Student Experience | The Lazarus Effect 15 Years Later

Highland Capital Management Tower Scholars at the Bush Engage Event in May. From left to right: Sloane Fuller, Evan Snyder, Kelsey Shipman, Allison Schultz, Evie Mathis. Photo courtesy of HCM.

Five Highland Capital Management Tower Scholars attended the Bush Institute’s Engage event May 9, “The Lazarus Effect, 15 Years Later.” At the panel, Highland Capital Management Tower Scholar Allison Schultz learned about the connections between medicine and public policy, and what the U.S. can do about disease on a global scale.

“I started my freshman year at SMU intent on studying the sciences from Biology to Physiology. I embraced the opportunity to examine the complexities of the human body and the many diseases to which we are susceptible. However, I quickly came to discover that a crucial part of medicine lies outside the sciences in health policy. Health policy shapes everything from how our hospitals operate domestically to U.S. aid initiatives abroad. I became intrigued by the subject, especially as I began to identify the humanistic implications of health policy, for better or for worse.

As I plan to specialize in emergency medicine, I’ve spent extensive time shadowing local EMTs. On one of my very first calls, we had a patient who admitted to us that she can’t afford her medication. Simply put, our healthcare system is sophisticated enough to diagnose her disease, but when she leaves the hospital, it’s left up to her to pay for and regularly take her prescriptions. When she fails to do so, no one steps in. I left wondering whether it would be economically more prudent for our society to pay for her medication than to pay for the extensive emergency medical system that responds to calls like hers.

Around the same time that I began to contemplate health policy, I read Tracy Kidder’s book Mountains Beyond Mountains about Dr. Paul Farmer, an American physician who has revolutionized healthcare in Haiti. Dr. Farmer argues that global aid is failing the Haitian people, who are suffering from diseases that can be attributed to malnourishment and unsanitary living conditions. If U.S. global health initiatives were to focus our aid on alleviating poverty in Haiti, Dr. Farmer believes disease rates would plummet.

As part of the Tower Scholars Program, I received a ticket from our generous sponsors at Highland Capital Management to hear Dr. Farmer speak as a panelist at the Bush Center. The program was titled “The Lazarus Effect, 15 Years Later,” in celebration of the 15th anniversary of President George W. Bush’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). PEPFAR has provided antiretroviral treatment and HIV testing to millions suffering from the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Sub-Saharan Africa. To date, approximately 13 million Africans have received treatment and 2 million babies have been born disease free to HIV-infected mothers. PEPFAR’s success is living proof that we have the resources and capabilities to reduce mortality rates in underdeveloped countries.

The panel conclusively agreed that global health initiatives should become a national priority. In today’s increasingly interconnected world, improving global health isn’t just a humanitarian mission, but an issue of national security. Diseases that are leading causes of death internationally are no longer isolated overseas; the U.S. was caught by surprise when an Ebola case presented in Dallas from West Africa. Whether that means pursuing medically-oriented programming like PEPFAR in Africa or working to improve infrastructure and sanitation as Farmer proposes in Haiti, the U.S. has an obligation to use its knowledge and funds to improve global health, lest millions continue to die from preventable diseases around the globe. Those lives lost won’t only mar the future of struggling countries, but will reduce the talent and potential that an entire generation could offer to this world.”