A native of Meridian, Mississippi, Dr. Thomas F. Frist, Sr. attended the University of Mississippi, where he started a transportation company that eventually employed 17 other students, the first evidence of his entrepreneurial spirit. But Dr. Frist’s passion lay in caring for people, shaped from his early experiences working as an orderly at Meridian’s local hospital. Dr. Frist studied medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and completed his residency at the University of Iowa.
In 1935, Dr. Frist opened a medical practice in Nashville. During World War II, he served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps as the chief of medical services for a 1,000-bed hospital. Discharged as a major at the war’s end, Dr. Frist returned to his Nashville medical practice. In 1957, he was appointed to the American Medical Association Committee on Aging, and subsequently established the Tennessee Commission on Aging. During this time, Dr. Frist envisioned creating a hospital where patients came first and where funding was not dependent upon government sources. This dream led to Park View Hospital with several other medical professionals and businessmen. The success of Park View served as the seed of inspiration for Dr. Frist, Sr., his son Dr. Frist, Jr. and friend Jack C. Massey to form Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) in 1968.
Dr. Frist served as Chief Medical Officer and Chairman of the Board for HCA. He was also a board member of Nashville City Bank and the HEW Advisory Committee on Older Americans and Vice Chairman of the American Retirement Corporation. Dr. Frist is the namesake for the HCA’s Frist Humanitarian Award. One of Dr. Frist’s most important contributions to HCA was its patient-first culture. He believed that if the company focused on giving quality care, the bottom line would take care of itself. That emphasis on patient care permeated every decision he made while leading HCA and is the centerpiece of the company’s culture today.
A committed physician and savvy businessman, Thomas F. Frist, Sr., M.D. is an inaugural inductee of the Tennessee Health Care Hall of Fame.