“Health Connect South 2019” Conference Provides Hundreds of Partnership Opportunities for Health Care Leaders

John Tabellione

Thursday, October 3rd, 2019

A record number of over 900 top-tier health care leaders in the Southeast interacted with a cadre of 68 keynoters, other speakers and panelists who presented multiple partnership opportunities at the “Health Connect South 2019” (HCS) conference. The sixth annual event was held recently at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta.

Russ Lipari, Founder and CEO of Health Connect South, welcomed the participants, and noted from his own experience in the health care arena, “too often we group ourselves in siloes,” whether as subject matter experts, students, entrepreneurs, academia, corporate, pharma, or hospitals. Each group has its own acronyms and language. “We want to bring the best of all those together,” since the mission of HCS is provide unique and meaningful partnership opportunities in health.

He added, “There hasn’t really been a forum like this, an interdisciplinary forum to focus on health care collaboration.” According to Lipari, however, the Health Connect South platform creates such an opportunity for all to get together and to make connections. 


Dan Heath, New York Times best-selling author and Senior Fellow Duke University, utilized his upcoming book, entitled Upstream, as a template for problem solving through the use of partnerships in healthcare and other fields. Using a few real-life examples, such as the Chicago Public School system and the travel brand, Expedia, he walked the conference participants through the processes of prevention, preparation, and partnerships. 

 In particular, he showed how using the best teachers for ninth graders instead of instructing upperclassmen generated much improved graduation rates in Chicago. Looking upstream, that is, reviewing data, changing attitudes from assessing students to supporting them, the faculty and administrators were able to better determine students’ particular needs, and learned to act as cross-functioning teams to better prepare them for the remaining school years. As a result, graduation rates have increased significantly from 52 percent in 1998 to 78 percent last year.

Similarly, the on-line travel service, Expedia, learned the hard way, after the fact of receiving millions of calls to customer service over a number of years, to have marketing, IT, and the product team work together upstream to ensure that customers could easily and automatically receive a copy of their itineraries versus having to waste customer service time on such telephone requests.

Heath explained how the same strategy could also benefit medical and healthcare issues. The first hurdle to overcome is “Problem Blindness,” that is, “that’s the way the world works.” That approach over time has led to the issue of medical and surgical errors, or, at the other extreme, a study of nurses, which categorized them as “professional problem solvers.” In their doing so, however, the system never changes, improves, or gets streamlined, and the same problems persist.

Similarly, Heath talked next about the term, “Tunneling,” which he blames on scarcity of resources, leaving no space for system changes, only continuing forward in the same tunnel. He referenced a diabetes prevention program that had reduced the likelihood of contracting the disease and contributed toward partially delaying the onset of such. Unfortunately, that costly program ran into long-term financial concerns, which, in turn, caused ethical issues. Finally, the third hurdle, “Lack of Ownership,” reflects situations where the employees feel trapped in a situation and believe that they don’t have the power to change things.

Heath concluded by stating, “We need upstream heroes who clamor for bettter.”


Nowadays, drones are actually being used successfully and efficiently in healthcare logistics as an example of a unique partnership between an entrepreneur Andreas Raptopoulos of his Swiss drone company, Matternet, UPS, and Wake Med, a healthcare system with multiple facilities in the Raleigh, North Carolina metro area. Called the “biggest media event” for Wake Med by Rick Shrum, Vice President & Chief Strategy Officer, the partnership affords the healthcare player to expedite deliveries of blood samples, medications, and even certain pieces of medical equipment to be airlifted by drones. As significant as the reduced operating costs are for the 80 Wake Med locations, the just-in-time delivery process also offers the element of reduced inventory expenses. Lastly, the exigency factor of using drones can also have an impact in critical medical cases versus the use of courier-driven delivery vehicles. As UPS Vice President of Global Healthcare Strategy, Dan Gagnon, stated, “All size companies need help and collaboration.”


Dr. Michael Frankel, a vascular neurologist and Director of the Marcus Stroke and Neuroscience Center at Grady Memorial Hospital, told the HCS attendees that Georgia lies not only in the “Stroke Belt” of the country, it is the “Belt Buckle of the Stroke Belt.” He went on to explain that such artery blockages in the brain are the leading cause of long-term disability in the U.S. He noted a number of reasons why Georgia’s high occurrence is at almost twice that of the national average: hypertension, poor access to care, nutrition, and genetics, but not any one cause, in particular. While the drug called TPA is the standard care for stroke treatment and very beneficial, it works only about a third of the time. So doctors at Grady have recently developed a more definitive treatment: inserting catheters into the brain, which has produced a “level of 1A” evidence as the standard of care for stroke victims. The Marcus Center has now created a network to connect other hospitals to feed images of the brain. 

Carol Fleming, BSN, RN, CCRN, Clinical Outreach Director of the Marcus Stroke Network, related how the center now has a Mobile Stroke Treatment Unit, which is an ambulance containing a CT scanner, nurse, an X-ray Tech, a paramedic, and a two-way video system to evaluate the patient right at the scene of the stroke occurrence which can save 30 to 60 minutes. The Center has trained 100 hospital staffs, as well as those in residency, in these services and treatments.

Dianne Foster, RN, BSN, CCRN, Vice President, Quality & Systems Improvement
Greater Southeast Affiliate American Heart Association, said, “Georgia ranks seventh in U.S. for age-adjusted mortality from stroke,” and she added, “We make progress every day. But, we have to make people in Georgia more aware of the signs of stroke.” Amazingly, 45 percent of people who experience a stroke do not call 911. Therefore, she stated that it is critical that people recognize the acronym FAST, which stands for: Facial drooping; Arm weakness; Speech difficulties; Time is of the essence.

The two leaders of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention addressed several key current issues, including vaping, measles and flu shots. Dr. Redfield spoke of the significant health consequences of vaping and its widespread use. He reminded the audience that nicotine is a toxic, poisonous substance the use of which in vaping has increased from three million to six million today, including 27 percent of high school students and 10 percent of middle schoolers. “This is a very serious health threat,” he said. He promised that the CDC would have more data and analyses in the near future. 

Dr. Monroe, on the subject of measles, stated that the vaccine is successful and safe, but that the CDC needs partnerships to go into closed communities. The plan is not to speak scientifically to parents, but rather to use faith leaders as well as nurses from the neighborhoods to form partnerships and explain the need for vaccination. Similarly, she noted that less than 50 percent of the population receives a flu shot each year. Over the past 10 years, influenza has caused 360 deaths. Dr. Redfield added, “The World Health Organization actually listed last year vaccine hesitancy as one of the ten major threats to health in the world.”


Gary Reedy, CEO of the American Cancer Society (ACS), noting that September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, presented challenging statistics of this disease. Namely, ACS reported in 2019 about 10,590 new cases of pediatric cancer in 2019 will occur for children fourteen years and younger. About 1,200 deaths will occur. In older teens about 5,000 new cases and 600 deaths are estimated. He added, “Now there’s some good news here: the death rate for new cancer for children has declined by about two-thirds from 1971 through 2016.”  Also, 80 percent will survive 5 years or more. Nevertheless, for some surviving victims, on-going health complications, some with lifetime effects, not only from the cancer or its treatment, but also heart, lung and kidney damage, cognitive, hearing and vision issues. “Childhood specific research is required,” said Reedy. “Much work needs to be done. We attack cancer from all angles.”

The ACS leverages its research that it conducts, publishes trends, provides early detection and treatment, and works to improve quality of life for cancer patients and their families. 

“We are partnering and collaborating with the broader childhood cancer community on research and advocacy. The ACS is funding 68 research projects with $37 million. In addition the ACS supports legislation, drug research, and requesting of more federal funding. He concluded by saying, “This urgent work cannot happen with one organization or entity working alone. It will take collaboration and partnership among all stakeholders to advance the common goal of advancing safe and effective treatment to cure childhood cancer. And that’s one of the major reasons that we are so proud that we are current collaborators with both the Alliance for Childhood Cancer and the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.”


Several other panels and speakers rounded out the agenda, including:
• Rural Health
• Healthcare Investment Trends
• Genomics
• Managing Innovation
• Mental Health
• Philanthropy
• Disruptive Innovations in Health Care Delivery

Health Connect South is a non-profit serving the health community as a valuable platform for regional health collaborations, ensuring participation from the highest levels and broadest cross sections of executives, decision makers, innovators, and the next generation of health leaders.

Health Connect South’s annual event is one of the largest face-to-face meetings in the Southeast. Agenda topics covered are broad in order to create interdisciplinary partnerships, but also specific to be able to tackle current challenges in health. This is the platform for health leaders to come to talk and hear about “the future” in health, the current challenges, and collaborative solutions. Russ Lipari, CEO of HCS, states, “The mission of Health Connect South is to seek to define and advance the Southeast’s role in the future of health, serving as a gateway between industry silos, and facilitating unique and meaningful collaborative partnerships.” 

About John Tabellione

John Tabellione is an award-winning, professional business writer, complemented by over twenty-five years of strategic communication responsibilities as a Marketing, New Business Development and National Account Sales Executive in consumer goods and commercial industries. 

Experience with Fortune 500 companies, as well as with smaller firms and non-profits, encompassing a variety of products, including those of Georgia-Pacific, Kimberly-Clark and Stanley Works. 

John has a B.A. in English from Fairfield University and an MBA in Marketing from the University of Hartford. In addition, he has studied Russian at the Defense Language Institute at Syracuse University, and Italian language and culture at Kennesaw State University.