Thomas F. Frist Jr., MD, is a co-founder and chairman emeritus of HCA, the nation’s leading provider of healthcare services. Dr. Frist received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from Washington University in St. Louis on May 19, 2017.
Headquartered in Dr. Frist’s hometown of Nashville, Tennessee, HCA Healthcare currently operates 171 hospitals and 119 surgery centers in major urban and suburban areas throughout the United States and in the United Kingdom, employing more than 240,000 people. Over 27 million healthcare encounters a year are with an HCA caregiver.
Dr. Frist, who earned his doctor of medicine degree from Washington University School of Medicine in 1965, has been a lifetime member of the University’s William Greenleaf Eliot Society for more than 30 years and a lifetime patron of the Society since 2009.
He earned his bachelor’s degree in 1961 from Vanderbilt University, where he has served as vice president of its Board of Trust.
A generous supporter of Princeton, Vanderbilt and Washington universities, Dr. Frist’s commitment to education extends to the secondary level and early education levels as well. He was a key founder of the high school division of Nashville’s Ensworth School and a longtime supporter of Ensworth Lower School. He and his family have donated consistently and generously throughout his life to support public education as well.
In the 1960s, Dr. Frist developed an idea he hoped would change the way healthcare was delivered. It was an era during which chain retailers were becoming dominant in a variety of industries, and Dr. Frist thought the same principal of economies of scale could be used to develop better hospitals.
He took the idea of a multi-hospital, for-profit corporation to his father, cardiologist Thomas Frist Sr., MD, and the two partnered with businessman Jack Massey to create the Hospital Corporation of America in 1968, now HCA.
In the first year, Dr. Frist acquired eleven hospitals, a number that would grow into the hundreds in the 1970s and 1980s. The multi-hospital system used its greater purchasing power to decrease costs for supplies and equipment, allowing for more cost-effective care and treatment.
HCA hospitals soon became drivers of new developments in healthcare delivery as nonprofit hospitals followed their lead.
In 1977, Dr. Frist became president of HCA, and, in 1987, he took on the additional roles of chairman and chief executive officer. He remains chairman emeritus and continues to act in an advisory capacity for the board.
In 2007, he and his son-in-law, Charles Elcan, founded China Healthcare Corporation, whose mission is to use HCA’s operating principles to help fulfill the hospital needs of China’s large population.
Dr. Frist has served as chair of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce and on the Board of Directors of IBM, Harvard Business School and Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville. During the Vietnam War, Dr. Frist served for two years as a strategic air command flight surgeon at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia.
The Frist family has a long tradition of philanthropy and community involvement. Dr. Frist and the HCA Foundation provided the lead gift to establish Nashville’s Frist Center for the Visual Arts, where he remains chairman emeritus.
Always an entrepreneurial philanthropist, Dr. Frist established the Alexis de Tocqueville Society for donors of $10,000 or more while serving as chairman of the United Way of Middle Tennessee in 1981. The Tocqueville Society has since expanded to 430 cities all over the world, with 25,876 members who have donated an additional $9 billion in support for the United Way.
Dr. Frist has served as chair of the United Way’s Board of Governors and received the United Way Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012. The organization’s Dr. Thomas F. Frist Jr. Excellence in Volunteer Leadership Award was established in his honor.
Dr. Frist and his wife, Patricia, are longtime supporters of Washington University. The couple has made a commitment to fund the recently established Frist Scholars Program for undergraduates.
Dr. Frist has been inducted into the Healthcare Hall of Fame and has received a Distinguished Alumnus Award from Vanderbilt University.
Washington University honored him with a Distinguished Alumni Award at Founders Day in 1989, recognizing his achievements and contributions to healthcare in addition to his generosity to the University.
The Frists, with their three children and nine grandchildren, live in Nashville, Tennessee.