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Four Indian Americans and One From Pakistan in Time’s 100 Influential People in Health

Four Indian Americans and One From Pakistan in Time’s 100 Influential People in Health

  • The list includes scientists, doctors, advocates, educators, and policy-makers, who were dedicated to creating tangible, credible change for a healthier population.

Four Indian Americans and one from Pakistan are included in ‘TIME100 Health,’ an inaugural list of the most influential people in health right now. They include scientists, doctors, advocates, educators, and policy-makers, among others, who were “dedicated to creating tangible, credible change for a healthier population.”

Indian Americans who made it to the list are U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, Venkat Shastri, co-founder, and CEO of ALZpath; Alka Dwivedi, co-founder of ImmunoACT and Research Fellow at National Cancer Institute, and Dr. Sumbul Desai, vice president of health, Apple. Also included is Shahzad Baig, national coordinator of Pakistan’s polio-eradication program.

Venkat Shastri co-founded ALZpath in 2020 with Eric Reiman and Jerre Stead to transform the Alzheimer’s Disease diagnosis and the care of patients. In his role as CEO and director, “he sets the company’s direction and strategy, and prioritizes its products and services,” according to his company profile. ALZPath has developed a blood test for one of the key markers of early Alzheimer’s that doctors can now order from select labs. For now, “it’s designated as a lab-developed test, which means doctors can only order it from certified labs,” Time notes. But Shastri has requested approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration “so that large hospitals and regional labs could perform it themselves, and insurers might cover it, expanding access,” the magazine adds. He’s also testing the same platform for different proteins that could help to diagnose Parkinson’s, ALS, and even traumatic brain injury and concussions.

Alka Dwivedi and her team have been looking for affordable cancer treatments. “After years of looking for ways to ease the cancer burden, they may have finally found the answer: NexCar19,” Time noted. “Like CAR T, the treatment reprograms a patient’s immune system to fight cancer and was recently approved for commercial use by the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization,” the magazine adds. Her research began as a graduate student at the Indian Institute of Technology, when she noticed that the available treatments were not affordable for the majority of Indian patients who come from low- and middle-income families. 

Unlike CAR T, NexCar19 is produced in India, lowering the cost to about one-tenth that of CAR T therapy. Although it can be used only for blood cancers in patients over the age of 15 for now, NexCar19 could save millions of lives in the world’s most populous country. “This is a big achievement for India,” Dwivedi told the Maryland-based National Cancer Institute. “It’s the team effort that brought us here.”

Last May, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issued an advisory about the profound consequences of loneliness and isolation. He realized he needed to shine a spotlight on loneliness after traveling the country, asking the people he encountered how he could be helpful. ‘Part of the reason I was attuned to this issue was because I struggled with loneliness in my own life, as a child in particular,” he told Time. He called on governments, community leaders, workplaces, and health systems to rebuild social connection and community. He told the magazine “encouraging conversation around loneliness will help shatter the stigma that continues to surround it.” Another public health threat Murthy has drawn attention to is the effects social media use has on youth mental health. In his advisory,  he pointed out that logging hours on platforms like TikTok and Instagram can lead to body dissatisfaction, disordered eating, social comparison, and low self-esteem, especially among adolescent girls. Years ago, he believed, social media delivered on its promise of creating more connections within communities. He hopes policymakers take steps to strengthen safety standards and promote digital literacy, and that tech companies make design changes that prioritize safety and health.

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Dr. Sumbul Desai, vice president of health at Apple, is hoping to prove that personal-tech devices can be good for our mental health. Desai has been a key force behind new health tools on the iPhone and Apple Watch, teaming up with prominent medical researchers at universities around the country to conduct landmark health studies that inform the health features pushed out to tens of millions of users. “I think we’re just scratching the surface of how biometrics can tie to aspects of our health,” she told Time. Desai has led Apple’s efforts to disrupt the healthcare market through new technologies since 2017. A physician by training, she created clinical and regulatory teams to help oversee the tech giant’s product development process, adding key features such as atrial fibrillation history, sleep stage tracking, and walking steadiness metrics to devices. She has fostered a culture of collaboration and transformation within the company, heading an investigator support program to fund dozens of research studies across the globe and working to amplify the voices of women on her leadership team.

Dr. Shahzad Baig, the national coordinator of Pakistan’s polio eradication program, is on the front lines in the effort to stamp out the disease which now circulates only in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Since Baig assumed his role in 2021, case counts have plummeted, with only six children stricken in 2023. The goal is to bring that number to zero by 2026. In 2019, polio disabled or killed 147 people in Pakistan. Baig has also declared that the days of extremists driving out polio workers are over. Under his leadership, the government has deployed 400,000 vaccinators and 80,000 security personnel to inoculate more than 90 million children this year alone, with another 24 million to come in a springtime vaccination drive. 

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