Dr. William Foege Receives CDC Foundation Hero Award

ATLANTA – William Foege, M.D., M.P.H., received the 2009 CDC Foundation Hero Award at an event at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC Foundation is honoring Foege for improving health for some of the world's most vulnerable populations – and for all of us – by influencing public health policy around the world and by bringing new partners together to tackle important public health challenges.

As chief of CDC's Smallpox Eradication Program in the late 1970s, Foege is credited with devising the global strategy that led to the eradication of smallpox. Foege then served as CDC director from 1977 to 1983, leading efforts to expand CDC's mission to include injury, violence and chronic diseases in addition to infectious diseases; to address the emerging challenges of HIV/AIDS; and to implement an unprecedented childhood vaccination initiative.

Following his work at CDC, Foege helped form the Task Force for Child Survival, creating a model for collaboration that has been applied to address other complex global health challenges. He served as the group's director for 16 years and played a central role in significantly boosting immunization rates in the developing world.

As executive director of The Carter Center from 1986 to 1992, Foege lead initiatives focused on the eradication of Guinea worm, polio and measles and the elimination of River Blindness. In 1997, he joined the faculty of Emory University, where he remains active as Presidential Distinguished Professor Emeritus of International Health at the Rollins School of Public Health. Foege became senior medical advisor for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 1999, where he continues his work today as a senior fellow in the Global Health Program.

Foege has championed many issues, but child survival and development, injury prevention, population and preventive medicine and public health leadership are of special interest, particularly in the developing world. By writing and lecturing extensively, Foege has succeeded in broadening public awareness of these issues and bringing them to the forefront of domestic and international health policies. Authors of the book, Scientists greater than Einstein: the biggest lifesavers of the twentieth century, which includes a chapter on Foege, estimate that Foege's work has saved more than 122 million lives worldwide.

Foege is the recipient of many awards, holds honorary degrees from numerous institutions, and was named a fellow of the London School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in 1997. He is the author of more than 125 professional publications. He attended Pacific Lutheran University and received his M.D. from the University of Washington and his M.P.H. from Harvard University.

"Dr. Foege clearly embodies the mission and ideals of CDC. In fact, he helped shape them," says Charles Stokes, president and CEO of the CDC Foundation. "He also played an active role in shaping and establishing the CDC Foundation as a member of our founding committee, so it is a particular honor for me to present this year's CDC Foundation Hero Award to Dr. Foege."

First presented in 2005, the CDC Foundation Hero Award recognizes an individual who has made a significant contribution to improving the public's health through exemplary work in advancing CDC's mission of promoting health and quality of life by preventing and controlling disease, injury and disability. Previous recipients include:

  • Paul Farmer, M.D., Ph.D., founding director of Partners In Health
  • Sir Michael Marmot, M.B.B.S., M.P.H., Ph.D., F.R.C.P., F.F.P.H.M., FMedSci, director of the University College London International Institute for Society and Health and MRC Research Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health
  • Raymond J. Baxter, Ph.D., senior vice president for community benefit for Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc., and Kaiser Foundation Hospitals
  • The Honorable Rudy Giuliani, 107th Mayor of New York City.




Established by Congress, the CDC Foundation helps CDC do more, faster, by forging effective partnerships between CDC and corporations, foundations, organizations and individuals to fight threats to health and safety. The Foundation currently manages approximately 200 programs in the United States and in countries around the world. Each of our programs involves a talented team of experts at CDC and at least one outside funding partner.