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Susan Blumenthal

Former US Assistant Surgeon General & Rear Admiral
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Biography

Susan J. Blumenthal, MD, MPA is the “Admiral of Public Health.” An extraordinary leader in healthcare whose global impact on advancing public health is far-reaching, she has distinguished herself as an outspoken champion of national and global health issues, especially women’s health.

For over 20 years she served in positions including U.S. Assistant Surgeon General, Rear Admiral, Senior Medical and E-Health Advisor, and as the country's first deputy assistant secretary for women's health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. As a leading medical expert, Dr. Blumenthal was a driving force behind confronting such critical public health issues as breast cancer, obesity, violence and suicide prevention, mental illness, and preventative medicine.

The first to spearhead the use of the Internet and technology as health educational tools in the federal health system, she is credited with dramatically changing the face of women’s health and for increasing scientific and public attention to these issues. As the nation’s top doctor for women, she has been on the frontline in the war against breast cancer and other diseases and continues to speak out on research and treatments.

Appalled by the gender inequities in healthcare, Dr. Blumenthal helped revolutionize an antiquated system, advocating for education and programs targeted to the unique needs of women. A fierce crusader, she fought to coordinate and stimulate women’s health research, care, and policy nationwide as the government's top expert on these issues.

Imparting medical leadership with passion, Dr. Blumenthal is an unparalleled ambassador of the power of advocacy and healthy living. Her brilliance will impact audiences profoundly, inspiring them to examine the changing face of healthcare and their how it is interconnected to their own personal lifestyles.

Topics

The Future of Health in the 21st Century

Thanks to the triumph of public health and medicine over the past century, the average American will live to be almost 80 and it is estimated that one in three babies born today will live to be 100. What breakthroughs will the new century bring?

Much like antibiotics revolutionized the treatment of infectious diseases, so will new therapies target strikes against tumor cells for cancer patients. As science reveals more about the chemistry of the brain, diseases ranging from Alzheimer’s to depression could become as manageable as high blood pressure. The mapping of the human genome has set the stage for an era of personalized medicine in which doctors use gene tests to determine which patients are most likely to benefit from a particular treatment or lifestyle regimen and may be able to repair genes to prevent certain diseases from developing in the first place.

But technological progress is not a complete recipe for better health. Despite spending twice as much on healthcare as any other nation and having the best high-tech medical system in the world, the United States ranks 18th on life expectancy and has the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the industrialized world. This talk will explore these issues and will conclude with a prescription for some simple steps we all can take towards a healthier future.

Winning the War Against Cancer: A Progress Report

Medical science is entering a golden age but the keys to a longer life are not all locked in the laboratory. You need only look back a century and see that the average life expectancy in the United States was 48 years. People died then of infectious diseases like smallpox, cholera, and tuberculosis. Just 20 years ago, cancer was a death sentence.

Science has sparked transformations in our understanding and treatment of cancer and we now stand on the verge of even greater discoveries. Knowledge about cancer has been dramatically expanded, the stigma has been shattered and we now have an entire generation who call themselves cancer survivors. With nanotechnology, miniature machines may be able to slip into cells to detect and treat some types of cancer before there are ever clinical symptoms of the disease. New diagnostic techniques are helping to find cancer at earlier stages when there is the best chance for effective treatment. Understanding how environmental factors interact with genes in cancer development is an important frontier of cancer research in the 21st century as are eliminating these health hazards from people’s lives. This talk will explore the progress we have made in our battle against cancer and will take a close look at those factors influencing our direction for the future.

Global Health Issues in the 21st Century: Opportunities and Challenges

This presentation will address some of the critical health issues facing our country and world today. In the 21st century, health is very much a global issue. With international trade, travel, and telecommunications, the world is shrinking. This means that the threat of infectious diseases and bioterrorism, the spread of tobacco and obesity, and the safety of our food and water supply do not respect state or national borders. Many health concerns including avian flu and AIDS are just a plane ride away.

The triumph of public health interventions over the past 100 years has resulted in as much as a 30-year increase in life expectancy in many developed nations; while in contrast, some countries in the developing world have experienced dramatic declines in life expectancy due to AIDS and other infectious illnesses. Worldwide, unsafe water is the single largest cause of death and one billion people globally do not have clean water to drink. Annually, three million people die of AIDS, two million of tuberculosis, one million of malaria, and one million children of measles. Last year, four million people died of tobacco related illnesses. Additionally, over one million people are overweight, resulting in a global chronic disease epidemic that is robbing nations of the productivity and funds needed to build healthy communities, democracies and economies.

This talk will explore these global health issues and what each of us can do to ensure a healthier future for ourselves and for our world. It will conclude with recommendations about how integrating the approaches of science, public health, and medicine with innovations in technology can improve global health.

Critical Women’s Health Issues in the 21st Century

At the beginning of the 20th century, the major killers of American women were infectious diseases and complications of childbirth. Today, the leading killers are chronic diseases including heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes. This shift has masked the fact that infectious diseases remain major causes of death worldwide. Emerging and reemerging infectious diseases including avian flu, AIDS, TB, flu, and bioterrorism underscore the importance of focusing on both infectious and chronic disease prevention and control in the United States and worldwide.

Past inequities in women’s health will be reviewed and opportunities and challenges in women’s health that lie ahead will be highlighted. Women’s health issues will be discussed with important new information about scientific advances and cutting-edge treatment and prevention strategies. The talk will conclude with a discussion of the new national prescription being written to advance women’s health and the steps each one of us can take towards a healthier future.

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