Dr. Paul Cook
— Paul R. Cook
This interview was conducted on July 25, 2011
I first met Tayeb several months ago, in Miles City. Tayeb and his staff described Global Health Equity Foundation. I was quite impressed from the get-go. Tayeb is very dynamic, outgoing and personable. His excitement is infectious. He has a Middle Eastern, European demeanor with which I’m very comfortable. My background is in academic medicine and surgery. Physicians need help with and training in health services management. Some need to be trained in healthcare administration, in population health management, in understanding economic and political factors, and in how different health care systems work.
Physician-executives are rare. It’s rare to find the skills of a physician and the natural leadership of an executive in one person. Being able to work with a visionary like Tayeb, a man who has a world-wide focus, who is a physician and a leader, is a pleasure. When I took part in the Consensus Building forum, I was struck by how different stakeholders came together to develop concrete action plans. And now those plans are being put into action. Momentum has built. I would describe the geography in Eastern Montana as not just rural, but “frontier,” or “wilderness.” The remoteness presents problems. There’s a lack of access, or incomplete access, to health care. We urgently need to provide patients with information they need, in a form they can use to decide what steps to take next.
We need to build a society of health and wellness, not of disease. The education, the knowledge, should be available before anyone ever becomes a patient. We should put access to knowledge, in the hands of everyday people, no matter where they live. A simple directory of services needs to be developed. There’s a lack of providers for suicide prevention. There’s a lack of access to mental health services in general.
There’s a lack of knowledge about mental health at all levels. Education is needed at the community level. Physicians need diagnosis guidelines for mental health, help with research, help with applying for grants and awards, guidelines for targeting specific problems. One of the community members at the first forum held in Eastern Montana was the wife of one of my physician colleagues. Her child needed mental health services, and there were no adequate resources locally. Now she and other community members have come together to form a chapter of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) in Miles City. At a GHEF forum, she connected with the people she needed to know to get that done.
Relationships are the basis of knowledge. The ability to form relationships is where GHEF excels. Other organizations may not combine education with access to health care. They don’t provide education with the provision of medicine and food for displaced persons. Technology and education needs to be provided where the displaced population lives.
In the second forum that GHEF hosted in Eastern Montana, that was where an executive group made sure the action items were carried out. People were motivated. I would tell anyone in health care that a GHEF conference is one they don’t want to miss.
It’s amazing to me that a person like Tayeb could have such a grand vision. He has built from ideas to tangible results. His list of advisors reads like a who’s who of global health, and includes specialists in economics. We are looking forward to leveraging health-information technology. The Semantic Web project gives us a whole different way to conceptualize and to search for knowledge. We are setting up a pilot program using the City Health Department in Miles City. Among other issues, it will cover questions related to sexuality, adolescence, aging, and access to care. One of our community members who is a nurse is working to develop a social networking overlay for the semantic web technology.