TIME100 Health Honorees Toast to Survival, Solutions, and Health Workers in Conflict Zones

TIME celebrated on Monday the 100 most influential people leading change in health at a special dinner. The first TIME100 Health list spotlights doctors, scientists, business leaders, advocates, and others at the forefront of big changes in the industry.

After a panel discussion on prioritizing women’s health, three TIME100 Health honorees gave toasts about surviving noma, a severe gangrenous disease of the mouth and face; the healthcare advocates pioneering research and treatments related to COVID; and hospitals under attack in conflict zones.

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Surviving noma

Fidel Strub, a survivor of Noma, has led an awareness campaign on the disease, which mostly affects malnourished young children living in extreme poverty. In 2023, the WHO officially recognized noma as a neglected tropical disease, noting that early detection is essential for effective treatment. Noma can be fatal and severely disfigure its victims; it typically begins as inflammation of the gums, before destroying facial tissues and bones if left untreated.

Strub thanked his doctor for saving his life and spoke about turning to advocacy to feel empowered. He noted the 27 surgeries he underwent to reconstruct his face. “When Dr. Zala first saw me, I was just skin and bones. He had very little hope, but still he literally fought to save my life,” Strub said. “Just learning to blow out a candle took me three years through speech therapy.”

COVID response pioneers

Dr. Eric Topol, founder and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, shouted out more than a dozen TIME100 Health honorees who helped shape the world’s response to the pandemic. “Somehow during the course of the pandemic I went from a cardiologist to a covidologist,” he said. “I never planned for that.”

Topol says that Monday’s event is the first time he has met many of these people working on COVID solutions in person—even though he has become close friends with some. Among those he recognized were researchers who have closely followed Long Covid: Akiko Iwasaki,  professor of immunobiology at the Yale School of Medicine, and Ziyad Al-Aly, a clinical epidemiologist at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Hospitals under attack

Alaa Murabit—director of global policy, advocacy, and communications for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation—spoke about starting her medical career in a conflict zone and how she is inspired by frontline health workers in Gaza, Ukraine, Yemen, and Sudan.

Murabit said in her toast that healthcare facilities have been increasingly caught in political violence over the last year. “Hospitals, which are meant to be places of healing and hope—I always say that a hospital is more spiritual to me than any mosque, church or synagogue because you hear more prayers in it—become at best overburdened and at worst, attacked,” she said. “It will come as no surprise to many of you that, in those moments of crisis and insecurity, it is women and children who are the most vulnerable. Violence exacerbates infectious disease, it exacerbates malnutrition and maternal and child death.”

Murabit spoke in particular about Gaza, where Israeli attacks have killed more than 35,000 people, according to Gaza’s health ministry. She pointed out how most of those killed are believed to be women and children.

Murabit also paid tribute to female healthcare workers—noting that they make up more than two-thirds of the healthcare workforce. “They are on the frontlines of delivering care in the worst of circumstances,” she said. “We’ve been talking about everything from hyperemesis to menopause to COVID; you can imagine how much worse those are when there are bombs and bullets overhead.”

The TIME100 Impact Dinner: Leaders Shaping the Future of Health was presented by Eli Lilly and Company, Deloitte, Northwell Health, and On Purpose, A Podcast by Jay Shetty.

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Contributor: Sanya Mansoor