“This is a time that the science is moving forward at a breathtaking pace and revealing the molecular causes of diseases—rare diseases, common diseases, neglected diseases, diseases of the developing world—we’ve never been on such a fast course of discove
A focus on research
public health agency,” she says. “We’re a science-based, science-driven regulatory agency with a public health mission.”
Hamburg says she has tried to strengthen the FDA’s role in regulating medical products and food safety by recruiting experts that can stay abreast of medical technology that is increasingly complex and on which a growing proportion of the public relies.
“And we also have to really transform ourselves to operate in an increasingly globalized world,” Hamburg says of efforts to expedite the availability of medical innovations developed overseas and to keep dangerous foreign products away from U.S. patients.
Another Washington physician whose role was elevated by the 2010 healthcare law is Dr. Harvey Fineberg, president of the Institute of Medicine, who is ranked No. 8. His organization was authorized under the law to develop key recommendations for the design of the essential benefits package, or the components of the various insurance policies offered under the state insurance marketplaces that the law will launch in 2014.
“It both defines what everyone should be entitled to receive and also should help establish standards for deciding over time what is or is not included in an essential benefits package,” Fineberg says.
Even the Joint Commission, an independent, not-for-profit accreditation and certification organization, saw significant effects from the healthcare law because several components have similar goals as the Joint Commission’s core mission of reducing healthcare facilities’ complication and accident rates. Dr. Mark Chassin, president of the Joint Commission, holds the No. 9 spot, down from No. 7 last year.
An example of Joint Commission efforts that echo goals in the healthcare law is its ongoing push for hospitals and other facilities to adopt simple initiatives that could have widespread complication-reduction impacts, such as hand-washing.
“We’re helping hospitals and doctor’s offices to solve health and safety problems whereas we only previously helped identify those problems,” Chassin says.
The commission’s Center for Transforming Healthcare also will participate in the new patient-safety initiative by identifying and testing solutions for preventing patient injuries, he says.
Dr. Delos “Toby” Cosgrove, president and CEO of the Cleveland Clinic, rounded out the top-10 leaders. His organization also had a headline-grabbing role in development of
“This is a time that the science is moving forward at a breathtaking pace and revealing the molecular causes of diseases—rare diseases, common diseases, neglected diseases, diseases of the developing world—we’ve never been on such a fast course of discovery as we are right now,” Collins says. “That is exhilarating to preside over and to try to nurture.”
The latest NIH focus—and possibly one of the reasons its work is of particular interest to this year’s 50 Most Influential voters— is efforts to spur dissemination of medical research and development of clinical applications faster than the average 17 years it takes most research to move into widespread clinical practice.
Like many Washington officials, Collins
“And that is not a partisan statement but something that has been agreed upon by people of all political persuasions,” Collins says.
Dr. Margaret Hamburg, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, also is among the top 10, although she fell from No. 2 last year to No. 7 in this year’s ranking. But that’s certainly not because the role of her agency has diminished.
“FDA is a hugely important and unique