career, Dr. Hatch made a revolutionary discovery as part of a research team studying the effects of the “rice diet” that in the late 40’s was being used to treat malignant high blood pressure. Dr. Hatch discovered that the rice diet, which consisted of zero fat and mostly carbohydrates, increased a person’s triglycerides, a type of fat found in the blood. This resulted in the first evidence that carbohydrates could be turned into fat and contribute to atherosclerosis, the hardening and narrowing of the arteries—the usual cause of cardiovascular disease.  Dr. Hatch continued his study of atherosclerosis, serving as a member of the Council on Atherosclerosis for the American Heart Association for many years, and receiving a fellowship from the association for his work.

Perhaps equally meaningful to Dr. Hatch was a hand-written note that he received from one of the association’s founders, Dr. Paul Dudley White, whom Dr. Hatch and his wife knew while they lived in Cambridge. In the note, Dr. White thanked Dr. Hatch for continuing his study of atherosclerosis, which he called a “major health problem.”

Dr. Hatch and Virginia have four children and three grandchildren, but have decided to leave a sizeable portion of their estate to his three alma maters and the American Heart Association. When asked about this decision, Virginia simply says, “We felt that we owed it to the American Heart Association; we were very, very poor back then.” Dr. Hatch agrees, “I went to three major places for education, and not many people do that,” he said. “I just felt that to the extent that we can give back is an obligation.”