2021’s greatest health care leaders

May 13, 2021, 8:45 PM UTC

Good afternoon, readers.

Today, Fortune released its latest list of the world’s 50 greatest leaders. These extraordinary individuals span the gamut of industry and government, and have offered up stunning moments of leadership and innovation in one of the strangest years in recent history.

Given the cloud of the COVID pandemic, it may not surprise you to hear that several members of this year’s list happen to be intimately involved in the medical industry. It was wonderful to see Ashish Jha, a physician, public health expert, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, and all-around steadying medical presence on this year’s list.

I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with Jha on several occasions and I know he’s made my reporting more impactful and relevant to the lives of normal people. He just has a way of breaking down the most complicated topics—whether it be coronavirus variants or the most effective strategies to get people vaccinated—into easy-to-understand bullet points while always being fueled by empathy. In epidemiology, context is everything, and Jha has a fundamental grasp on that concept.

Some other prominent health leaders in the rankings? The number two spot went to a motley crew of mRNA-vaccine pioneers (the technology behind Pfizer’s and Moderna’s COVID shots) including: BioNTech’s cofounders Ugur Sahin and Özlem Türeci; Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla; and Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel.

But the COVID pandemic has also shown us that you don’t have to be a world-class scientist or physician to fight for human health. Other honorees in the Greatest Leaders list include New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who took this year’s top spot thanks to her aggressive and effective leadership in the midst of multiple crises including the COVID pandemic. Adam Silver, Chris Paul, and Michele Roberts were lauded for their remarkably successful efforts to hold an NBA season while keeping players safe from coronavirus.

There’s no way I can do all the honorees justice in this space, so I encourage you to read through these tales of leaders who stepped up in a year when it truly mattered.

Read on for the day’s news, and see you again next Thursday.

Sy Mukherjee


Drug giant Sanofi accused of deleting internal emails related to Zantac recall. French drug titan Sanofi is facing allegations that it deleted emails related to a recall of the popular heartburn drug Zantac. The allegations were made by lawyers who represent some 70,000 patients in a class action lawsuit. Sanofi, for its part, says there was no effort to thwart the legal process, pointing out that "Sanofi has voluntarily disclosed that certain emails requested by plaintiffs were not preserved as intended" and that "there was no intentional destruction of data." The company also said it stands by its case that Zantac is a safe product. (Bloomberg)


The risk/benefit of mixing different vaccines. One of the major questions surrounding vaccine safety (and general logistics) is whether or not different kinds of shots can be delivered. For instance, could you get a dose of Pfizer and then a dose of AstraZeneca's vaccine if there are supply constraints on the former? A new study suggests that, while it would probably be safe, it can lead to somewhat more unpleasant side effects such as fatigue, fever, and aches following the second dose compared with those who received the same kind of shot both times. This is still early research so we need more data, and the study didn't spell out whether or not mixing different vaccine types hampers immunity against coronavirus. But it could be a critical question in a global immunization campaign. (Fortune)


Can the kids help fuel the vaccine campaign? Here's a bit of next-generation optimism. I spoke with José Mayorga, a family physician and the executive director and executive medical director of the University of California at Irvine’s (UCI) family health centers, earlier this week following the FDA's decision to authorize Pfizer's COVID vaccine for kids 12 years and older. One of my first thoughts was how the societal discrepancies in COVID testing and vaccine access might affect this. What Mayorga had to say was remarkable. "The other day we were able to vaccinate two teens and their mom. And it was honestly one of the most rewarding moments in my life this year because we got mom convinced because her son, not the mom, her son was the one who said, 'Mom, we need to consider getting vaccinated,'" he said. "The kids did their research. They asked us questions. They got their vaccine, and it was absolutely great and satisfying to see two high school kids and the mom get vaccinated to move past and move forward." (Fortune)


Elon Musk is right: Bitcoin mining is bad for the planetby Sophie Mellor

The housing boom might be at its peakby Chris Morris

How the world's greatest leaders respond to unexpected crisesby Geoff Colvin

Our mission to make business better is fueled by readers like you. To enjoy unlimited access to our journalism, subscribe today.

Read More

CEO DailyCFO DailyBroadsheetData SheetTerm Sheet