Against All Odds: A Song from my Family to Yours

Thanksgiving is a time for family and feasting in many homes across America, and a time for reflection and gratitude. During this season, I am grateful to you, our donors, for your support throughout the year and the trust you place in the CDC Foundation. Together, you have made a difference in the lives of millions of people.

In return, I have a gift for you that I hope you will enjoy and find inspirational. In recognition of the global fight against threats to health, and in honor of those who persevere against tremendous odds, my family is sharing an original song and video with you, our CDC Foundation donors. Against All Odds directs us to work together to overcome the health challenges we face every day.

This song is for all of the CDC staff who are on the frontlines—those who are tackling the greatest health threats of our time. And it’s for our partners and donors who rise up to meet significant needs across the globe.

Judy and KelleyWe hope this message inspires you to join us and to continue to collaborate on tough health issues—our movement to make a difference in this world. Working together, anything is possible.

We are grateful for all you do to support the CDC Foundation’s work, and my family is honored to share this song as a tribute to my mother. I am inspired by her memory, as is my daughter, Kelley Elle, who wrote and recorded Against All Odds.

My mother defied all odds. Born in 1922, her life expectancy at birth was 61 years of age, but she beat the odds and lived to over 97 years when she passed away in July. Her long life is a tribute to her tenacity and resilience but also to advances in public health and medicine.

She was in a car accident at age 12 and thrown into a ditch from a rumble seat. At age 20, she had a ruptured appendix. Both incidents happened before intensive care units and antibiotics—it was a time when the community would come together to support the patient and the family during times of crisis, much as we in the public health community must come together today.

At the age of 28, my mother contracted polio at the height of the U.S. epidemic in the 1950s and spent 60 days in the hospital. She survived the infection and overcame the paralysis and weakness only through intense physical therapy.

I was born after she had been through this ordeal, and I vividly remember the stories she told of the iron lungs and the children dying during the epidemic. She was thrilled when the polio vaccine was made available to all children, and she never understood vaccine hesitancy. My mother had hoped to see a complete end to polio in her lifetime, and against the odds, we are closer today than we ever have been to ending polio.

Throughout the years I marveled at my mother’s ability to overcome illness and injury particularly facing myriad health challenges as she aged. But her spirit of resilience never faltered. I’ve seen the scientists and program specialists at CDC demonstrate their tremendous strength and determination, too. Especially when threats to human health seem insurmountable.

CDC is currently working to eliminate HIV and vaccine-preventable diseases and to end epidemics such as the nation’s opioid crisis and Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Your support helps CDC make an impact. Because of you, the CDC Foundation achieves our mission to support CDC and better the health of people throughout the world.

I hope you too are moved by the song’s message and how it connects to the people who inspire us and the important work that brings us all together. Perhaps it reminds you of a loved one who fought impossible challenges, or perhaps you hear it and remember how many scientists, healthcare workers and partners worldwide have dedicated themselves to improving health and saving lives no matter the odds.

Today, we face many public health challenges around the world, but we can beat the odds and have a tremendous impact when we come together. As the song says: against all odds, let’s be the change we desire.


Use of the song is a gift to the CDC Foundation from the songwriters, and the video production is made possible by the Monroe family in tribute to Verna Monroe, Dr. Judy Monroe’s mother and Kelley’s grandmother.



Judy Monroe, MD, is president and CEO of the CDC Foundation.