Susannah Fox

former chief technology officer

Department of Health and Human Services 

“I help people navigate health and technology” is the way Fox outlines her professional mission on her website – which, given the success of her tenure at HHS, qualifies as a wild understatement. 

Like most healthcare organizations – er, and government ones – HHS was slow to embrace the opportunities that came with the health-tech revolution, or at least it was until Fox took over as CTO in May 2015. There, she did what many pundits thought was impossible: She created a culture of innovation in a governmental entity that, for any number of reasons, had been content over the years to laze behind the pace of technology. Her secret sauce, if there was one? To encourage collaboration and nontraditional thinking. Given the size of the department – 27 divisions and more than 80,000 employees – this was a bit more of a challenge than it might’ve been at the average health-tech startup. 

Nonetheless, Fox attacked the assignment with a gusto that won her many fans in public and private sector alike. Her overarching strategy was, as she told the Washington Post during her HHS tenure, “to open as many doors as we can to people outside the government who might want to contribute their expertise, whether it’s through a short-term engagement like a prize competition or a longer-term engagement like coming in for a tour of duty as an entrepreneur-in-residence… We try to give people a chance to test ideas. It is a way to give them a little bit of space, a little bit of time, some air cover and a chance to ask questions.” 

Prior to her stint at HHS, Fox was entrepreneur-in-residence at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and an associate director of the Internet Project at the Pew Research Center.