Q&A

November 4, 2009

The Indianapolis-based honor society of nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International, gave its highest award to Greg Mortenson for his work promoting improved health in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Mortenson, the bestselling author of “Three Cups of Tea,” was a nurse before he began starting schools, especially for girls, in the remote mountains of the central Asian countries. Mortsenson even spent three years in Indianapolis in the 1980s, working as a nurse on heart surgery teams at St. Vincent and Methodist hospitals. He also earned a graduate degree in physiology at IUPUI. He now resides in Montana.

IBJ: You came to Indianapolis in 1985. What brought you here?
A: Indianapolis was on the cutting of edge of some heart surgery [and] artificial hearts. I was also interested in grad school. It was an incredible opportunity. I had a lot of fun here. I used to go to the Indy 500 and the Colts games, and I used to go to a restaurant called Renee’s once in a while. I lived up in Zionsville for a while. I had a little place out in the woods. I was very peaceful there.

IBJ: How did your time in nursing help in your work in Afghanistan and Pakistan?
A: It’s helped me tremendously. Where I work, one out of three children dies before the age of 1. A lot of it’s from dehydration or from very simply treated diseases. Also, the maternal mortality rate, which means the number of women that die in childbirth, is 1,900 per 100,000 live births. The U.S is like 17, just to give you a comparison.

IBJ: You’ve been involved in health care in the United States and now you’re quite involved in health care in other countries. What should Americans most appreciate about health care here?
A: We’re so blessed with our health care here. We’re very compassionate people, we’re very courageous people. We’re also a very innovative people. That all has applications in health care.

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