Good morning, readers. If you were to assemble 50 people in a room who could help you truly understand health care today, who would you pick?
To help you choose, I’ll start with my list. First, I’d want some insight into today’s most pressing challenges (and biggest opportunities) for medical science—hoping to understand everything from vaccine development to the latest advances in gene editing. So, I’d invite Alex Gorsky, the CEO of Johnson & Johnson and Stéphane Bancel, the CEO of Moderna, who are both in the forefront in the race for a COVID-19 vaccine—and pursuing radically different strategies to get there. I’d be thrilled to talk with Dr. Jennifer Doudna, the pioneering biochemist who co-discovered CRISPR-Cas9, the gene-editing technique that may one day provide cures for everything from certain cancers to inherited blood disorders to, perhaps, the next pandemic virus.
I’d add three more innovative drug-company CEOs—Dr. Vas Narasimhan of Novartis, Robert Bradway of Amgen, and Dr. Giovanni Caforio of Bristol Myers Squibb—along with the leader of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, Dr. Michelle McMurry Heath—to talk not only about the current efforts to fight the coronavirus, but also the new horizons in drug discovery for a slew of other pathologies. And I’d round out the discussion with the CEOs of GE Healthcare and Baxter, respectively—Kieran Murphy and José Almeida—to discuss the myriad chronic conditions, from cancers to kidney disease, that didn’t suddenly vanish during the pandemic and that still require care.
How can health care systems balance these conflicting demands—as COVID-19 patients flood emergency rooms and ICUs and those in need of surgeries or chemotherapy avoid the hospital for fear of infection? For some perspective, I’d seek the expertise of two thoughtful hospital CEOs: the Mayo Clinic’s Dr. Gianrico Farrugia and Intermountain Healthcare’s Dr. Marc Harrison. And I’d be more grateful still if the Dean of Stanford Medicine, Dr. Lloyd Minor, and healthcare venture capitalist Sue Siegel—both quite wise, in my view—could join us as well.
For sure, I’d want some fresh intel on digital health and analytics—to see how data and A.I. and a phone-ful of other technologies can transform health as we know it. With that in mind, Verily’s chief medical and scientific officer Dr. Jessica Mega, Google Health boss David Feinberg, and the leader of IBM Watson Health, Paul Roma, would be way high on my invite list. So would epidemiologists like Dr. John Brownstein at Boston Children’s, whose HealthMap is a real-time virtual window into every disease hotspot in the world. As would Eric Lefkofsky, the CEO of Tempus, who is discovering a hidden map of disease—and, hopefully, a guidebook for precision cures—in human DNA, RNA, and protein.
Any real discussion of today’s health care system would have to have candid perspective from three of the most insightful physician-scientists on the planet—Dr. Amy Abernethy, Dr. Julie Gerberding, and Dr. Margaret Hamburg. Abernethy (now at the FDA), Gerberding (now at Merck), and Hamburg (now at the National Academy of Medicine) have résumés that alight upon every inch of the U.S. health system, from top hospitals to health commissioners to HHS. And speaking of which, anyone would be nuts to leave out Seema Verma, the Administrator of CMS, who directs programs providing health care for 130 million Americans.
Naturally, I’d want to hear from leading health insurers such as Aetna President and CVS EVP Karen Lynch and Centene CEO Michael Neidorff. And I’d be remiss “to separate the head from the body,” as my late friend Bernard Tyson put it—so I’d call up Dr. Joshua Gordon, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, too. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it a parallel outbreak of anxiety, stress, loneliness, and exhaustion that’s being felt by employees everywhere—which is something that corporate leaders like Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins and Bank of America Vice-Chairman Anne Finucane have thought about deeply. I’d ask both to come join us—and for good measure, I’d welcome chief medical officers and wellbeing experts from IBM, Walmart, and Salesforce, too.
I’d want to hear from leaders in public health, like Harvard Dean Michelle Williams—and prominent leaders in global health such as Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, Dr. Sheila Davis, and GAVI CEO Dr. Seth Berkley.
The conversation would surely benefit from including experts in behavioral finance and decision-making, such as Dan Ariely and Niall Ferguson. And I’d throw in NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to share how he made one such pressure-filled decision—shutting down a hugely popular professional sport mid-season, all in the name of public health.
Finally, I’d want to face the stark realities of health inequities in this country head on—and so it would be essential to have a frank conversation about U.S. healthcare’s lasting racial divide, a gap in outcomes that has become ever more stark in the midst of COVID-19. Here, I’d be grateful for the counsel of Van Jones, the CEO of REFORM Alliance, and Dr. Erin Thomas, Upwork’s Head of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging.
Of course, no conversation on health and wellbeing today would be anywhere near complete without including Thrive Global CEO Arianna Huffington and Dr. David Agus, the founding director and CEO of the Lawrence J. Ellison Institute for Transformative Medicine. And in a perfect world, they would lead this sprawling two-day conversation alongside me.
Which is precisely what Arianna and Dave will do as my longstanding co-chairs of FORTUNE Brainstorm Health. They, and all of the experts above, are slated to speak at this year’s event on July 7-8. The one thing that would make it better is if you, the faithful readers of The Capsule, can join us as well—and share your perspective at our interactive tele-gathering. Those who are interested can use this code— BSH20GUEST—and get 50% off.
Hope to see you there.