Since leaving the U.S. Senate in 2007, former majority leader Bill Frist ’74 has returned to his first career – medicine – with an emphasis on health in developing nations, continuing the yearly visits to Africa that he began making during his first Senate term. Earlier this month, he accompanied Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Joe Biden, on a goodwill trip to camps in Kenya, where thousands of Somalians have fled, seeking relief from a crippling famine in their home country. Since returning, Frist and Biden have urged individuals to contribute to the aid efforts currently supported by governments and international organizations, co-authoring an op-ed piece in USA Today.
Frist explained what he saw in the Horn of Africa in a related column, published in The Wall Street Journal:
“Mrs. Biden and I spent most of our time engaging refugees who emotionally recounted their painful, weeks-long treks through parched lands with little food and water, having no choice but to leave their husbands in war-torn Somalia, often losing a child or two along the way to dehydration or lung infection.“The extreme drought has destroyed crops and caused the death of 80% of the livestock. For most Somalis who live a pastoral lifestyle, these conditions amount to an American losing their home, job and all worldly possessions, with no food or water available to beg for or borrow.”
But Frist added that “there is much Americans can do – immediately and inexpensively – to save lives and quickly reverse the current trajectory of catastrophe,” like supplying nutrient-rich liquids to combat dehydration and providing vaccines to halt the spread of disease in densely populated camps.
Frist, a cardiothoracic surgeon and two-term Republican Senator from Tennessee, is chairman of the nonprofit Hope through Healing Hands, which promotes “using health as a currency for peace.”
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