May 8, 2009

Collaboration key to health reform: Frist

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Bill Frist, M.D., will deliver next week’s Norman E. Shumway Jr. Lectureship in Transplantation. (photo by Joe Howell)

Collaboration key to health reform: Frist

Former U.S. Senate Majority Leader, Bill Frist, M.D., will deliver the keynote address during the Norman E. Shumway Jr. Lectureship in Transplantation at 4 p.m., Thursday, May 14, in 208 Light Hall.

Frist, who established the lectureship in 1991 to honor Shumway as the father of thoracic transplantation, will speak on the “Care Delivery Value Chain in Heart Transplantation: How Vanderbilt's History Shapes Future National Reform.”

“The value delivery chain is a framework for health care delivery for the 21st century,” said Frist. “Transplantation is a perfect model for developing payment and reimbursement systems for integrated health care.

“Instead of having reimbursement for the hospital or the physician based on the quantity of service, you would reimburse on the entire value chain, which involves the continuum of care. It takes a host of people working together for quality outcomes,” said Frist.

“This concept forces programs to bring the cardiologist, cardiac surgeons, ethicists, radiologists, social workers, pathologists, primary care physicians, infection disease specialists … all areas of medicine and patient care together.”

It was this idea of connectivity and collaboration that led Frist to create the Vanderbilt Transplant Center in 1989. The novel approach was modeled throughout the country.

“When I came to Vanderbilt it was my proposal to create a multi-organ transplant center,” said Frist. “We were pioneering this concept of a true integrated system of transplantation.

“It was a dream,” said Frist. “I didn't have a model to do it, but I knew a systems approach would deliver the best value. And having systems that coordinated multiple specialists could have a huge impact on outcomes and results in improving patient care.”
In highlighting the center, Frist will also pay homage to Shumway, who he credits as having a key role in shaping his life, both in medicine and in politics.

Shumway, a 1949 VUSM graduate, performed the first adult human transplant in the United States in 1968. In 1981 he performed the world's first heart-lung transplant.

“He was the ultimate research clinical scientist,” said Frist. “Basically, he'd go to the lab to address a problem, get a solution and then apply it in the patient. He was systematic. He used to describe himself as the world's greatest first assistant.

“And it was true. He prided himself on being a great teacher. To this day I repeat something he often said: 'Conceive it, believe it, do it.'

“He believed in transplantation when the rest of the world didn't believe it was ever going to work. Again, he was very systematic and deliberate about it all.

“You have to know it's the right thing to do. Believe that you can do it and just do it.”

Frist was part of the transplant team that performed the first lung transplant in the state, the first combined successful heart-lung transplant in the Southeast and the first pediatric heart transplant in Tennessee.

The lecture also kicks off a series of events that mark the 20th anniversary of VTC.