Tom Gentile was named president and chief executive officer of Spirit AeroSystems in August 2016. Spirit is an $8 billion manufacturer of structures such as fuselages and wings for commercial and military aircraft.
Prior to Spirit, he served as president and chief operating officer of GE Capital. Before this role, Tom was president and CEO of GE Healthcare Systems, a $14 billion diagnostic imaging business. He also served as president and CEO of GE Aviation Services, a $7 billion global enterprise providing maintenance, repair, and overhaul as well as spare parts to GE Aviation’s global fleet of jet engines for commercial airlines. Tom began his career at GE in 1998, holding a succession of leadership roles across GE Capital in the US, France and Australia.
He has held numerous other leadership and strategy roles with McKinsey and Company, US broadcaster CBS and General Motors. In addition, Tom was previously chairman of the board of Insightec, a global leader in non-invasive image guided therapy using MR-guided focused ultrasound.
An active community member, Gentile serves on the governing boards of the Greater Wichita Partnership and the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), as well as serving on the AIA Executive Committee. Tom is a champion of Spirit’s Good Neighbor Fund employee giving program which has raised $28 million over 14 years, and also serves as a Trustee of the ALS Finding a Cure organization. He also serves as a Board member of Kansas Big Brothers and Big Sisters, serves on the Advisory Board of the Greater Wichita Partnership, and is on the Board of the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum.
Tom earned his bachelor’s degree in economics magna cum laude and an MBA from Harvard University, and studied international relations at the London School of Economics.
Tom was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan. He and his wife, Julie, have three children.
We recently spoke with Tom about his background with focused ultrasound, and why he is passionate about the technology and the Foundation’s mission.
What is your connection to the Foundation? How did you first hear about the Foundation?
I first heard about the Focused Ultrasound Foundation after I became involved with Insightec, which is one of the leading providers of equipment for MR-guided focused ultrasound therapy. At the time, I was President and CEO of GE Healthcare Systems, the division responsible for GE’s diagnostic imaging equipment and medical devices, including MR scanners. GE MR scanners were the exclusive source of imaging for Insightec’s image-guided, noninvasive therapy. After GE increased its investment in Insightec, I became the Chairman of Insightec. Insightec had already gained FDA approval to use MR-guided focused ultrasound to treat uterine fibroids, but we were still working to gain approval for other indications. The Focused Ultrasound Foundation was funding research on the use of this revolutionary therapy, and provided funding for many different projects in this emerging field. Eventually, with strong support from the Foundation, Insightec gained FDA approval to treat the pain associated with metastasized bone tumors and then essential tremor. Subsequently, Insightec also received FDA approval to treat tremor-dominant Parkinson’s disease and is working on approval for treating prostate tumors. Throughout all these years, the support provided by the Foundation to fund research and development on the use of focused ultrasound has helped bring this advanced therapy to thousands of patients around the world.
What moved you to get involved?
Focused ultrasound represents the future of healthcare, when we will use more minimally invasive and noninvasive techniques to deliver therapy. With its unique approach of using imaging and ultrasonic waves, focused ultrasound can essentially perform surgical procedures without incisions. Focused ultrasound can also ablate tissue deep in the brain to make lesions that can help alleviate movement disorders. Focused ultrasound can also open up the blood-brain barrier to enable targeted drug delivery that may help with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, ALS, Parkinson’s disease, and epilepsy. In all of these instances, focused ultrasound can help revolutionize healthcare and turn diseases that are currently lethal into chronic ones that can be managed over time.
What excites you most about focused ultrasound and the Foundation?
The only way the promise of these advances can become reality is through research and development. In the case of focused ultrasound, the Foundation has been a tireless advocate of the technology and has funded research and convened the very best minds in the field to help advance this innovative procedure.
Why do you care about focused ultrasound?
Since I became involved with Insightec, I have met countless patients who have benefited from the procedure. They have been able to resolve serious illnesses and movement disorders, which had a devastating impact on their lifestyles, in just a few hours. The results in many cases are nothing short of remarkable. The patients are so grateful and relieved. Talking to them and seeing the impact that focused ultrasound has had on their lives is an extremely moving experience.
What impact do you hope to achieve through your philanthropy?
By donating to the Focused Ultrasound Foundation, my goal is to help them fund the type of research and collaboration that can bring a revolutionary technology like this to the market and make it available to patients around the world. Focused ultrasound will redefine healthcare and make invasive surgery much less common. The Focused Ultrasound Foundation is helping to lead the way.
What do you tell others about the Foundation?
The Foundation is one of the most unique organizations in the world. It is dedicated to advancing a revolutionary technology and improving healthcare to deliver better patient outcomes. It is harnessing the best minds in the world and funding research that will find new applications and gain regulatory approval for innovative new procedures using this technology. It is a group of people who have dedicated their talents to making a difference and improving healthcare through “venture philanthropy,” a unique approach to raising money to fund innovation.
What would you tell someone who is considering making a gift to the Foundation?
You will be joining a global team of dedicated scientists, researchers, and clinicians who are redefining healthcare and helping create a world where minimally invasive and noninvasive procedures will replace surgery as we know it today.