On December 7, 2015, Meridian President and CEO Ambassador Stuart Holliday opened the most-recent convening of the U.S.-France Leadership Dialogue and reiterated the importance of global engagement. Hosted at Meridian International Center in partnership with French-American Cultural Foundation (FACF) and through the support of the Richard Lounsbery Foundation, the program underscored several initiatives on which the United States and France are partnering in the areas of health research and health care delivery.
Keynote speaker, Health and Human Services (HHS) Assistant Secretary for Global Affairs Jimmy Kolker bridged recent terror attacks in France with the program’s theme of health and innovation, by acknowledging that epidemics inspire the same type of fear and vulnerability as terrorist attacks. This set the stage for a panel moderated by FACF President and former U.S. Permanent Representative to UNESCO Louise V. Oliver and guided table conversations over dinner, both of which centered on synergy and partnerships between the United States and France on biomedical breakthroughs and cutting-edge research and services.
Ambassador Kolker and Dr. Mireille Guyader, U.S. Office Director of the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM), emphasized the importance of collaboration on Ebola vaccines and cures, data collection to evaluate AIDS, and joint work between our respective national cancer institutes. Dr. Guyader explained the critical need for a kind of “ecosystem” where science, funding and entrepreneurs come together in a favorable ecosystem that allows innovation to be brought to the market. She stated that both the U.S. and France have arrived at this ecosystem, but in different ways. “In France, most of the funding still comes from the government not from venture capitalists and philanthropists as in the U.S.”
The program also highlighted the numerous similarities and differences between France and the United States in health services, health delivery, and health innovation. Intermountain Healthcare Chief Quality Officer Brent James raised the issue of waste, stating that “the amount of money that is not spent efficiently or effectively in health care delivery is between 30% and 60% in both countries.” RowdMap Co-Founder and CEO Josh Rosenthal stated that both countries have a single-payer system when you consider that the large majority of U.S. assistance comes through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS).
Attendees, including start-up entrepreneurs, pharmaceutical executives, government officials, academics and biomedical scientists, were in agreement with Dr. James closing statement, “By collaborating together, all teach and all learn,” we get there faster.” This holds true not only in areas of health, but across all sectors in the global economy, and it is this recognition of the need for cooperation and engagement that Meridian convenes the U.S. – France Leadership Dialogue and similar neutral forums.