Dr. Ann McKee studies the effects of traumatic brain injuries as chief of neuropathology at the the Veterans Affairs Healthcare System in Boston.
Tony Wyss-Coray uses mice to test his theories on aging and memory loss as a VA research scientist in northern California.
The two doctors — one of medicine, the other of philosophy — have been named to TIME magazine’s 2018 Health Care 50 list, topping the charts along with 48 other major influential industry leaders.
The list also includes Iraq veteran and Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth, an outspoken advocate for breastfeeding mothers who became the first U.S. senator to give birth while in office earlier this year.
McKee also made this year’s TIME 100 most influential people list, a lineup that spans various talents, industries and levels of prominence — from Olympic athlete Chloe Kim to Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump.
“Dr. Ann McKee and Dr. Wyss-Coray are key VA health care leaders who are performing groundbreaking research,” VA Sec. Robert Wilkie said in a news release. “I’m proud to have them in our ranks searching for new ways to improve the lives of our veterans.”
McKee, who is also the director of a partnership between the VA Boston Healthcare System, Boston University and the Concussion Legacy Foundation, has earned widespread recognition for her research on brain injuries within the NFL. According to TIME, “Since 2015, the ‘McKee criteria’ has been the definitive diagnostic for chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease usually found in patients with a history of repeated brain trauma, like football players. Her recent breakthrough study suggests that blows to the head themselves — not full concussions — may be the underlying cause of CTE.”
The condition has also been associated with repetitive, mild TBI in service members, the VA release states.
Of Wyss-Coray, a professor of neurology at Stanford University, TIME writes, “(He) found that stitching together young and old mice to join their blood systems improved the older mice’s cognition. Startups began offering unproven ‘fountain of youth’ blood-plasma infusions, but Wyss-Coray co-founded a company, Alkahest, to scientifically test the idea in people with early Alzheimer’s. Encouraged by early results, he now hopes to refine a blood-plasma treatment for aging brains.”
Wyss-Coray is also the associate director of the Center for Tissue Regeneration, Repair, and Restoration for the Palo Alto VA.
“We are proud of the amazing work Dr. Wyss-Coray has done to help people with Alzheimer’s," said Thomas J. Fitzgerald III, director of the VA Palo Alto Health Care System that serves more than 272,000 veterans. “It is researchers like him that show how VA research not is only improves care for our veterans but helps to change medicine around the world.”
The winners of the health care category were nominated by a team of health editors and reporters who evaluated their work on key factors, including originality, impact and quality, according to the news release.
Natalie Gross has been reporting for Military Times since 2017. She grew up in a military family and has a master's degree in journalism from Georgetown University.