This article first appeared in the December 2014 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.
They are nurses and physicians. They are researchers and executives. They are providers and payers. They are watchdogs and innovators. And they are patients. They are this year's HealthLeaders 20 honorees, selected for their efforts to make a difference in healthcare. Their stories are sometimes tinged with struggles or challenges, but always, ultimately, with success.
Otis Brawley, MD
Otis Brawley, MD, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, has no fear of acting as a lightning rod in the ongoing storm of healthcare reform. As a leader in the field of health disparities research and co-author of a scathing book on the topic, Brawley sees the growing costs of US healthcare as a recipe for economic calamity that needs to be changed.
Anne Wojcicki, CEO of 23andMe, received unexpected news in November 2013 when the FDA told her company that it would not be able to market its genetic sequence technology to consumers as personalized health reports. Since then, she has been leading the company's efforts to satisfy the FDA's concerns while making sure that 23andMe's services are accessible and affordable to consumers.
Tom X. Lee, MD
Tom X. Lee, MD, took an unusual route after finishing his residency: He went to Stanford University to earn an MBA. Lee credits this path for enlightening him on how to run a medical practice with greater efficiency and more focus on the patient. Now he is CEO of One Medical Group, which uses technology to help keep costs down and allows for a far more efficient workplace. [Read more]
Weekend barista Steve Simonin might not seem like your average high-ranking executive, but his other job is president and CEO of Iowa Specialty Hospitals and Clinics. His tireless work to take two struggling hospitals and combine them into one thriving system might be the biggest reason why the people in Clarion still have access to healthcare. [Read more]
Bryan Coffey, CEO and CFO of Hamilton Country Hospital, has been able to do what many hospitals in rural areas struggle to achieve: he has expanded his facility's services and increased its patient load by leveraging his passion for rural health and telehealth. [Read more]
Chef Rebecca Katz's life changed when her father began a battle with laryngeal cancer in 1999. That event spurred her belief that food is a key element in cancer care and her quest to change the American diet. Having cooked for various cancer patients and published a book on the topic, she promotes "sustainable nourishment as a way to improve American health." [Read more]
Lee Aase was the Mayo Clinic's first social media manager, and is now the director of its Center for Social Media. Aase continues Mayo's excellent reputation by running one of the best social media campaigns in healthcare, and helps its physicians by teaching them about social media and the privacy issues. [Read more]
Roxana Reyna, RN, has learned that sometimes the best way to treat a serious injury is to improvise. As the go-to person for grievous wounds at her facility, Reyna's creative skills as a skin and wound care specialist earned her an invitation to a White House event honoring healthcare professionals who look beyond textbooks and develop their own solutions. [Read more]
Rushika Fernandopulle, MD, is the co-founder and CEO of Iora Health. His vision for primary care, which puts payments last and patients first is growing at a rapid rate. Fernandopulle says the company's growth can be attributed to self-funded employers who are responsible for workers' healthcare costs and looking for ways to save money. [Read more]
Andrea Ippolito is a PhD student at MIT and the co-director of Hacking Medicine, a series of intensive two-day events where participants focus on identifying healthcare problems, then apply technology hacks in order to solve them. The event has been performed on four continents. [Read more]
While working in North Vietnam with Doctors without Borders, Derek C. Angus, MD, MPH, began thinking about how acute care systems respond to crisis. The department of critical care medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, which Angus chairs, is known for its care of patients with sepsis and septic shock. [Read more]
José Ramón Fernández-Peña, MD, MPA, seeing that the San Francisco Bay Area was in constant need of healthcare workers fluent in Spanish and with a good understanding of Latin culture, helped start the Welcome Back Initiative. It offers individualized guidance and support to anyone who has earned a professional degree in healthcare abroad and who currently resides in the United States.
Ellen Goodman, one of the most accomplished columnists of the past half century, is taking on an entirely different project. Goodman and the Massachusetts-based Institute for Healthcare Improvement have launched The Conversation Project, a public engagement campaign designed to transform the way Americans die. The goal is for everyone to have his or her wishes for end-of-life care expressed and respected. [Read more]
Sam Foote, MD, found himself at the center of a national scandal in 2014 after he blew the whistle on scheduling delays and other irregularities at the Phoenix VA Health Care System, where he'd worked for more than 20 years. The internist's tip sparked months of investigations, which he says, uncovered a pattern of "cheating [at VA facilities] all over the country." [Read more]
As Manny Sethi, MD, reviewed the medical records of patients who went through his ER, he discovered that those with violent injuries, particularly gunshot wounds, were mostly between the ages of 18 and 22. So he set out to tackle the problem of youth violence by taking an intervention program to the schools. [Read more]
Cole Galloway, PT, PhD was initially skeptical of rehabilitation robotics, but that all changed when a colleague told him about baby-driven robots. Once Galloway saw that a baby could use a joystick to drive a small, mobile robot, he developed GoBabyGo, a nonprofit project that helps clinicians, families, and others to create low-cost, customized toy race cars to serve as mobility devices for young children. [Read more]
Charles Kennedy, MD, chief population health officer for Healthagen, is at the forefront of transforming parent company Aetna's business away from its role as a nationwide commercial insurance company that competes on price and access with health plans that are frequently larger and more locally dominant. [Read more]
Peter Semczuk, DDS, MPH, has been working in New York City for more than 20 years. In that time he has helped transform the Bronx's Montefiore Medical Center's ED into one of the most renowned in the country. As an industry leader, Montefiore has helped assist in numerous endeavors, including the development of New York state's first freestanding ED. [Read more]
Ed Damiano, PhD, is working against the clock to produce a medical device that will help his son manage his Type 1 diabetes. The goal is to develop a bionic pancreas. Damiano is racing to get FDA approval for the device before his son goes to college in 2017. [Read more]
Bruce Ribner, MD, has more than a decade of experience treating or preparing for contagious diseases such as SARS, Marburg virus, and Ebola. In the wake of the outbreak in western Africa, he played a big part in helping with the first two patients to be treated for Ebola in the U.S. [Read more]