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Barbara Bush Makes An Impact On Global Health At Greenwich Film Festival

Barbara Pierce Bush moderates a panel discussion on global public health on Friday at the Greenwich Film Festival after the documentary "Bending the Arc" was shown. Photo Credit: Karen Tensa
Partners In Health founder Ophelia Dahl, with Cori Stern, screenwriter and producer of "Bending the Arc," speaks after a showing of the documentary Friday at the Greenwich Film Festival. Photo Credit: Karen Tensa

GREENWICH, Conn. — Barbara Pierce Bush visited the hometown of her grandfather, President George H.W. Bush, as she moderated a panel discussion on the state of global healthcare at this weekend's Greenwich Film Festival.

The question-and-answer session followed the opening night screening of "Bending the Arc," which was awarded the prize of "Best Documentary Feature" at the film festival. This year's theme was "Make An Impact."

It documents the 30-year journey by Partners in Health to bring health care to the poorest parts of the world — from saving lives one at a time in a rural Haitian village to joining the fights against tuberculosis, AIDS and Ebola.

It also touches on the work of Barbara's father, President George W. Bush, who started one of the most significant AIDS relief programs in the world, PEPFAR.

It is a topic close to Barbara Bush's heart — she is co-founder and president of a public health-focused nonprofit, Global Health Corps, which works with PIH.

The documentary, which made its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, tells the story of Dr. Paul Farmer, Dr. Jim Yong Kim, and Ophelia Dahl, the daughter of writer Roald Dahl and actress Patricia Neal who also took part in the panel discussion.

Dahl talked about the inspiration she drew from her parents in her life's work.

"I was influenced by a great storyteller," Dahl said of her father. "Night after night I would hear stories of the weak overcoming adversity. ...

"I was raised by imaginative, creative people who inspired me," said Dahl, who did not specifically mention her mother's fight to regain her life after a devastating stroke. "They also faced adversity and made sense of it and overcame it. It makes you think anything is possible."

In addition to Bush and Dahl, the panel also included the movie's writer/producer Cori Stern, Dr. Joia Mukherjee of Partners in Health and Dr. Rifat Latifi, of Westchester Medical Center.

Stern began pursuing PIH's story in 2003, after the publication of Tracy Kidder’s book on the group, “Mountains Beyond Mountains.” After securing the rights in 2010 — just three days before the devastating earthquake in Haiti — it took another seven years to see the film through to completion.

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