A three-day event brought together some of the best minds in research, medicine, thought and philanthropy from all across the world.
The Fifth International Vatican Conference (May 6-8, 2021) was virtual in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and Sanford Health was well-represented on a variety of platforms to a global audience.
“It has been a great honor for us to participate,” Sanford Health executive vice president Micah Aberson said. “We come together to talk about innovations within healthcare, discovery, partnerships, and how – as a collective – we can contribute to the work of each other and ultimately make for healthier and better communities.”
Every other year, the conference is hosted by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture and the Cura Foundation. Typically, attendees gather at the Aula Nuova Del Sinodo in Vatican City.
“One of the great attributes of Sanford Health has always been an organizational humility and a desire to do the right things for the right reasons,” Aberson explained.
“We have an army of researchers and clinicians across the enterprise that are actively involved in more than 300 clinical trials. They are doing really remarkable things.”
Spotlight on Sanford Research
Aberson said it’s an opportunity to catalyze dialogue, better understand what others are working on while supplementing the work Sanford Health is doing.
Sanford Health leaders led or participated in the following presentations:
- Investing in Health and Healing Around the World: A deep dive into international activities through Sanford World Clinic led by President of Sanford Innovation and Research David Pearce, PhD, who also leads World Clinic. Dr. Pearce shared how Sanford is working to improve the human condition globally by implementing medical care within a system that is accessible and sustainable in communities throughout the world.
- Getting out in Front of Diabetes: Kurt Griffin, MD, PhD, presented Sanford’s current efforts to treat, detect and preempt Type 1 Diabetes and Celiac Disease in children through the PLEDGE Study.
- Accelerating the Path to Regenerative Medicine: Dr. Pearce discussed the field of regenerative medicine and Sanford leading the way in the process.
- A Personalized Approach to Rare Diseases: Jill Weimer, senior director of therapeutic development, led a panel focused on rare diseases alongside Katherine High, MD, recipient of the 2018 Inaugural Sanford Lorraine Cross Award.
- A Prize for Persistence in Medical Innovation: Aberson joined the inaugural winner Katherine High, MD, and this year’s winner, Carl June, MD, to feature the biennial Sanford Lorraine Cross Award and its unique selection process. Renowned oncologist Carl June, MD, was recently honored for his life-changing breakthroughs and innovations in the fight against leukemia. He was the second recipient of the $1 million prize.
One session had Sanford International Board chairman Manny Ohonme talking about how he inspires hope in children through his organization Samaritan’s Feet.
Other featured speakers included Dr. Anthony Fauci, the CEOs of Moderna and Pfizer and Dr. Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the Food and Drug Association.
A few weeks prior to the conference, Ohonme received the 2021 Pontifical Hero Award for Inspiration from Monsingor Tomasz Trafny, head of the science and faith department of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture.
In the age of COVID-19
The conference was originally scheduled for 2020, but was postponed and later made virtual for the safety of everyone involved.
“I think it would have been very easy to focus this conference on COVID-19, but I think the organizers have done a great job saying ‘we have this, we need to talk about this, but the world didn’t stop there’,” Dr. Pearce said. “Medical research didn’t end and efforts to treat or cure patients didn’t stop either.”
“Most of the program involves people like us reporting out on all of the discoveries and advances we had last year. Now, we’re just adding a little bit more on top of that, because there’s been another year we’ve advanced some of those things.”
Improving the human condition, together
This year’s virtual event joined leading physicians, scientists, patient advocates, policymakers, philanthropists and influencers to engage in powerful conversations on the latest breakthroughs in medicine, health care delivery and prevention, as well as the anthropological scientific and cultural impact of technological advances.
“We’re not just in the arena watching the game play on the field, we’re on the field with five different presentations,” Aberson added. “We are looked to across the globe as a thought leader … and that’s something in which, I think, our Sanford Health family can take a lot of pride.”
Dr. Pearce said the opportunity for Sanford Health to participate, personally, defines two things.
“One, we can be on a platform and really talk about some of the successes and execution that Sanford Health and Sanford Research do, combined. Two, it’s like joining ‘the big boys’ as we’re together with renowned institutions and researchers in their fields,” Dr. Pearce said. “That’s something I’m very proud of for the Sanford team. We’ve risen to that same level of respect being invited to such a meeting.”