The American health care system has been plagued for decades by major problems, from lack of access to uncontrolled costs to unacceptable rates of medical errors. And yet, real as those issues remain, the field has also given rise to extraordinary innovation. This year, TIME launched the Health Care 50 to highlight the people behind those ideas: physicians, scientists, and business and political leaders whose work is transforming health care right now.


Putting a doctor on your wrist

At not even 30, Nag is leading Apple’s special projects focusing on health. Nag’s team developed ResearchKit, an open-source app developer for doctors and researchers to share patient results and clinical data, and this fall it announced groundbreaking new tools for the Apple Watch: the Series 4 includes an emergency-response system, in case the wearer falls and doesn’t respond, and a medical-grade EKG heart-rate monitor.


Revolutionizing medical marijuana

Thirty-one states have legalized medical marijuana, and in June, cannabis went even more mainstream: GW Pharmaceuticals’ Epidiolex became the first FDA-approved marijuana-derived drug. The epilepsy medication was spurred by Devinsky’s research at New York University proving that purified CBD, a compound in pot, can reduce patients’ seizure frequency without making them high.



As health commissioner for Baltimore, Wen has proved herself a force in the often politically fraught world of public health. In 2015, she chose a remarkably pragmatic—but unusual—method of addressing the opioid epidemic ravaging her town. With nearly 90% of overdose deaths due to opioids, she wrote a blanket, citywide prescription for the overdose-reversing drug naloxone, valid for every citizen willing to fill it. To date, her bold action is credited with saving nearly 3,000 lives. For Wen, an emergency-room physician who has administered naloxone to patients herself, it was an obvious solution to treat the disease of opioid addiction.

Now she wants to bring that same straightforward approach to her new job; Wen steps in as the new president of Planned Parenthood in November. As the first physician to lead the organization in nearly 50 years, she hopes to lift the group above the politically divisive fray by reminding people that it offers necessary, and in many places desperately needed, medical services, including mammograms and infertility and incontinence treatments. “We’re not here to make a political statement,” she says. “We’re here to provide health care to those who need us, and we will have to continue to fight to defend that access to care, because others, not us, have been distorting the work that we do.”

She faces a formidable challenge

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