Soon after the pandemic started in early 2020, it became obvious to global public health officials, state health departments, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Foundation and other healthcare and public policy entities that coordination and information sharing was paramount – and a struggle. Atlanta not only is home to healthcare powerhouses like CDC and its Foundation, but also to a strong life sciences and health technology community, and global corporations.
The CDC Foundation and other leaders in these spaces came together to form the Global Health Crisis Coordination Center (GHC3), a division of the Center for Global Health Innovation (CGHI).
This coalition of private companies, public health organizations, nonprofits and others was created to, according to its website “share information and coordinate resources” through emergency preparedness training, planning, innovation and trust. As the pandemic continues, several members of the Center’s leadership team spoke on a panel for Atlanta Business Chronicle’s healthcare forum about its origin, its purpose and its future.
-Daniel R Gagnon, vice president, global marketing for UPS Healthcare, United Parcel Service;
-Dr. Clifford Goldsmith, U.S. CMO and national director, Microsoft Health and Life Sciences;
-Dr. Judy Monroe, president and CEO, CDC Foundation; Charles Redding, president and CEO of MedShare;
-Maria Thacker Goethe, founding CEO, The Center for Global Health Innovation; and
-moderator Clark Dean, executive managing director and partner for transaction sciences, Transwestern.
Each panelist came to GHC3 to fill a crucial role in the organization’s overall mission, said Goethe, who also serves as CEO for the Center, president for Georgia Bio, and brought the diverse entities together into GHC3. “I knew we needed to do what we could to break down these silos between life sciences, global health and health technology,” she said, “and we, everyone on this call and others across this community, have come together to do that.”
To maintain such an organization, it takes partnerships between public and private institutions, as well as local communities, said Goldsmith, who, along with Redding, Dean and Monroe, are special advisors to GHC3. Microsoft is an early funder of the coalition. “I’ve been saying at Microsoft and to others outside that it’s a triad at a minimum. To get to sustainability, we need three or more partners involved,” Goldsmith said during the panel. “Each of those organizations has their own imperatives, their own goals, their own mission and focus, and they all are incredibly valuable.”
Local organizations deliver local care. Government and public entities expand the emphasis and private sector companies balance their money-making goals with doing good, Goldsmith explained. “The reality is, we’re a company, and a company is built on a foundation for making money for its shareholders or being profitable in general. It’s not a bad thing to say that. It’s only bad if that’s your only goal in life and you actually undermine society because of that. When you have a goal of doing good and doing well [as a company] that’s what we’re talking about.”
“Doing good” through equity in distribution is important to United Parcel Service’s healthcare division, which also has its global headquarters in Atlanta. UPS Healthcare, a $7 billion division, focuses on distribution of complex medical devices and pharmaceuticals, and, with the pandemic, PPE and vaccines, said Gagnon, a member of the GHC3 partner coalition council.
During Operation Warp Speed, the mission to create and distribute Covid-19 vaccines, members of GHC3 held daily 6pm virtual meetings that solidified the partnerships and relationships between its members. “There was a no-nonsense discussion. You had to show up with your operating plan, you had to defend it, you had to share it with your competition and you shared best practices,” Gagnon remembered. “We [at UPS] would pick up where FedEx left off and vice versa, so the brown and purple guys were on that call every day, working together to get needles in arms.”
Those daily meetings highlighted the need for GHC3, said Redding. “We’re typically an international organization,” he said about MedShare, a nonprofit that recovers surplus medical supplies from around the country and redistributes them to hospitals in developing countries, “but the knocks on our door were coming from our local community hospitals in the U.S., all of a sudden needing help.”
The mobilization of all these entities will continue post-pandemic, as the Center is close to securing a physical location where it will host convenings of thought leaders and researchers, and create programs for the public and other initiatives, said Goethe. Among the biggest issues the Center and its GHC3 wants to create innovative programs for are climate change, antimicrobial resistance and health inequities. “One of the biggest roles is being a global health champion, not just relying on the CDC but us being a community, a driver, a champion for those working in public health and global health,” she said. “Global is local. That is truly what we believe.”
Dean, also an early convener of GHC3, said one of the most vital aspects of the organization is its relationship and trust building, that will endure beyond the pandemic. “People were coming together that may have never worked together before,” he said. “That’s the opportunity: how do we take these networks of relationships established during the pandemic in a time of crisis and really leverage them to improve health outcomes for everyone around the world?”
Formed during a crisis, GHC3 and its mission will be valuable to Atlanta and the world, said Monroe of the CDC Foundation, which oversees The Center for Global Health Innovation and this offshoot, GHC3. “History will tell you that Formed during a crisis, GHC3 and its mission will be valuable to Atlanta and the world, said Monroe of the CDC Foundation, a seed funder for the GHC3. “History will tell you that past pandemics or catastrophes have been, on the other side, the time for innovation, the time for renaissance,” she said. “Almost always, we end up being better. The timing for The Center for Global Health Innovation couldn’t be better.”