An article from the Insights Series


Dr. Trevor Gunn is the vice president for international relations at Medtronic. In September 2019, Gunn and Medtronic Chairman and CEO Omar Ishrak, President Geoff Martha, and other company leaders participated in the 74th United Nations General Assembly in New York City. Medtronic played a pivotal role in the event where world leaders ultimately adopted a landmark resolution on universal health coverage.

Here, Gunn discusses some of the key takeaways from the event.

Omar Ishrak sitting at desk, Trevor Gunn, and Paurvi Bhatt standing behind him, all looking at the camera

Trevor Gunn, Vice President for International Relations, Medtronic
Cherine Yassien, Principal Government Affairs Specialist, Medtronic
Paurvi Bhatt, President of the Medtronic Foundation, Vice President of Philanthropy
Omar Ishrak, Chairman and CEO, Medtronic

January 2020 - The United Nations High-Level Meeting (HLM) on Universal Health Coverage was a global celebration of human dignity as it presented a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for countries to come together and discuss ways to achieve health security for patients around the world. The U.N. recognizes the critical role the private sector plays in addressing global healthcare challenges, which is one of the reasons why Medtronic was asked to take on such a significant role at this year’s General Assembly. Our Chairman and CEO Omar Ishrak was the only representative from the private sector invited to serve as a panelist at the HLM. Delivering remarks to leaders from 190 countries — among other invited government and NGO dignitaries — he discussed the importance of public-private partnerships in assisting countries developing health systems; the need for equity in addressing the growing challenges of non-communicable diseases; and value-based healthcare.

Medtronic also partnered with the Business Council for International Understanding (BCIU) in a panel discussion that included health ministers from Brazil, Indonesia, and Colombia, along with senior officials from Ireland, Myanmar, Portugal, the World Health Organization (WHO), and UNICEF.

From these meetings, we can surmise that:

  • Advancing universal health coverage will require partnerships: During the U.N. event, many government leaders shared healthcare challenges their countries face, such as the rise in non-communicable diseases. Given the magnitude of these challenges, it is clear that more public-private partnerships are needed to expand access to quality, affordable healthcare. By bringing medical technology with proven clinical and economic outcomes and innovative healthcare business models to our partners around the world, Medtronic is already working with others to improve access for patients with conditions ranging from diabetes and heart disease to Parkinson’s disease and dystonia. We were able to share some of these innovative solutions with many of the global leaders at the General Assembly.
  • Successful public-private partnerships require trust: In the past, some government officials have been skeptical of working with the private sector, hobbling the creation of partnerships that could otherwise help expand global access to healthcare. But that dynamic must change in order to advance universal health coverage. At the General Assembly, the Medtronic team was able to share some of the company’s proven results from working with the public sector. Consequently, Medtronic is now developing new public-private partnerships that will help support shared goals of expanding global access to healthcare.
  • Expanding global access to healthcare requires financially sustainable business models: Several world leaders talked about the challenges associated with building out their healthcare systems. As hard as this work is, these countries have a tremendous opportunity to embed value-based healthcare early into their emerging systems. Without it, these systems aren’t sustainable under traditional fee-for-service models. During his address to the General Assembly, Omar discussed the critical importance of moving to a value-based healthcare system, which places emphasis on quality and affordability. 

This was the first ever U.N. High-Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage and the most significant political meeting on the issue to date. World leaders ultimately adopted what U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres called, “the most comprehensive agreement ever reached on global health.” The political declaration is formal recognition that all people should have access to quality, affordable healthcare — a vision Medtronic shares.

Our work with the U.N. will continue as we collaborate to fight the rise in non-communicable diseases and advance universal health coverage, value-based healthcare, and public-private partnerships. It will be challenging work, but Medtronic is committed to helping the public sector meet its healthcare aspirations to improve access, efficiency, and outcomes.

> Learn how we are partnering to expand global access to quality healthcare.

Headshot of Dr. Trevor Gunn

Trevor Gunn

Trevor Gunn joined Medtronic in 2004 as the vice president for international relations. He is the former longtime director of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Business Information Service for the Newly Independent States. In addition to his current role as vice president for international relations at Medtronic, he serves as the chairman of the board of directors for the Executive Council on Diplomacy and is also an adjunct professor at Georgetown University. He received his Ph.D. in International Relations from the London School of Economics in 1992.