Project Management Institute

Top 10 Most Influential Projects in Health


Allowing doctors to peek inside the human body—without scalpels, sutures or radiation—magnetic resonance imaging changed how diagnosis happens, revealing conditions from cancer to liver disease with greater speed and ease. The breakthrough grew primarily from the work of two teams: Scientists Paul Lauterbur and Peter Mansfield paved the way for MRI as an imaging technique in 1973, while Raymond Damadian, a physician and medical scientist, conducted the first full-body scan in 1977.

2 Global Polio Eradication Initiative

It was a big goal: eliminate polio. And it drew in some big names: the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF, Rotary International and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Since the groundbreaking public-private partnership launched in 1988, this feet-on-the-street, door-to-door campaign by 20 million volunteers across more than 200 countries has administered vaccinations to some 2.5 billion children. In 2018, only two countries reported cases of poliovirus.

3 Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy

More than a decade into the AIDS crisis, a team finally delivered some hope: This drug cocktail, developed in 1995, turned an HIV diagnosis from an automatic death sentence into a manageable condition.

4 Coronary Stent

Since French cardiologist Jacques Puel implanted the first stent in a patient in 1986, an estimated 2 million people annually have this simple-but-lifesaving device inserted into a narrowed or blocked artery.

5 Tamoxifen

Approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1998, tamoxifen is the oldest and most-prescribed selective estrogen receptor modulator. Originally developed as a contraceptive, it was deemed a failure on that front. But a few scientists saw its potential for helping battle breast cancer.

6 Jarvik 7

When a University of Utah physician implanted the first permanent artificial heart, invented by Robert Jarvik, into a patient in 1982, he laid the groundwork for years of life-saving procedures. The Jarvik 7 introduced the artificial heart as a viable bridge to transplantation—giving patients more time for a donation.

7 H1N1 Vaccine

This vaccine put an end to the 2009 swine flu pandemic, which killed an estimated 284,000 people and marked the World Health Organization's first Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

8 Prozac

Developed by Eli Lilly and Co. in 1972, this now-ubiquitous antidepressant was the first selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor approved and marketed in the U.S. It went on to inspire a wave of similar drugs and eventually landed on the World Health Organization's Model List of Essential Medicines.

9 Hôpital Universitaire de Mirebalais

Built in the wake of Haiti's devastating 2010 earthquake, this hospital doubles as a training facility while also holding the title of largest solar-powered hospital in the world.

10 da Vinci surgical system

The idea was appealing: Use technology to enable minimally invasive surgery that would improve patient outcomes and deliver better treatment. But making machine-assisted operations safe and effective took a leap of faith—and lots of work. Since it was developed by Intuitive Surgical and approved by the FDA in 2000, the robotic system has been used in more than 6 million surgeries.

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