A UMNS Feature
By Tim Tanton*
September 25, 2009

Dr. Bill Frist was flying low in a Cessna Caravan above the treetops in southern Sudan, an area routinely bombed by government forces during the country’s ongoing civil war.

The year was 1998. Frist, a U.S. senator, was entering Sudan surreptitiously as part of a medical mission sponsored by Samaritan’s Purse. Sudan had no diplomatic relations with the United States, which had identified the African country as a sponsor of terrorism.

In the remote Liu area, Frist flew over a site where bombing had claimed a rural hospital.

“It had been destroyed,” he recalls. “There was fighting all around.” However, his team was able to work in a makeshift clinic.

“I came back the next year, the fighting had stopped,” Frist, 57, says. “I came back the next year, and there was a little tiny village, maybe a hundred … huts there. And then I came back the next year, and all of a sudden the church, which had been bombed, was blossoming. There was a school there. There was a hospital there. Nobody was fighting.

“So then I said that, basically, there is something to this – that medicine or health is a currency for peace,” he says.

That idea became the foundation for his global health nonprofit, Hope Through Healing Hands. For the surgeon and former U.S. Senate majority leader, health care has a role to play in building communities – and building peace.

“You don’t go to war with somebody who has just saved the life of your child,” he explains.

For FULL VERSION: CLICK HERE.

September 24, 2009

Senator Frist was the Commitments Presenter in an Infrastructure Breakout Sessions Seminar: Infrastructure of Recover: Good Jobs and Smart Growth.

Global recession has slowed private sector investment and caused rampant job loss. In response, governments around the world are investing in economic recovery though forward-looking public works projects. This new generation of infrastructure investments -- from broadband networks to transit systems to clean energy technology -- is laying the ground word for global deployment of advanced technology and private sector innovation. The response to to the economic crisis has set the stage for a new generation of smarter infrastructure empowered by better use of information and more efficient use of resources. Outdated development patterns are being "leap-frogged." This session provides an opportunity to reflect on progress one year into the economic crisis and to examine the relationship between the public and private sectors.

Frist announcing Commitments.

September 23, 2009

P&G Dinner: The Procter & Gamble Company (NYSE:PG) honored partnerships that have helped the company achieve three life-saving commitments at their "Live, Learn and Thrive" Awards event. Held at a VIP reception in conjunction with the 2009 Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) in New York City, the Awards recognize partners CARE, PSI, UNICEF and World Vision for their help in improving the lives of more than 40 million children, by providing vaccines and safe drinking water to help those in need.

Senator Bill Frist was one of four who presented awards to the partners. While there, we took several photos featured below.

Sheraton NY Hotel and Towers, Avenue Restaurant

 Frist giving interview prior to award beginning on importance of clean water at global level.

Frist chatting with Hans Bender, P&G VP External Relations Global Household Care--Note PUR Packet and PUR Product produced by P&G

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frist chatting with Rich Stearns, President of World Vision (awardee) and his wife Renee Stearns.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frist visiting with Fellow Awarder Actor Dania Ramirez

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

President William J. Clinton and P&G Vice-Chair of Global Household Care, Dimitri Panayotopoulos wrapping up the evening, celebrating the launch of new commitments.

 

 

September 23, 2009

This morning I participated in an Action Network Workshop that focused on Health Systems. This past month, I wrote an Op-Ed for the Boston Globe, "Global Healthcare Needs More Than a Pill." In that, I argued that we need to consider a "systems-approach," looking at health systems as a whole - beyond just preventing and treating infectious disease. This would include considering the renovations of health clinics, providing good roads for transportation to those clinics, access to clean water, treating chronic disease, addressing child survival, and partnerships across governments, NGO's, and the private sector to make this work. Given this framework, a discussion followed about how to move forward horizontally and vertically with infectious disease, chronic disease, and maternal and child health.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also delivered a framework for discussing Health Systems. He is currently the Minister of Health of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. Focusing on Ethiopia, he addressed their top priorities (Infectious Disease and Maternal/Child Health) and the strategies to address these priorities to strengthen the health care delivery in Ethiopia. In sum, these strategies included the following: 1) Focus on Primary Care, 2) Building information system, 3) Strengthening the supply system for pharmaceutical delivery, 4) Providing health care financing, 5) Bolstering Human Resources, and 6) Addressing Governance. Their motto is "bigger, faster, and better" for speed, volume, and quality for better health promotion and prevention.

A robust discussion among top level NGO's and others commenced. We are eager to hear their results! Those results will then be presented back to CGI for suggestions for future commitments.

 

 Frist opening discussion--CGI, Sheraton NY Hotel and Tower--Wednesday, September 23, 2009

 Minister Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

 

September 22, 2009

This afternoon, the 5th annual Clinton Global Initiative commenced with the Opening Plenary led by President Obama. It is such an exciting event for global issues with the world's elites--governmental, nonprofit leaders, private sector leaders, and celebrities to name a few--who are committed to health, infrastructure, women and girls, development, and the environment.

We are proud to announce that Hope Through Healing Hands has pledged a Commitment at CGI this year. We hope to grow our Global Health Leaders Program over the next few years to place health professionals in underserved clinics and to train community health workers around the world.

For the first evening we attended a few receptions. Along the way we ran into friends, new friends, and colleagues. See a few photos and names below.

We hope you'll follow our time here in NYC. It will be exciting.

Professor Mohammad Yunus, Grammen Bank, Nobel Peace Prize Winner and Bill Frist --Grameen America Reception, Le Parker Meridien Hotel

 

 Dr. Sanja Gupta and Bill Frist -- CGI Global Health Dinner, The Plaza Hotel

 

 

 Doug Ulman, President and CEO of Livestrong and Bill Frist -- CGI Global HEalth Dinner, The Plaza Hotel

In May, Senator Frist co-led a conference at CSIS entitled U.S.-Russian Global Health Collaboration. Given the outcome of discussion at the conference, the Senator produced this Op-Ed recently published in Foreign Policy.

What the Doctor Orders

The United States and Russia face strikingly similar health-care challenges -- providing a rare opportunity to strengthen their bilateral relationship.

BY WILLIAM H. FRIST | SEPTEMBER 11, 2009

On Wednesday night, U.S. President Barack Obama made a historic address to a joint session of Congress on the issue of health-care coverage and affordability. It is the banner issue of his first year in office, and Washington's top domestic priority. At the same time, nearly 5,000 miles away, in Moscow, legislators are undergoing a strikingly similar process to reform their health-care delivery system. Given the importance of the U.S.-Russia relationship and the similarity of the challenges confronting us, our two countries have a historic opportunity to expand our health collaboration and, in so doing, improve our diplomatic ties.

Thankfully, this process is already underway. At a summit in early July, Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced a memorandum of understanding to expand cooperation on public health and medical sciences. The meeting also produced an agreement for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, to co-chair a forthcoming bilateral commission on health collaborations.

But both countries can and should continue to do more. In May, Dr. Nikolai Gerasimenko -- vice chair of the Duma's Committee on Health Protection -- and I hosted a daylong discussion on the topic at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Our objective was to generate a blueprint for a future strategic collaboration on health. The conference revealed a strong desire to build genuine partnerships around health on the basis of two key challenges.

The first is national demographics. Both Russia and the United States grapple with rapidly aging populations, with all that implies for the provision of health care and social services. Russia's problems are compounded by alarmingly high middle-aged male mortality and birthrates that are too low to sustain the current size of the population. Demographic regression, the Russian delegates emphasized, is the top health-policy priority. In each of our societies, efforts to encourage healthier lifestyles -- in diet, and alcohol and tobacco use -- will reduce chronic disorders, extend lives, and make for a healthier next generation.

The second challenge is the pressing need for health-care reform. Both of our countries struggle to balance the competing imperatives of high quality, equity in access and affordability, and containment of health-care costs. We are each in the midst of a historic effort to reform our health systems, bring about greater efficiencies in complex federal systems, and produce better health outcomes as a return on substantial investments.

Our dialogue also identified five choice opportunities that I hope will inform the next steps by the United States and Russia in building health cooperation.

First, there is much to be learned from each other with respect to lowering health risks associated with tobacco and alcohol use, especially among young people, including through public-education strategies and community engagement.

Second, in the face of the H1N1 pandemic flu threat, there is much we can do to improve surveillance and data use to bring about better global detection and response to emerging infectious disease threats. Even at the height of the Cold War, the Soviet Union and the United States worked together to create vaccines. Our countries could certainly benefit from such collaboration today.

Third, we should launch an annual U.S.-Russia forum on the reform of national health systems, with a special focus on financing, cost controls, and evaluation. Comparative effectiveness research across national boundaries is a vitally important undertaking. In particular, a U.S.-Russian initiative could include joint exploration of innovative approaches such as e-health and electronic medical records.

Fourth, we should engage in a discussion on how to best leverage our mutual efforts to support global health programs in those countries most affected by infectious diseases such as HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria. The Obama administration recently committed to billions in donations in this area, and Russia is emerging as a significant global health donor as well. Thus, the time is right for our two countries to more closely collaborate.

Lastly, substantial ongoing joint research, institutional twinning and professional exchanges could be expanded. This includes research and research training in alcohol abuse and related disorders, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and tuberculosis. These efforts could be broadened to encompass chronic-disease prevention and management and national health-care reform as well.

Health collaboration is a surprisingly powerful foreign-policy tool and one where U.S. and Russian interests converge. Expanded communication and cooperation will build on a history of collaboration that survived periods of acute strain. There is active interest in both our societies -- among universities, medical schools, research institutions, and private businesses, as well as key government agencies -- in joining such an enterprise.

I urge Secretary Clinton and Foreign Minister Lavrov to commission in the coming months a joint organizing committee charged with prioritizing issues, laying down a timetable, and agreeing upon some early concrete products. It could prove a vital platform for the health of our countries and the health of our bilateral relationship.

William H. Frist, M.D., is a former two-term U.S. senator from Tennessee and was the U.S. Senate majority leader from 2003 to 2007. He is a member of the Center for Strategic and International Studies' board of trustees.

Healthier beginnings

What the world can learn from Pittsburgh

Monday, September 14, 2009

By Bill Frist

When world leaders chart a course toward a more prosperous future at next week's G-20 summit, Pittsburgh can inspire in more ways than one.

The city built on steel has renewed its shine as a center for research and technology and become a model for economic comeback. When this recession recedes, Pittsburgh is poised to jump far ahead of cities where "rust belt" still rings true.

But progress is not measured solely in economic terms. Presidents and prime ministers should note a different kind of progress that Pittsburgh pursued and achieved in the years it was still building its first boom. This kind of progress has yet to reach many parts of the planet, but, in the interests of all, must.

Sustainable recovery and long-term economic growth depend on improving the well-being of the world's most vulnerable people and ensuring they, too, participate in recovery. To that end, improving the health of children and mothers is fundamental.

In 1920, Pittsburgh had the worst recorded infant mortality rate of any large U.S. city. Some of the oldest residents of Pittsburgh today started life with the same odds of reaching their first birthday as newborns in Somalia do now. One in nine babies died.

Several other cities also had dismal records, but Pittsburgh's last-place ranking prompted the federal government to make a case study of the city. After World War I, the United States had recognized that resilience and continued growth depended on healthy babies who would grow into strong, productive adults.

In "Infant Mortality in Pittsburgh," the Children's Bureau of the U.S. Department of Labor recorded diarrhea and pneumonia as the most-common infections killing babies in Pittsburgh. Remarkably, despite decades of medical advances and low-cost, easy-to-administer treatments, this still holds true in the developing world.

The study also noted that nearly half of Pittsburgh's infant deaths occurred in the first month of life from prenatal or birth-related causes. Today, this remains by far the most dangerous month of life in poor countries. Nearly 4 million newborns die every year, half on the day they're born.

In analyzing Pittsburgh nearly 90 years ago, the Children's Bureau wrote that most newborn deaths had already been "clearly demonstrated" to be "largely preventable." Yet, the kind of basic health services and practices that Pittsburgh subsequently embraced are still lacking in many countries today.

For More CLICK HERE: PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE

Krista Ford, Princeton University

September 9, 2009

The Beginning of Ramadan

The end of August has brought with it an amplified reminder of the cultural divide between America and Tanzania. The sighting of the first crescent of the new moon signified the beginning of Ramadan and because Tanzania has a sizable Muslim population the effects are quite noticeable. Ramadan is a Muslim holy month meant to cleanse the soul and express repentance for all the sins committed during the rest of the year. Muslims must, amongst other things, fast from dawn to dusk everyday for the duration of the holy month. The goal is to be pure in thought and deed, which means Muslims give up behaviors that are thought to be sinful, negative, or distracting from spiritual introspection and closeness to God. Less orthodox Muslims who usually don't are now wearing traditional Muslim clothing and in many parts of the city where there are concentrated Muslim populations you will find restaurants closed during the day and open late into the night. In Zanzibar, where something like 98% of the population is Muslim you can be fined if caught eating publicly during daylight. The most orthodox Muslims are so strict about fasting that they spit on the ground all day to avoid consuming their own saliva.

In my office this translates into about 1/3 of my co-workers skipping lunch while the rest gather together in the staff kitchen eating traditional foods and inquiring after one another's families. Personally, I'm amazed by the determination of Mariam, the office lunch lady. Because she is Muslim, she is also fasting but she still shows up everyday like clockwork to cook lunch for the office. Even though I eat breakfast every morning, my stomach always rumbles around 2 o'clock when the smell of fried fish, ugali (a stiff porridge) and pilau (a spice rice dish featuring potatoes, meat, and a tomato salad on the side) wafts its way up to my office. I ask myself daily how someone who hasn't eaten since before dawn can stir a pot of delicious smelling food at 2 p.m. and not partake.

I usually grab lunch outside the office at one of the local restaurants, but nowadays I feel guilty knowing that my chips (fried potato pieces similar to french fries) and mishikaki (meat skewers of either beef or goat meat) are stirring stomachs and tempting my co-workers from their spirituals paths.  Out of respect for what my co-workers are trying to achieve I've taken to quietly sidling out the door for an eat-in lunch or consuming something non-fragrant at my desk. This is, admittedly, lonely since my usual lunch partner is unavailable because he is fasting.

Ramadan will end on the first day of the next lunar month with Eid-ul-Fitr or The Festival of Breaking Fast. I'm not exactly sure how Tanzania will celebrate Eid. I've heard there'll be everything from gift giving, to visiting neighbors and friends, to money and toys for the kiddies and the widespread buying of new clothes. I'm not sure how much of this will pan out but one thing's for sure-Christians, Muslims, and school kids alike will have the time off because in Tanzania Eid qualifies as a public holiday. Since the Muslim calendar is a lunar one the occurrence of Eid is dictated by the phases of the moon. No one knows yet exactly when Eid will be but its predicted to fall on September 20th and 21st. Everyone is hoping that it'll be on the 21st and 22nd, creating the ever-so-rare four-day weekend.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a wonderful Eid celebration bur for now I'm enjoying the heightened visibility of Muslim ladies wrapped in beautiful scarves and men sporting tennis shoes under traditional Muslim dress, as well as the respectful and supportive solidarity showed by their Christian counterparts.

August 28, 2009

Xi'an, China

Terracotta Warriors

It's not all that easy to get to Xi'an, in the heart of China, when you are in Beijing or Shanghai, but since we have a day, we are off to see one of the great wonders of the world - one that man built 2,300 years ago but just discovered during my adult lifetime.

Situated geographically in north central China, Xi'an is ranked among the great historic centers of the world. From its early role in Chinese civilization as the center for the first empire from which "Qin" (I pronounce "chin") gave the West the concept of "China," this gateway to the fabled Silk Road also was the largest and most cosmopolitan city on earth during the golden ages of the Han and the Tang.

My geography of China is pretty basic but the way I think of it on the map is that the borders of China are the silhouette of a rooster - the head to the right and the tail to the left with two feet extending below. The two feet are the islands of Taiwan and Hainan. Beijing is located in the throat of the rooster and Xi'an is the heart. China has had a total of 19 dynasties (I think). Xi'an served as the capital of China for 1,100 years; it has been a city for 3,100 years. The four main dynasties while it was the capital, and probably the most significant four of all since they were so fundamental to establishing Chinese culture was the Zhou (I pronounce "Joe"), the Qin (the ‘chin"), the Han (the "hand") and the Tang (the "tongue") dynasties - sorry but this is the only way I can remember the names and come close to pronouncing them.

We spent the day in Xi'an, the whole purpose of which was to visit the famed terracotta warriors, one of the true wonders of the world. What amazes me is that this stunning archeological find occurred the same year I graduated from college. (What will be found next?). The buried army of Qin Shi Huangdi is one of the largest and most stunning archaeological finds of the 20th century. Discovered in 1974 by a farmer (farmer Young - we actually met one of the other 4 "founding" or "discovering farmers" at the museum), the warriors and horses have earned the distinction of being one of the Wonders of the World, deservedly so. The full-size terracotta army (so far over 1,000 have been excavated - of an estimated 8,000 that are believed to exist at the site) testify to the imagination and ingenuity of man and his commitment to be protected in afterlife. What you see when you visit is three buildings (one the size o fan aircraft hangar) that have been constructed over the sites that are being excavated - you see a stunning display of life-size sculptured warriors and horses. Pretty unbelievable and hard to describe.

The emperor had constructed an army of warriors to protect him in the afterlife. We were told 720,000 people spent 38 years constructing the 8,000 terracotta soldiers and horses. At the end of the project, all of the workers were sacrificed (killed) o that no one would know of the project - mass graves were found later. The terracotta soldiers were left as standing armies in large pits, with a ceiling constructed above them, and then 20 meters of earth placed on the ceiling (all beneath ground level) to hide the entire operation under the farmland That is why it took 2,300 years to find them. These warriors with their horses stand in these pits in battle-ready position, fully armed, battalion after battalion over several acres. At the time of the discovery back in 1974 Newsweek magazine described the eerie and monumental find as "the clay clones of an 8,000 man army."

That's as well as I can do describing the site. Karyn and Bryan and the rest all loved it. Add it to your bucket list.

Now we are off to Hong Kong.

 

Commentary: Ted Kennedy's death a loss for mankind

By Bill Frist
Special to CNN

Editor's note: Bill Frist is the former Republican majority leader of the U.S. Senate and a professor of medicine and business at Vanderbilt University.

(CNN) -- The telephone rang in the deep hours of a dark night after a heavy day for our family.

My mother, affectionately known as Dodie, had passed away just a few hours after my father had passed, the two dying of independent causes.

The call -- the first that my wife, Karyn, and I had received from any of our friends or Senate colleagues -- was from Ted and Vicki Kennedy. That is caring and that is love.

Imagine being in Nantucket with your non-sailing sons with Ted, the master of the sea, skippering his beloved wooden sailboat over from Hyannis, asking the boys to jump aboard so he could take them on a harbor cruise and tell them a bit about why his brother John so dearly loved the United States of America.

He focused time and energy on the young and the importance their lives will play in meeting the challenges of today and tomorrow.

You see, in our lives Ted Kennedy was more than the legislative lion of the Senate.

He was the young senator I first met as a college intern in 1972 as he patiently found the time to lay out the fundamentals of universal health care to our summer class.

He was the proud stepdad who with Vicki beat Karyn and me to every afternoon high school baseball game while our sons played side by side.

And he was the masterful legislative colleague who never sacrificed his liberal principles standing for the everyday person as we joined each other on the health committee as respective co-chairmen to write and pass bills on health care disparities among the poor, emerging infectious diseases such as HIV and avian flu, and preparing the nation and the world to fight bioterrorism.

His death is a loss not just for Massachusetts and the Senate, but for all of mankind.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Bill Frist.

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