William Frist Biography

William Harrison "Bill" Frist, Sr. (born February 22, 1952) is an American physician, businessman, and politician. He began his career as a heart and lung transplant surgeon. Frist later served two terms as a Republican United States Senator representing Tennessee. He was the Republican Majority Leader from 2003 until his retirement in 2007.

Frist was born in Nashville, Tennessee, to Dorothy (Cate) Frist and Thomas Fearn Frist, Sr. He is a fourth-generation Tennessean. His great-great grandfather was one of the founders of Chattanooga, Tennessee, and his father was a doctor and founded the health care business organization which became Hospital Corporation of America. Frist's brother, Thomas F. Frist, Jr., became chairman and chief executive of Hospital Corporation of America in 1997.

Frist graduated from Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville, Tennessee, and then from Princeton University in 1974, where he specialized in health care policy at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. In 1972, he held a summer internship with Tennessee Congressman Joe L. Evins, who advised Frist that if he wanted to pursue a political career, he should first have a career outside of politics. Frist proceeded to Harvard Medical School, where he received the degree of Doctor of Medicine with honors in 1978. While at Harvard he shared an apartment with future United States Congressman David Wu.

Frist joined the lab of W. John Powell Jr. at Massachusetts General Hospital in 1977, where he continued his training in cardiovascular physiology. He left the lab in 1978 to become a resident in surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital. In 1983, he spent time at Southampton General Hospital, Southampton, England as senior registrar in cardiothoracic surgery. He returned to Massachusetts General in 1984 as chief resident and fellow in cardiothoracic surgery. From 1985 until 1986, Frist was senior fellow and chief resident in cardiac transplant service and cardiothoracic surgery at the Stanford University School of Medicine. After completing his fellowship, he became a faculty member at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where he began a heart and lung transplantation program. He also became staff surgeon at the Nashville Veterans Administration Hospital. In 1989, he founded the Vanderbilt Transplant Center. In 1991, Frist operated on then–Lieutenant Colonel David Petraeus after he had been shot in a training accident at Fort Campbell.

He is currently licensed as a physician, and is board certified in both general surgery and thoracic surgery. He has performed over 150 heart transplants and lung transplants, including pediatric heart transplants and combined heart and lung transplants.