Pri-Med Southwest: Building Healthy Communities at Home and around the World

March 27, 2011
Kim Farina, PhD

At Pri-Med Southwest, Bill Frist, MD, calls on physicians to lead by example in improving the health of the vulnerable and poor of the world.

”One thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve” -- Albert Schweitzer

William H. Frist, MD, is a former United States Senator and a heart and lung surgeon. His experiences in both roles have given him a unique perspective on the role of medicine in society. He shared his viewpoint during “Medicine as a Currency for Peace: The Passion to Bring Health, Hope, and Healing,” the March 26 keynote lecture of the 2011 Pri-Med Southwest conference.

It all begins with you

According to Frist, a healthy society leads to a stable society, which leads to security and then peace. To make the world a better place, he told attendees, apply the tools, skills, and passion that you use every day on a one-to-one basis. Expand the reach of the care you provide from one-to-one service to one-to-many service. By investing in the health of the vulnerable and poor of the world, Frist explained, lives will be saved and enduring peace will be built.

“It is time to turn healing individuals into healing communities, at home and around the world. It is time to act, and it all begins with you,” said Frist.

He stumbled upon his notion of health as a currency for peace during his experiences as a volunteer in a war-torn village of Sudan. What he observed is that healthier individuals lead to better educated and more productive people who are empowered to emerge from poverty and to form stable communities and nations. The result is stable civil societies that are built on trust and hope. In Sudan he saw the effectiveness of this approach at the local level, but, he said, it can and should be scaled up.

“What is clear to me is that there is a need for a dramatic increase in spending on the civilian instruments of national security—diplomacy, strategic communications, foreign assistance, civic action, and economic reconstruction and development.” - Robert Gates, U.S. Secretary of Defense

Frist said the world often sees America’s tougher side, but Americans routinely reach out to people in need. When people see our more compassionate side, barriers come down while trust and stability grow.

How can you make a difference?

“Conceive it, believe it, do it.” - Norman Shumway

The first step toward making a difference is to make the commitment to act. Health care professionals can volunteer or offer to cover for a fellow health care professional who is taking time off to volunteer. It does not require a trip to Africa; service can be done locally at churches and clinics. Support local foundations to make a difference in your own community. Advocacy is another great way to make a difference. By becoming a part of something bigger than yourself, Frist said, you just might change the world—and it all begins with commitment.

For more information about Dr. Frist's message, visit his official website.

Health As A Currency For Peace from Bill Frist on Vimeo.