Quincy Jones, legendary musician, producer, arranger and composer announced his partnership with Children's National Medical Center in Washington May 20, to launch a global initiative to help under-served children receive the health care they need.
Quincy Jones is the founder of the Quincy Jones Listen Up Foundation, an organization dedicated to addressing the needs of at-risk youth. He talked about his mission to work with the Center, also known as Children's Hospital, to bring the technology of telemedicine to patients and health professionals around the world.
"I realized that without the benefit of basic health care, children cannot learn," he said. "Health is vital to a child's ability to learn. At Children's Hospital I believe I have found the right people and the right tools that we need to do this."
Quincy Jones says he first became acquainted with Children's National Medical Center last November when he came to visit a young boy he had never met - the teenage victim of the sniper attacks that terrorized the Washington community last fall.
"And it was this kid's courage and the dedication of the medical team that inspired me to be here today," he said. " We toured the facility and learned about the groundbreaking work that's being done here I saw a demonstration of telemedicine that really lit me up."
Telemedicine is a relatively new technology whereby doctors can administer advice to patients or other health providers live via computer. Dr. David Kushner is Director of Children's National Medical Center Telemedicine Program. He says the current state of the world's children is "not good."
"The problem is we don't have enough doctors, we don't have enough nurses, there are too many patients who don't get access to health care," Dr. Kushner said. " And the old ways of solving this are not successful. We've proven for the last fifty years that we have not solved the problem yet."
Dr. Kushner says telemedicine can mean anything from sending secure e-mail between doctors and patients to live videoconferencing to sending and receiving x-rays and other diagnostic tests.
"If a child is in an inner city and their only access to health care is the school nursing office, that school nursing office could become a point of contact and the communication could go from the school to the hospital," he said. "If a child lives in a village in Africa, and there are no health care facilities but there is some basic electricity and some telephone lines, we can begin to work with the professionals or just the people in that community to develop some health care expertise. So a community worker, someone we might call a tele-medic could begin to understand about patient confidentiality, a little bit about photography, a little about computers and that person could be trained to capture some information and forward to a local health care provider in that country, who, if he or she needed help could forward it to a medical center, who if needed could forward it to one of our partners in the United States, such as this hospital."
The concept of telemedicine technology has existed for about 20 years, but Children's Hospital in Washington is the first organization to work to build an infrastructure that will reach children throughout the country and eventually around the world.
The hospital's collaboration with Quincy Jones' foundation drew praise from audience members, including Alma Powell, wife of Secretary of State, Colin Powell. Mrs. Powell is co-chair of America's Promise, an alliance of more than 400 organizations dedicated to helping America's youth. She says the hospital's commitment to children coincides with her own.
"Too many of our children are falling through the cracks," she said. "It's a dangerous world, it's a world that requires us to prepare our children to face whatever comes because we don't know what that's going to be. And so we have to work at a very basic level to give them the strength and support that they need to insure our future."
The biggest obstacle facing Children's Hospital's goal of developing a worldwide telemedicine program is funding - it is very expensive and dependent on public and private donations. But director of the program Dr. Kushner thanks Quincy Jones for his vision and commitment to making their dream a reality.
"He has been able to bring business leaders together, we have wonderful contributions already from [consulting firm] Booz-Allen-Hamilton, who's helping us to build a business and strategic plan; we'll have the involvement of the largest satellite corporation in America, Intelsat; we've got some interest from our very close friend in the State Department and from the Department of Health and Human Services," he explained. " And this private-public partnership is going to be a fantastic opportunity to do something to prove that we can have an impact on large numbers of children and Quincy has brought all the value. His interest in world peace and children's health is just permeating this whole project, so he is the 'magic man' who is giving us this opportunity and we are grateful."
As for Quincy Jones, when asked if music has taken a back seat to his role as philanthropist, he was adamant.
"Never, never, never! Music is as powerful as a weapon or spiritual cradle as you could ever ask for. You can't see it, taste it or touch it, but the feeling speaks for itself," he said.
Quincy Jones departed the Children's Hospital Medical Center for a telemedicine conference taking place in Rome. He says he hopes to return to Washington in the next year or so to announce the establishment of new telemedicine units, along with trained professionals who use them, operating in pediatric centers around the world.