"COVID: Triumph and Tragedy"
Jun 01, 2021 11:45 AM
Dr. William Foege, Epidemiologist
"COVID: Triumph and Tragedy"

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Dr. William H. Foege is a physician and epidemiologist well known for his global health contributions that led to the eradication of smallpox in the late 1970s.

Dr. Foege joined CDC’s ongoing effort to eradicate smallpox in West and Central Africa in the late 1960s, and within a few years, he was named the chief of the Smallpox Eradication Program. As a young medical missionary and epidemiologist in eastern Nigeria, he pioneered a technique known as “surveillance/containment” to combat the spread of smallpox despite vaccine shortages. His approach allowed public health workers to focus their limited resources on areas that, through surveillance, they knew to be high risk for outbreaks, and to contain those outbreaks by vaccinating only the residents of those particular regions. Dr. Foege and his team successfully eradicated an infectious disease for the first time in human history.

In recognition of his extraordinary leadership, President Jimmy Carter appointed Dr. Foege as CDC Director in 1977. After serving six years as the head of the CDC, Dr. Foege co-founded the Task Force for Child Survival and Development, now the Task Force for Global Health, in 1984. He joined The Carter Center in 1986 as its first executive director and fellow for health policy.

Dr. Foege became a senior medical adviser for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, steering billions of dollars into childhood immunizations, vaccine research, and disease prevention in the world’s most underserved regions.  He has championed many issues, but child survival and development, injury prevention, population, preventive medicine, and public health leadership are of special interest, particularly in the developing world.

Dr. Foege is the recipient of many awards, holds honorary degrees from numerous institutions, and is the author of more than 125 professional publications. Dr. Foege is prolific in his lectures and writing, and by sharing his experience and knowledge so generously with the world, he has succeeded in broadening public awareness of public health issues and bringing them to the forefront of domestic and international health policies.

In 2012, President Barack Obama awarded Dr. Foege the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. His lifelong dedication to promoting global public health serves as an inspiration to the medical and public health communities worldwide, and it will continue to inspire future generations of public health leaders.

INVOCATION: Charlie Battle