Fortune magazine recently unveiled its 2021 list of the World’s Greatest Leaders, with India-based Serum Institute of India head Adar Poonawalla named in the top 10 and two Indian Americans included in the list.
Others named to the list featured Armman organization’s Indian founder and chairperson Dr. Aparna Hegde at No. 15; and Indian Americans Sunrise Movement executive director Varshini Prakash at No. 28, and Brown University School of Public Health Dean Ashish Jha at No. 50.
Some were already extraordinary achievers in business, government, philanthropy, athletics, and the arts, while others are ordinary citizens. In truly unprecedented times, each stepped up to make the world better, and inspired others to do the same, Fortune said in announcing the list.
Poonawalla, head of the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, has been tasked with no less than bringing an end to the global pandemic.
The SII has pledged to deliver up to 2 billion vaccine doses in the coming years to COVAX, a global initiative to provide vaccine to lower- and middle-income countries—and it has already provided more doses to that initiative than any other vaccine maker, the magazine notes.
The SII is producing two vaccines. The first, Covishield, is one of only a few vaccines approved by the World Health Organization and is based on the COVID vaccine AstraZeneca developed. SII’s other vaccine, called Covavax, is being produced in partnership with American firm Novavax, and may provide a 1.1 billion–dose boon to global vaccine stocks starting later this year once it clears clinical trials, it said.
Poonawalla has hit some speed bumps in following through with his company’s global promises. A deadly surge in COVID-19 infections in India this spring forced Poonawalla to refocus distribution efforts at home, Fortune adds.
During her residency, Hegde, a urogynecologist, witnessed too many horrors delivering babies at a government hospital in Mumbai.
Worse, they were preventable: Time after time, she’d seen an infant or its mother, or both, die in childbirth, tragedies that could have been avoided with basic prenatal care or more timely dispatching of hospital resources, according to her profile.
That’s what led her in 2008 to found Armman, an organization focused on bettering outcomes through the use of low-cost technology—like targeting pregnant women and new mothers with information through their cellphones, the bio said.
Today her nonprofit, which partners with the Indian government and dozens of NGOs in 17 states across the country, and represents one of the largest mobile health programs in the world and a lifeline for women in India: Armman has reached more than 24 million of them and trained more than 170,000 local health workers, it added.
The model has proved powerful beyond prenatal care, too: When COVID struck, Armman’s network and virtual training platform made it a vital tool in educating women and health workers about the virus and vaccine.
Prakash was joined at her No. 28 ranking with Sunrise Movement training director Sara Blazevic. Co-founders Blazevic and Prakash helped officially launch the group of youth activists in 2017, and it is now one of the most effective coalitions fighting for climate action in the United States, according to the feature.
Sunrise initially campaigned heavily for Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, but Joe Biden actively courted it after emerging as the party’s frontrunner.
Prakash was chosen by Biden to serve on the “unity task force” commissioned by both candidates to help assemble the party’s climate message. After the election, Sunrise leaders were also included in Biden’s transition, the profile said.
Rounding out the list was Jha.
In the effort to contain an outbreak of COVID’s scope, there’s a delicate balance between messaging, compassion, and sober analysis, and Ashish Jha has become a downright Ariadne of this maze, the magazine said.
A respected physician and public health scholar, Jha is a familiar face on cable news channels seeking insight on all matters COVID.
Jha has a way, both in his public commentary and social media presence, of breaking down complicated public health issues in accessible language. His lack of a government affiliation has also helped him appear more trustworthy to skeptically inclined viewers, Fortune said.
Jha’s unrelenting effort to share hard facts, easy-to-understand analysis, and a healthy sprinkling of empathy without judgment is a standard worth aspiring to, the report noted.
Topping the 2021 list was New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.