President Barack Obama this week named 13 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, among them, William Foege, professor emeritus in the Rollins School of Public Health who retired in 2002. The Medal of Freedom is the Nation’s highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors. The awards will be presented at the White House in late spring.
Obama said, “These extraordinary honorees come from different backgrounds and different walks of life, but each of them has made a lasting contribution to the life of our Nation. They’ve challenged us, they’ve inspired us, and they’ve made the world a better place. I look forward to recognizing them with this award.”
Foege is widely recognized as instrumental in the successful campaign to eradicate smallpox in the 1970s. After serving as a medical missionary in Nigeria, Foege became chief of CDC’s Smallpox Eradication Program and was named CDC director in 1977. In 1984, Foege and several colleagues formed the Task Force for Child Survival (now the Task Force for Global Health), which promotes childhood immunizations and prevents polio, measles, river blindness, and other diseases. Foege served as executive director of the Carter Center from 1986 to 1992 and joined the Emory faculty as Presidential Distinguished Professor of International Health at RSPH in 1997. Two years later, he became senior medical adviser for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. He retired from Emory and the Gates Foundation in 2001. He remains a champion of a wide array of issues, including child survival and development, injury prevention, and preventative medicine. Foege’s leadership has contributed significantly to increased awareness and action on global health issues, and his enthusiasm, energy and effectiveness in these endeavors have inspired a generation of leaders in public health.
To review a list of more winners, click here for the full text of Vincent Dollard’s article.