Honoring the Legacy Dr. James Fries

James (Jim) Fries, MD, and his wife, Sarah Tilton Fries, MPH, founded the Fries Prize for Improving Health and the Elizabeth Fries Health Education Award to honor, encourage and reward those who tirelessly strive to make the world a healthier place. The Fries family’s commitment to honoring heroes in health and health education is a lasting legacy.

Jim came up with the idea for a Nobel-like prize for health in a 1987 ascent of Nepal’s Makalu—one of the world’s highest peaks—when he became trapped in a severe snowstorm that threatened the lives of those in his entourage. Following that experience, Jim returned home and worked with Sarah to establish a foundation to support prizes for health. The Fries Prize for Improving Health and the Elizabeth Fries Health Education Award, named in memory of Sarah and Jim’s daughter, have been awarded annually since 1992. 

Jim served for many years as a professor of medicine at Stanford University. He is an internationally recognized leader in conceptualization of strategies to promote healthy aging, including introducing the Compression of Morbidity hypothesis, which has provided the conceptual foundation for health promotion and healthy aging programs. Jim and Sarah also founded Healthtrac, a tailored health-improvement company.

To continue the legacy of the Fries family, the CDC Foundation, which now manages and administers the Fries awards, is honoring Dr. Jim Fries with tributes. Thank you for helping us celebrate his life.

Join with Us to Honor the Legacy of Dr. James Fries

Submit a tribute message to help us celebrate the life of Dr. Fries and his impact on the world of health and health education.


“Jim Fries lived a remarkable life and leaves behind an enduring legacy of scholarship, love of family and adventure. Through the Fries Prize, he and his wife Sarah will continue to inspire the vision of doing the greatest good for the greatest number of people through health improvement. It’s an honor for the CDC Foundation to play a role in extending his legacy through our administering of the Fries Prize and it was a privilege and joy to know him.” – Judy Monroe, MD, President and CEO, CDC Foundation

“Despite the sadness, I am filled with an inner warm joy over the memory, legacy and unquenchable inspiration for a better and more humane world that Jim and Sarah left us with.” – Reed Tuckson, MD, Fries Prize Jury Member

“We are grateful for the life of Dr. Jim Fries for his commitment and vision to improve health. His generosity in creating these special recognitions for leaders in science and in health education has truly been transformative. We are a better, healthier nation because of his many contributions.” – Leah Devlin, DDS, MPH, Board Chair, CDC Foundation

“Jim was a unique person, and I’ll miss his wisdom, his humor and his vision to give back in this unique way with the Fries prizes. My condolences to all the family. It’s a sad day for all of us.” – David Sleet, PhD, Fries Prize Jury Member

“The world is such a better place because Jim lived. I will remember his smile, his gentleness, his selfless dedication to Sarah, and his earnestness for improving health and public health for all. I will miss him.” – Charlie Stokes, Fries Foundation Board and Fries Prize Jury Member

“Knowing Jim and Sarah was a privilege. Their contributions will reverberate through the halls of public health for decades to come.” – Ken Warner, PhD, Fries Prize Jury Member

“Sincere condolences to Dr. Sarah and thank you for good works to promote public health. Dr. Jim and wife are the vital glue of public health service. Threats of grave concern could easily overwhelm capabilities without the dedication of such compassionate people. *GRATITUDE*HOPE*PEACE*LOVE*” – Lucy Harmon

“I am so sorry to hear about Mr. Fries passing away may God continue to bless his family and the CDC company in Jesus Name Amen. God bless you all.” – Rita Atkins-Jenkins

“Jim was a remarkable man -- a visionary rheumatologist who recognized the importance of both early disease modifying treatments and self-management strategies for rheumatoid arthritis. He had wide knowledge, incredible energy, and many enthusiasms, including public health.” – Marie Griffin

“Sending Prayers and my condolences to the family.” – Therah Nathaniel

“While watching and observing under Dr. Jim and Elizabeth Fries guidance not only did I become a professional Doctor but I became Innovative with heart felt compassion for Humanitarian efforts and expertise while under tenure along with Dr. C Evertt Koop and Dr. David Satcher this husband and wife taught me how to treat each patients with caring concern and listening ear. Also while classes were tedious at John Hopkins University I was lucky to become part of the family Medicine while in Study Hall. They will be miss and love only professionally also as family as well.” – Dr. La Vell Cox

“The life of Jim Fries was remarkable for its scholarship, adventure, philanthropic work, and values. He was dedicated to improving health in the long-term and through the Fries Foundation Prize recognized implementation science and the improvement of human health on a large scale. He truly lived his convictions through his work and giving.” – Richard A. Cash, Recipient of the Fries Prize in 2011

“It is really awesome legacy for every world, however to thank this wonderful teachings, that I learned through of Dr. Jim Fries, history, I would like to say that, I love to talk about Public Health, and, I am about to open my own coalition. Because my community still need help. From this example I won motivation. Thank you so much.” – Bernardino Elias Tapro

“I do not know Dr. Jim Fries. Based on what I read about him, I draw him on my mind as an iconic person with genuine thoughts and deeds. May he Rest in Peace!” – Berhanu Tekle

“Jim was an innovator and someone who wanted to acknowledge those who were making amazing contributions to make lives better. His wisdom, wit and creativity will be greatly missed.” – Amelie Ramirez

“How truly sad it was to hear about Jim’s passing. I remember the many spirited conversations the two of us had, running the full spectrum of topics from study design, to medical diagnoses and treatment, the virtues of capitalism vs. socialism, wildlife, home construction, vacation adventures, the barriers posed to people with disabilities, the need to build a resilient and equitable society, geography, politics, effective patient communications, and so much more. Jim was truly a Renaissance Man. I am proud to have served and continue to serve as Chair of the fries Foundation Jury. Jim will be missed by all of us.” – Ron Goetzel