At Health Datapalooza, leave it to a Brit to take on Donald Trump

“It’s great to be here before Mr. Trump puts those walls up,” quipped British MP George Freeman, Minister for Life Sciences.

george freeman pic by tim kelseyIt’s an election year and it’s Washington so perhaps it’s not surprising that on day one at Health Datapalooza folks like Vice President Joe Biden Jr. and Acting Assistant Secretary Dr. Karen DeSalvo stayed on message instead of at least acknowledging the coming presidential election and what’s at stake.  Leave it to the British MP George William Freeman, Minister for Life Sciences and son of the 1958 winner of the Grand National, to call out Donald Trump by name. In fact, he addressed part of his speech to “the presumed Republican candidate”.

“It’s great to be here before Mr. Trump puts those walls up,” Freeman quipped. Then he got a little more serious. “I want to express our fear that the two most terrifying words in the English language are President Trump.”

Freeman made a wide ranging speech emphasizing the collaboration between the U.S. and the UK on health data initiatives spanning genomics, precision medicine, and informatics. He also drew attention to the push to make it easier for people to gain access to their healthcare records and how giving people the option of sharing their data could improve drug development research. He expressed concern about the shortcomings of some of these initiatives.

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He also acknowledged that although emergency services use iPads and other tablets to collect patient information, in many cases they rely on more rudimentary notepads and pens and stressed the need to improve that.

Freeman ended on a high note by contrasting Trump’s populist rhetoric with the bigger picture of data sharing ambitions to improve healthcare for a greater number of people.

It’s entirely possible that other speakers at Health Datapalooza will wade into the presidential election on Day 2 but I won’t hold my breath.

Photo: Twitter user Tim Kelsey @tkelsey1