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Fortune: Richards-Kortum among ‘World’s Greatest Leaders’

Magazine names Rice U. global health pioneer one of world’s 50 top leaders

By Jade Boyd
Rice News Staff

Fortune magazine named Rice University global health pioneer Rebecca Richards-Kortum to its prestigious list of World’s Greatest Leaders.

The annual list, which was announced March 23, is packed with world-famous people, including Pope Francis, Melinda Gates, Joe Biden and Elon Musk.

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 Rebecca Richards-Kortum 

“I first saw the news on Twitter, and I thought, ‘Wait, what? That can’t be right,'” said Richards-Kortum, director of Rice 360° Institute for Global Health. “It is such an honor to be included in this group, and especially next to (Canadian Prime Minister) Justin Trudeau! I am so grateful that it spotlights the efforts of our whole team working so hard to end preventable newborn deaths in Africa.”

In announcing its 2017 class of leaders, Fortune said, “The age of radical transparency draws attention away from today’s shining leaders, but they haven’t disappeared.”

“Some of those whom we salute in this fourth annual ranking of the World’s Greatest Leaders are famous — Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Fed chair Janet Yellen, basketball great LeBron James. Many are not but should be, such as Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė, the ‘Iron Lady’ who has dared to call out Vladimir Putin for his misdeeds, and bioengineer Rebecca Richards-Kortum, whose Institute for Global Health is finding innovative ways to save babies,” wrote Fortune editor Geoff Colvin.

In September, Richards-Kortum became the first Houston scientist, the first Houston woman and the first Rice faculty member to win a coveted “genius grant” from the MacArthur Foundation. In February, the foundation named her team a semifinalist for its 100&Change $100 million grant competition for Rice 360°’s plan to end preventable newborn deaths in Africa within 10 years.

Richards-Kortum is leading a team that includes physicians, engineers and business and entrepreneurial experts from three continents to develop and implement Newborn Essential Solutions and Technologies, or NEST, an integrated group of life-saving neonatal technologies designed specifically for African hospitals. She estimates that 85 percent of the newborn deaths in Africa could be prevented with relatively simple technologies that keep babies warm, help them breathe and help doctors diagnose and manage infections and other conditions.

Richards-Kortum is Rice’s Malcolm Gillis University Professor, professor of bioengineering and professor of electrical and computer engineering. She has been a member of the Rice faculty since 2005.