“Cancer will touch the lives of everyone — either through their own diagnosis or that of a loved one or friend. A notoriously dreadful illness, cancer is a leading cause of death. It strikes regardless of race, socioeconomic status, gender, or age.” — Dr. Mary Beckerle PhD, CEO and Director of Huntsman Cancer Institute.
The C3 Saudi-American Healthcare Forum was developed to explore the different roles that business and government can play to advance “healthcare diplomacy” between the United States and The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The three C’s stands for:
Community: create a global healthcare platform for exchanging “best practices.”
Collaboration: promote dialogue and grow existing relationships critical to collaborative medical research, bilateral practice and “healthcare diplomacy.”
Commerce: facilitate new healthcare ventures and opportunities to stimulate “medical tourism and research.”
Our Huntsman team travelled to Riyadh to participate in the Forum, which was attended by more than 1,000 people from around the globe. We met with some of the most renowned cancer specialists and researchers in the Kingdom.
Dr. Sultan Al-Sedairy was our charming host. We began by getting to know each other with traditional Arabic coffee, juices and sweet dates. We felt as if we were in his living room. There was no urgency in our meetings. Our host asked about our families, our visit, our accommodations, and our purpose before we embarked on our private tour of the hospital.
Earlier in the week Dr. Randall Burt spoke of Utah’s unique research advantage – a database that includes more than seven million individual medical records that are combined with genealogies comprising many large families and extending back for up to 14 generations. Because the database is so large, more cancer genes and disease genes have been discovered at Huntsman Cancer Institute and the University of Utah than at any other institution in the world.
Perhaps the most well-known example of this is the breast and ovarian gene mutation given by Angelina Jolie as the reason for her double mastectomy. Using this database, Dr. Burt was involved in both the discovery of the primary gene for colon cancer and identifying families with increased cancer risk for that malignancy. Today genetic testing for cancer predisposition is widely used.
The next evening HRH Prince Faisal bin Bander Al Saud inaugurated and cut the ribbon at the C3 Health pavilion during the opening gala reception.
He stopped by our booth for a lively chat.
Huntsman Cancer Foundation was presented with an award for its outstanding contributions to cancer research.
It was only fitting that Dr. Burt accepted the award, given his personal contributions to the field.
Dr. Burt discovered a dangerous inherited colon cancer syndrome called familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP).
If FAP is not treated, there is almost a 100% chance of a person developing colorectal cancer. FAP increases a person’s risk for many other cancers as well.
Today genetic testing is available to identify persons at risk.
I very much enjoyed being seated next to Dr. Selwa Al-Hazzaa. She is the first female doctor to hold the position of Consultant of Ophthalmology at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital. Forbes International Magazine chose Dr. Al-Hazzaa as one of “The Most Powerful Arab Women.” She is also a member of the Shura Council. (More on that next week.) She regaled us with a series of entertaining and provocative stories about her life. This is such a wonderfully verbal culture.
A few years ago when Jon Huntsman joined Warren Buffett, George Lucas, Boone Pickens, Paul Allen andMichael Bloomberg to sign the $600 billion Giving Pledge, Huntsman said he was ashamed to note that less than 2 percent of the Forbes 400 richest Americans joined them.
The Giving Pledge obligates signers to give away at least half of their fortunes. Huntsman had one complaint:
“The only thing wrong with this,” he told one group, “is that it’s the wrong formula. It should be 80 percent. Why not? If a family has $5 billion, why should it only give away $2.5 billion? Surely it wouldn’t require the remaining $2.5 billion to live a full and productive life. We can’t take it with us, but we can direct it toward helping others in significant ways.”
Jon Huntsman has given and raised more than $1.4 billion dollars for cancer. We, the Huntsman Team, were honored to represent Huntsman Cancer Institute in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Next Thursday we will learn more about Dr. Khawla Al-Kuraya. And several other fabulous young women making a difference in the Kingdom.