America's wealthiest physician billionaire: 9 things to know about HCA's co-founder

Thomas Frist Jr., MD, co-founder and the major shareholder of Nashville, Tenn.-based HCA Healthcare, has a net worth of $15.7 billion — the highest among nine physician billionaires listed on the Forbes annual list of the richest people in the world for 2021.

Nine things to know about Dr. Frist and HCA:

1. Dr. Frist received a medical degree from Washington University in St. Louis before becoming a flight surgeon in the U.S. Air Force.

2. In 1968, he co-founded HCA with his father, Thomas Frist Sr., MD, a cardiologist and internist, and Jack Massey, an investor who owned Kentucky Fried Chicken, according to Bloomberg.

3. One year later, HCA filed its initial public offering. It had 11 hospitals at the time, but increased its portfolio to 26 facilities by the end of the year.

4. HCA was one of the earliest for-profit healthcare operators in the U.S. The company now includes 185 hospitals and more than 2,000 sites of care across 20 states and the U.K.

5. In 1977, Dr. Frist was appointed president of HCA. Ten years later, he became the company's chair and CEO.  

6. Dr. Frist continued to serve as chair of HCA after the company merged with Columbia in 1994 and became vice chair after the HealthTrust merger in 1995.

7. In 2006, Dr. Frist helped lead the privatization of HCA for $31.6 billion, which was the largest leveraged buyout in history at the time, according to Bloomberg. About five years later, HCA sold shares in an initial public offering.

8. Last year, HCA reported $51.5 billion in revenue and had 121 freestanding outpatient surgery centers in its network as of Dec. 31, 2020, down from 123 at the end of 2019.

9. Dr. Frist and his father were the first father-son combination to be inducted into the Tennessee Healthcare Hall of Fame in 2019.

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