Wednesday, September 16, 2009

"Pediatric surgery could look 100 percent different in five to 10 years"

"Pediatric surgery could look 100 percent different in five to 10 years," that's according to Edwin K. Zechman Jr., president and chief executive of Children's Hospital in Washington DC, reacting to a $150 million donation to Children's from the government of Abu Dhabi.

That's Serious Medicine in action, and it's also an example of Serious Economics (to borrow a phrase from San Diego-based blogger Paul Wilkinson), in the sense that through this contribution, the world economy is contributing to the improvement of the US economy, as well as the world's health. Much more is possible, of course, if we embrace a Serious Medicine Strategy, in which we focus on creating health care "enterprise zones" in the U.S.

In the WaPo this morning, Susan Kinzie does a great job of explaining the stakes:

In one of the largest philanthropic donations ever made to a U.S. pediatric hospital, Children's National Medical Center will receive $150 million from the government of Abu Dhabi -- a gift that the hospital hopes to use to dramatically change pediatric surgery.

The donation, which will be announced Wednesday morning, has the potential to transform Children's Hospital, enabling it to hire more than 100 surgeons, researchers and staff members over the next few years, hospital officials said. Its arrival amid a recession has created palpable excitement at the Northwest Washington hospital, which treats thousands of children and performs 15,000 surgeries each year.

The Post piece is also a great reminder that the rest of the world aspires to our Serious Medicine. They want it for themselves, just as we want it for ourselves. And through a combination of enlightened self-interest, entrepreneurship, and national strategy, it should be possible to spread the benefits of Serious Medicine to the world. It is possible, in fact--it's already happening.

Interestingly, and poignantly, the driving force in brokering this $150 donation was Joseph Robert Jr., long a prominent businessman-philanthropist, who has given $25 million himself to Children's. As the Post notes, though, Robert has recently been diagnosed with brain cancer:

For Robert, the gift represents a triumph. Recently he received a diagnosis of the same type of brain cancer that afflicted Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.). After giving away millions and raising millions more for charity, he compares his current philanthropic efforts to playing basketball at an arcade.

"I'm trying to get as many scores, put the ball through the hoop as many times as I can with the limited time I have left," he said.

At the hospital Wednesday, when the ambassador, the executives and the doctors gather to talk about how much the institute will change pediatric medicine, Robert said he will be thinking, "What needs to get done next?"


  1. Hi,

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