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Sen. Bill Frist Works to Heal America

  • Ginny McCabe Contributing Writer
  • Published Aug 30, 2004
Sen. Bill Frist Works to Heal America

Senator William (Bill) H. Frist, M.D. or “Fristy” as President Bush calls him, is helping to heal the rift that divides America.

“Bill Frist has excelled at everything he’s ever attempted. If he’s faced a major failure in life, it’s not been recorded. And if you’re hoping to find skeletons in his closet, chances are good you’re wasting your time. His friends claim that Bill Frist squeaks when he walks…” says biographer Charles Martin.


Martin presents a portrait of the Senator’s life by talking to some of the people who were closest to him. Healing America: The Life of Senate Majority Leader William H. Frist, M.D. confirms that Frist’s convictions are supported by his strong faith, medical background and experiences as a one of the world’s top surgeons.


Frist’s convictions are informed by both his deep religious faith and medical background. Healing America: The Life of Senate Majority Leader William H. Frist, M.D. chronicles the life of Senator Frist and explores his approach to his role as he deals with some of the most controversial issues in our nation.


“I spoke to 35 or 40 of his (Frist’s) closest friends, including Franklin Graham and Lloyd Ogilvie, who was the Senate Chaplain…I also interviewed some of his oldest friends; college roommates, Chief of Staff, and I was able to paint a pretty clear sketch of who he is, what he has come from and how he spends his days,” says Martin.


To understand Frist, you really have to understand his dad, Dr. Thomas Frist, Sr. “His dad was a quiet, country doctor who had a real warm bedside manner. He was known for that all across Nashville. Bill Frist grew up under a dad that taught him how to be a doctor,” explains Martin.


He went to Harvard As a result of Senator Frist’s expertise, training and experience he created a transplant center at Vanderbilt University. “Not only that, but he becomes one of the best transplant doctor’s in the country and arguably, probably one of the best in the world” says Martin.


Senator Frist has done about 150 transplants, including heart and lung. He is one of the most skilled heart transplant surgeons in America. At the age of 42, and at the height of his career, being one of the best doctor’s in the world, he left his medical practice in 1994 and ran against an 18-year incumbent for the United States from his home state of Tennessee. Voted Unanimously by his caucus, now he hails as the Senate Majority Leader.


When asked why he left medicine, Frist said, “I never really left…By day, I’m a U.S. Senator; by life, I’m a physician.”

Martin explores both faith and politics in Healing America: The Life of Senate Majority Leader William H. Frist, M.D. as he demonstrates how Senator Frist’s Christian faith has played a role in shaping the national policy on several key issues in American culture today.


He is highly respected by both Democratic and Republican Senators. Senator Frist is described as a man who has unassuming humility, unflappable idealism and an unstoppable drive. When he assumed the role as Senator, he effectively helped to represent President George W. Bush’s “compassionate conservatism,” among a divided Senate.


In the months leading up to January 20, 2001, the winds of “compassionate conservatism” swept across the country bringing in a Republican president and a Republican majority in both the House and the Senate. Five months later, on May 24, 2001, (after reaching a late night deal with Senator Tom Daschle and other top Democrats) Republican Jim Jeffords left the Republican Party to declare himself an Independent and caucus with the Democrats. The effects were many. In addition, Senate Majority Leader, Trent Lott was asked to step down, and on December 20, 2002 he did. The Republicans met in a closed-door meeting to nominate one of the remaining ninety-nine members to take Lott’s place. As a result of that meeting, Bill Frist was nominated.


Senator Frist counseled with Bob Dole and Howard Baker, met with his wife, Karyn and children and prayed about it. In January, 2003, amidst controversy (and cries of racism and insensitivity), Senator William Frist, M.D., a second term senator, assumed the role of majority leader of the Senate for the 108th Congress of the United States.


Upon being elected as majority leader, Frist said to a longtime friend, Dr. Karl VanDevender that it is “humbling.”


VanDevender said, “That’s where his faith entered in. His humility impressed me then and now. Even now that he’s in this position, Billy is trying to make decisions that impact this country not as a Republican or a Democrat, but as a man trying to do what is right. He has a servant’s heart, and when, like him, you reach the top of the mountain, the only place to look for guidance is up. He’s got nowhere else to look but up and that’s where he’s looking.”


Frist is now serving his second term in the Senate. He’s a conservative Republican, pro-life, fiscally conservative, and yet he’s introduced legislation with Democrat Ted Kennedy, supports stem-cell research and increased funding for AIDS programs in Africa.


He is fueled by a quiet faith, and supremely disciplined. “Even today as majority leader of the Senate, a stethoscope lies atop his desk as a sort of reminder, both to himself and to those with whom he meets,” noted Martin in the book which speaks about Frist’s high calling as a doctor – healing both people and the nation.


Learn more about this book at ThomasNelson.com