Sen. Bill Frist, MD

The Nature Conservancy announced Senator Bill Frist, M.D. was elected Chair of its Global Board of Directors at its recent board meeting in June 2022. He will begin his three-year term in October 2022.

Senator Frist has been a member of the board since June 2015 and currently serves as Vice-Chair. He is a leading authority on healthcare and is passionate about TNC’s efforts to protect nature and tackle the climate crisis.

“There is a well-established, science-based connection between the physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing of people and time spent in nature. Valuing our health means also valuing healthy ecosystems,” Frist said. “The great minds at TNC work hard each day to cultivate a future in which nature flourishes and people from all walks of life can enjoy happier, healthier, and more fulfilling lives. It has been a privilege to serve on the Global Board of Directors, and I am honored by the Board’s decision to let me continue that service as their new chair.”

Senator Frist brings a wealth of experience to this new role. He worked as a heart and lung transplant surgeon for 16 years before serving two terms in the United States Senate, representing the state of Tennessee from 1995 to 2007. He was the Senate Majority Leader from 2003 to 2007, making him both the first practicing physician in the Senate since 1928 and the first senator to be chosen as majority leader that early in their congressional career. While in office, Frist championed legislation to fight HIV/AIDS globally, promote worldwide access to safe and clean water, modernize Medicare, reform K-12 education, and more.

“Having had the pleasure of serving as a member of the Global Board during Bill’s time as Vice Chair, I have seen first-hand his commitment to TNC and its mission,” said Fran Ulmer, who has served as Board Chair since 2019.  “As the effects of climate change and pollution take their toll on our environment and on our health, his expertise in global policy and healthcare will greatly aid TNC in its commitment to create a world in which both people and nature can thrive.”

“The science is clear: our health and the health of our planet are inextricably linked. To address that connection and continue our mission tackling the world’s biggest environmental challenges, TNC needs passionate, interdisciplinary, global problem solvers like Senator Frist in our corner,” said Jennifer Morris, TNC’s CEO. “With his diverse background in science, medicine, and policy, I have no doubt that our new Board Chair—alongside the expertise of his fellow board members—will strengthen our efforts to make a lasting, positive difference around the world.”

In addition to his activity on TNC’s global Board of Directors, Frist works as a founding partner of Frist Cressey Ventures and is a Special Partner at health services investment company Cressey & Company. He is Founder and Chairman of the Tennessee-based State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE), the global health non-profit Hope Through Healing Hands, and the regional community health collaborative NashvilleHealth (which has co-led a major citywide initiative to plant half a million trees by 2050), as well as Co-Chair of the Health Project at the Washington, DC-based Bipartisan Policy Center.  Senator Frist is also the founder of the Vanderbilt Organ Transplant Center (today the largest heart transplant center in the nation), and serves on the board of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, America’s largest philanthropy devoted to health.

Senator Frist lives in Franklin, Tennessee with his wife, Tracy who is a member of the TNC Tennessee chapter’s board of trustees. Together, they have used sustainable agriculture practices to manage farms in Tennessee and Virginia, and have led efforts to increase biodiversity in grasslands of Appalachian Virginia.  Senator Frist has also personally led a number of global medical mission trips, providing medical aid in sub-Saharan Africa as well as on-the-ground in the immediate emergency response to hurricanes (Katrina), earthquakes (Haiti), tsunami (Sri Lanka) and famine (Sudan and Ethiopia).  

Father to three sons and grandfather (“Papa Doc”) to nine, he is committed to preserving the planet for future generations.