Senator Bill Frist, M.D., Global Health Experts Lead Community Conversation at Vanderbilt University on U.S. Leadership on Ebola in West Africa and at Home
Oct 27 2014
FOR INFORMATION CONTACT:
Melany Ethridge, (972) 267-1111, [email protected]
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE, Oct. 27, 2014 – On November 21, former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, M.D., founder of Hope Through Healing Hands; J. Stephen Morrison, Ph.D., Senior Vice President at the Center for Strategic and International Studies; William Schaffner, M.D., professor of Preventive Medicine in the Department of Health Policy at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine; and Sten H. Vermund, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health will lead a roundtable on Ebola that will take place at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Light Hall Room 208, 2215 Garland Ave., in Nashville, from 10-11:30 a.m. The forum is jointly sponsored by Hope Through Healing Hands (HTHH), the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), and the Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health (VIGH). It will be on-the-record, and open to media.
The United States is engaged in a two front war against Ebola – at home, and abroad in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. The four roundtable speakers will open with remarks on key dimensions of the Ebola crisis: the evolving U.S. approach to preventing, detecting and responding to cases entering the United States; the U.S. military-led mobilization in Liberia and the broader international effort under UN coordination; the exponential growth of the epidemic itself in West Africa and critical steps to break the chain of transmission; and accelerated efforts to develop new technological tools, e.g. a rapid diagnostic test, vaccines, and treatments.
A lively, interactive conversation will follow, into which Muktar Aliyu, M.D., Associate Director for Research for the Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health and James E. Crowe, Jr., M.D., Director of the Vanderbilt Vaccine Center, will be invited to add their thoughts. Over the course of the conversation, special consideration will also be given to what future changes will be needed in U.S. approaches, both to domestic public health capacities and the long-term scientific research agenda, and to post-Ebola reconstruction in West Africa, including investments in basic health services.
A big part of infectious disease control is investing money in the right places, ideally at the source of the problem as early as possible, changing habits and having the right targeted response, Frist explained. “If we had invested one-tenth of what people think we have invested, we wouldn’t be in this position,” he said.
“Ebola is a modern plague, which sorely tests U.S. leadership at multiple points. It requires grappling with considerable unknowns, and preserving the confidence, trust and support of the American people,” Morrison commented. “We are just at the front end of a long process of thinking through the strategies that will work most effectively in this two front battle.”
Sten Vermund adds, “I write this from rural Mozambique where clinics have no running water or hand sanitizer; the spread of Ebola virus from West Africa to other under capacitated regions would be catastrophic. We must control it where it emerged.”
Hope Through Healing Hands is a Nashville-based 501(C) 3 nonprofit with a mission to promote improved quality of life for citizens and communities around the world using health as a currency for peace. Senator Bill Frist, M.D., is the founder and chair of the organization, and Jenny Eaton Dyer, Ph.D., is the CEO/Executive Director.
The Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health fosters multidisciplinary research, teaching, and service activities linked to health and development in resource-limited settings of the developing world, and forges a collaborative environment through multidisciplinary approaches rooted in academic research and training, and pragmatic community partnerships. This effort enables the establishment of a research and development agenda that informs training and capacity building programs throughout Vanderbilt University in the area of global health.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), based in Washington, D.C., is a non-partisan, independent non-profit institution that concentrates on U.S. policy approaches to defense and security, regional stability, and transitional challenges ranging from energy and climate to global health and economic integration.
Note to editors: For more information, visit http://www.alarryross.com/newsroom/hope-through-healing-hands-2/.
By Milca Nunez, Frist Global Health LeaderMany things have happened since the last reporting period. We have been able to facilitate more health education discussions for Proyecto Alerta Joven, which has been one of my favorite activities to do. We did a short course on values and how they are interrelated with occupations, like responsibility and honesty.
This article first appeared in Dallas Morning News
William H. Frist, the doctor and former Senate Majority Leader, has broken his self-imposed silence with a few words of perspective about the current Ebola outbreak.
In West Africa, the crisis could easily last into next spring. In the United States, it is much more containable. And while he says the virus is very “cagey,” scientists have a good understanding of how it is transmitted, know that this outbreak isn’t any different than any other Ebola outbreak and the odds that this virus has somehow mutated is “very, very unlikely.”
So what went wrong in Dallas? In some ways, it is also what went wrong in West Africa. Diagnostics are still too slow, meaning that samples were sent off to a lab somewhere and weren’t returned for a couple of days. There wasn’t a rapid enough response. And of course, the consequences years of underfunding global infectious diseases are also a factor in a virus that has been an issue on the African continent now reaching American soil.
Frist estimates that 23,000 people will die of the flu this year, and in America less than “10 will die of Ebola, hopefully just one.” And while every death is tragic, the reality is that protocols have to be strictly established and followed. “This is not contagious virus like flu,” he said.
Frist, in town to champion global investment for sensible family planning policies in underdeveloped countries, said the world response to HIV/AIDS showed the value of a global response. While the Ebola crisis in West Africa has lasted longer than he anticipated, he wants people to know that he is confident it will NOT spin out of control in the United States even though it might seem that public uncertainty is trumping established science.
Frankly, I think Frist is right in so many ways. A big part of infectious disease control is investing money in the right places, ideally at the source of the problem as early as possible, changing habits and having the right targeted response. “If we had invested one-tenth of what people think we have invested, we wouldn’t be in this position,” said Frist.
I know a key part of changing the trajectory of HIV/AIDS infections was the development and delivery of effective new drugs to patients. In the United States, those drugs saved lives. And, in Africa, drugs that reduced the transmission of HIV/AIDS from mother to child were integral in the battle. And that’s why Frist’s work is so important.
Frist, who is working with Hope Through Healing Hands in Nashville, wants to apply those principles to global family issues. We have all heard the stories of how a woman in an undeveloped country who delays childbirth has a greater chance to get an education and avoid a life in poverty. But there are other benefits — life itself. About 1 in 39 women in sub-Saharan Africa die of pregnancy complications. Simply spacing pregnancies at least three years apart dramatically increases over survival rates.
The overarching message is that the global health agenda must be just that — global. Generational poverty, infectious diseases and even infant/mother survival rates in Africa should concern us in the highly industrialize United States because the consequences can be just a plane ride away.
Language in the Global Health Arena for HIV/AIDS and Family Planning
Oct 10 2014
Jennifer Eaton DyerEating lunch outside the refectory of Vanderbilt Divinity School, back around the turn of the millennium, I remember stumbling across the stone etching of Schola Prophetarum, the School of the Prophets. I am sure all who have passed through the halls of the Divinity School may have reflected on their potential role as a prophet in our community, society, and our world. That is our legacy.
Oct 08 2014
Have you had a chance to meet Touch? This dog is changing lives and we're so excited to watch what he and Senator Frist are doing for our kids. If you haven't seen it already, watch this video now. This is such a special story:
Fox News | October 8, 2014
By Bill Frist
Wednesday morning brought sad news that Thomas Duncan, the Ebola-infected patient in Dallas, has passed away. It also brings heightened scrutiny of our nation’s strategic plan for dealing with Ebola in the U.S.
Ebola is undoubtedly a frightening disease. In West Africa -- without appropriate medical facilities and staff -- it is spreading at a truly alarming rate.
And now the disease is here. At home. A geographic spread that was nearly inevitable considering our global movement is sparking questions about what to do next. The CDC and other public health officials are walking a fine line: being realistic about a serious risk while belaying panic.
One individual must coordinate the efforts of key agencies and players to facilitate centralization of American resources to function synergistically and improve impact and speed.
It’s not an easy puzzle; global health issues never are. But the same steps we’ve been advocating for in Africa are applicable here.
First we have to understand this disease. Ebola is contagious, but far less so than small pox or HIV. It is transmissible only through direct contact with bodily fluids from an infected person: blood, vomit, urine, feces, saliva and other secretions. As we have seen with the effort in Dallas and the Ebola workers who were brought home, ability to contain and treat in U.S. medical facilities makes a widespread, uncontrollable outbreak extremely unlikely.
I am not minimizing the potential lethality of Ebola. But a response to Ebola needs to be tailored to the natural history of Ebola.
We know that containment is paramount, and isolation is the most important part of an Ebola strategy. But there is no way to isolate everyone in West Africa with a febrile illness given the variety of endemic viruses and infections to the area.
To really stop the spread of the disease—to get ahead of it—we need a rapid diagnostic test (RDT) that can be deployed on the ground, not in a laboratory. A test that facilitates appropriate quarantine of those with disease and release of those without. Not only will this allow us to focus resources, it will also help build trust and allay fears.
The same test could be used at home as well to quickly evaluate travelers and potentially prevent another case like the one in Dallas. Without an RDT, there will always be a window between when the patient becomes contagious, and when we can confirm a diagnosis. Precautionary quarantines and travel restrictions can help, but they will not replace accurate and timely diagnosis.
While we are waiting on a potential test, we must efficiently leverage the resources we have to offer.
Senators Rob Portman, R-Ohio and Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., have urged President Obama to appoint a single administration official to coordinate the U.S. strategy to contain and combat Ebola. I agree that one individual must coordinate the efforts of key agencies and players to facilitate centralization of American resources to function synergistically and improve impact and speed.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and others will have crucial roles to play. They must present a united effort.
The death of the first patient diagnosed with Ebola on U.S. soil should not herald panic. But it is impetus to make sure we disseminate the most accurate information, that our response plan is coordinated and thoughtful, and that our nation’s best minds are focusing on a solution.
The importance of speed cannot be understated. Time is not on our side.
William "Bill" H. Frist, M.D. is an American physician, businessman, a former U.S. senator from Tennessee and the former Republican majority leader in the U.S. He is the chairman of global health non-profit Hope Through Healing Hands.