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Health Care Hall of Fame: Making a difference

Brinker, Cardwell, Warden used their careers to help build a better world


By Neil McLaughlin, Managing editor
Posted: March 19, 2007 - 12:01 am ET
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The French aviator and writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery is best known to Americans as the author of the children’s story The Little Prince. But he recounts some of his adventures as a pilot and states his philosophy of life in another work, entitled Wind, Sand and Stars in English. That book, with its themes of personal and social responsibility, ought to be required reading in schools, especially in our troubled times.

Meditating on the dedication of a particular airmail pilot, the author defines a worthwhile life: “To be a man is to be responsible. It is to feel shame at the sight of what seems to be unmerited misery. It is to take pride in a victory won by one’s comrades. It is to feel, when setting one’s stone, that one is contributing to the building of the world.”

At a time when so many people prominent on the national stage spend their days shirking responsibility, belittling the noble efforts of others and turning a blind eye to a world of suffering, it is refreshing to celebrate the lives of people who have chosen paths closer to those of Saint-Exupery’s heroes. This year’s Health Care Hall of Fame inductees exemplify the embracing of responsibility and empathy.

The story of Nancy Brinker could have been written by Saint-Exupery himself. Brinker promised her sister, who died of breast cancer at age 36, that she would adhere to their mother’s code of fixing what’s wrong with the world. She started the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, named after her sister, to alleviate the suffering of others.

Now called Susan G. Komen For The Cure, the organization for the past 25 years has invested more than $1 billion in research, education and the pursuit of a cure for breast cancer.

Charles P. Cardwell Jr. earned his place in the Hall of Fame for his long service to the Medical College of Virginia and for his founding of the college’s School of Hospital Administration, now part of Virginia Commonwealth University. Cardwell responded to the need after World War II to train administrators for the rapidly growing number of hospitals in the U.S.

The third inductee is Gail L. Warden, who served the healthcare industry for decades as a system executive, association official and a leader in professional education. Warden led Henry Ford Health System for 15 years, strengthening it financially and expanding its service to the community.

In this special section, we present you with three inductees who can claim, in Saint-Exupery’s words, that they have contributed to the building of the world. The profiles of this year’s inductees were written by freelance writer Ed Finkel, a regular contributor to the magazine. Finkel can be reached by e-mail at edfinkel@earthlink.net.

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