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The Peter Attia Drive

Feb 22, 2021

Bill Frist is a nationally acclaimed heart and lung transplant surgeon, former U.S. Senate Majority Leader, and is actively engaged in health policy and education reform. In this episode, Bill takes us through his long and varied career in medicine, politics, and business, which includes establishing the organ transplantation program at Vanderbilt as well as rising from the lowest-ranked member of the U.S. Senate to the Majority Leader in two terms. We discuss some of the most significant moments of his time in the Senate, such as advocating for AIDS prevention programs' funding and addressing complicated issues like stem cell research and the end-of-life issues raised by the Terri Schiavo case. We also hear his first-person account of what happened behind the scenes on September 11, 2001, his frustration with our lack of preparation for the pandemic, and his thoughts about the current state of U.S. politics. Finally, we talk about his current endeavors in health policy and education reform.

We discuss:

  • Bill’s decision to pursue medicine and do organ transplants (3:40);
  • The miraculous nature of organ transplants: History, Bill’s work, and the most exciting things to come (12:00);
  • Frist’s experience building up the heart transplant program at Vanderbilt (21:45);
  • The famous rivalry between surgeons Denton Cooley and Michael DeBakey (29:15);
  • How the medical field can attract bright young people to pursue medicine (33:00);
  • Bill’s decision to leave medicine and run for the US senate (38:00);
  • The value in having scientists and physicians in Congress (47:30);
  • A discussion on whether or not senators should have term limits (55:30);
  • The highly polarized nature of politics, and how we can fix it with empathy (1:00:30);
  • Bill’s time in the Senate and quick rise to Senate Majority Leader (1:05:30);
  • The lifesaving impact of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) under George W. Bush (1:15:15);
  • How Bill reversed course on his view of the value and morality of stem cell research (1:19:45);
  • Complex end-of-life decisions, and Bill’s role in the infamous Terri Schiavo case—a story that captures the conflict among law, morality, and improving technology (1:30:00);
  • Remembering the events of September 11th from Bill’s perspective in the Senate (1:49:45);
  • The coronavirus pandemic: Bill’s accurate 2005 prediction, and a discussion about future preparedness (1:56:45);
  • The divided state of US politics, and how we can come together (2:06:45);
  • How experience in medicine and politics is shaping Bill’s current endeavors in business, reforming education, palliative care, and more (2:12:45); and
  • More.
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