William Foege

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William Foege
William H. Foege.jpg
Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
In office
PresidentJimmy Carter
Ronald Reagan
Preceded byDavid Sencer
Succeeded byJames Mason
Personal details
Born (1936-03-12) March 12, 1936 (age 84)
Decorah, Iowa, U.S.
Spouse(s)Paula Foege
EducationPacific Lutheran University (BA)
University of Washington (MD)
Harvard University (MPH)
AwardsCalderone Prize (1996)
Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize

William (Bill) Herbert Foege[1] (/ˈfɡi/;[2] born March 12, 1936) is an American physician and epidemiologist who is credited with "devising the global strategy that led to the eradication of smallpox in the late 1970s".[3]

Foege also "played a central role" in efforts that greatly increased immunization rates in developing countries in the 1980s.[4]

In June 2011, he authored House on Fire: The Fight to Eradicate Smallpox, a book on modern science, medicine, and public health over the smallpox disease.[5]

On September 23, 2020 he sent a private letter to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert R. Redfield urging him to acknowledge in writing that the CDC had responded poorly to COVID-19 and to set a new course for how CDC would lead the United States' response, calling the White House's approach "disastrous."[6]

Early life[edit]

Foege was born March 12[citation needed] 1936 in Decorah, Iowa.[7] He was the third of six children born to William A. Foege, a Lutheran minister, and Anne Erika Foege.[8] The family lived in Eldorado, Iowa in Fayette County, starting in 1936 and moved to Chewelah, Washington, in 1945.[8]

In his younger days he was inspired by the life of his uncle, a Lutheran missionary to New Guinea.[4] He became interested in science at age 13 when working at a pharmacy, and read extensively about the world (e.g., Albert Schweitzer's work in Africa) while in a body cast for several months at age 15.[9] When a teenager he expressed a desire to practice medicine in Africa.[4]


Foege received a B.A. from Pacific Lutheran University in 1957.[10] He attended medical school at the University of Washington, where he became interested in public health while working "after school and on Saturdays" at the Seattle–King County Health Department.[9] After receiving his M.D. in 1961, he completed an internship with the United States Public Health Service hospital at Staten Island in 1961–1962.

He participated in the Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) between 1962 and 1964, assigned to Colorado.[11][12] When Foege was with the EIS, he was inspired by Alexander Langmuir to pursue global health, and spent a short time with the Peace Corps in India under Charles Snead Houston. Upon reading a lecture on priorities in public health by Thomas Huckle Weller,[13] Foege entered the Master of Public Health program at the Harvard School of Public Health where he studied with Weller.[9] He received his M.P.H. in 1965.[10]


Foege's research includes child survival and development, injury prevention, population, preventive medicine, and public health leadership—particularly in the developing world. He is a strong proponent of disease eradication and control and has taken an active role in the eradication of Guinea Worm Disease, polio and measles, and the elimination of river blindness.[14]

He has held various positions during his career:

Personal life[edit]

He is noted for his height of 6 feet 7 inches (2.01 m).[3][21] Foege and his wife Paula had three sons, the eldest of whom died in 2007.[22] He has been described as a "religious man";[23][24] between 1997 and 2006 he served on the Board of Regents of Pacific Lutheran University.[25][26]

Awards and honors[edit]

Selected publications[edit]

Books and book chapters[edit]

  • Foege WH, Amler RW (1987). "Introduction and methods". In Amler RW, Dull HB (eds.). Closing the gap: the burden of unnecessary illness. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-505483-0. OCLC 16755579.
  • Foege WH. "Foreword." In: Albert Schweitzer (1998). The primeval forest. Baltimore, Md: Johns Hopkins University Press in association with The Albert Schweitzer Institute for the Humanities. ISBN 0-8018-5958-1. OCLC 38925138.
  • Ross DA, Hinman AR, Saarlas K, Foege WH (2003). "Foreword". In O'Carroll PW, et al. (eds.). Public health informatics and information systems. Berlin: Springer. pp. v–vii. ISBN 0-387-95474-0. OCLC 133157982.
  • Foege WH; et al., eds. (2005). Global health leadership and management. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. ISBN 0-7879-7153-7. OCLC 57579300.
  • Foege WH (June 2011). House on Fire: The Fight to Eradicate Smallpox. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-26836-4.
  • Foege WH (2018). The Fears of the Rich, the Needs of the Poor: My Years at the CDC. Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 978-1-421-42529-0.

Journal articles[edit]


  1. ^ a b The Crimson Staff (June 5, 1997). "Eleven granted honorary degrees". The Harvard Crimson.
  2. ^ Hagen R (May 8, 2006). "Say how? A pronunciation guide to names of public figures". National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress. Retrieved September 26, 2009.
  3. ^ a b c Paulson T (March 9, 2006). "Carter hails UW's shy hero Foege. New building named for health leader is dedicated". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved September 26, 2009.
  4. ^ a b c d Kim JY (November 12, 2007). "America's best leaders. William H. Foege, physician. A lifelong battle against disease". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved September 26, 2009.
  5. ^ "President Obama honors William Foege, Emory professor emeritus, with prestigious award". Woodruff Health Sciences Center. May 29, 2012.
  6. ^ Murphy, Brett and Letitia Stein (October 6, 2020). ""It is a slaughter": Infectious disease icon asks CDC director to expose White House, orchestrate his own firing". USA Today. Retrieved October 7, 2020.
  7. ^ a b "William H. Foege to receive Public Welfare Medal, Academy's highest honor". National Academy of Sciences. January 26, 2005. Retrieved September 26, 2009.
  8. ^ a b Maynard S (October 7, 1998). "Families that work – an occasional series: Rev. William A. Foege's family never had much money, and never felt deprived". The News Tribune (Tacoma, Washington).
  9. ^ a b c Foege WH (October 2001). "The wonder that is global health" (PDF). Nat Med. 7 (10): 1095–6. doi:10.1038/nm1001-1095. PMID 11590422. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 16, 2011. Retrieved October 6, 2009.
  10. ^ a b "William Foege, Affiliate Professor, Epidemiology". University of Washington School of Public Health. Retrieved September 30, 2009.
  11. ^ "William H. Foege, MD, MPH, assumes APHA presidency". Am J Public Health. 76 (2): 208. 1986. doi:10.2105/AJPH.76.2.124.
  12. ^ Graham K, Heys S (December 12, 1985). "A global vision to save millions – William Foege wants all world's children immunized by 1990". The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution.
  13. ^ Weller TH (September 1963). "Questions of priority". N Engl J Med. 269 (13): 673–8. doi:10.1056/NEJM196309262691306. PMID 14050972.
  14. ^ http://depts.washington.edu/epidem/fac/facBio.shtml?Foege_William
  15. ^ Miller, Andy. "Decatur-based Task Force for Global Healthsaves children's lives". Retrieved September 14, 2016.
  16. ^ Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "William Foege, M.D., M.P.H". Retrieved September 26, 2009.
  17. ^ a b Emory University. "Emory Global Health Institute Advisory Board. William H. Foege, MD, MPH". Retrieved September 26, 2009.
  18. ^ Rollins School of Public Health. "William H. Foege". Archived from the original on June 13, 2010. Retrieved September 26, 2009.
  19. ^ a b The Carter Center. "William Foege, M.D., M.P.H". Retrieved September 26, 2009.
  20. ^ Parloff, Roger (April 7, 2016). "Theranos Adds Startlingly Well-Qualified Medical Board". Fortune. Retrieved April 14, 2016.
  21. ^ Holohan M (July 2006). "Bill Foege: Another mountain to climb". Lens: A New Way of Looking at Science. Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Retrieved September 30, 2009.
  22. ^ Paulson T (April 28, 2007). "David Foege, 1962–2007: Vashon mourns teacher's death". Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
  23. ^ Preston R (2003). The demon in the freezer. New York: Random House. p. 74. ISBN 0-345-46663-2.
  24. ^ Panem S (1988). The AIDS bureaucracy. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. p. 33. ISBN 0-674-01271-2.
  25. ^ "Board news". Pacific Lutheran Scene. Summer 1998. Retrieved September 29, 2009.
  26. ^ "Commencement moved venues, accomplished alum spoke". Pacific Lutheran University. May 17, 2006. Archived from the original on July 11, 2010. Retrieved September 29, 2009.
  27. ^ "Past Lilienfeld Awardees". American College of Epidemiology. Retrieved September 28, 2009.
  28. ^ "Fries Prize for Improving Health recipients". James F. and Sarah T. Fries Foundation. Retrieved September 28, 2009.
  29. ^ "Sedgwick Memorial Medal". American Public Health Association. Archived from the original on March 31, 2010. Retrieved September 28, 2009.
  30. ^ "Calderone prize. Past award recipients". Columbia Mailman School of Public Health. Retrieved September 28, 2009.[dead link]
  31. ^ "Research Report 1998" (PDF). London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 7, 2007. Retrieved September 28, 2009.
  32. ^ "Foege receives honorary doctorate, exhorts Class of 2000". Pacific Lutheran University Scene. Summer 2000.
  33. ^ "2001 Wittenberg Award recipient Dr. William Foege". The Luther Institute. Archived from the original on July 27, 2011. Retrieved September 28, 2009.
  34. ^ Strauss E (2001). "Mary Woodard Lasker Award for Public Service. Award description. William Foege". Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation. Retrieved September 26, 2009.
  35. ^ "C-E.A. Winslow Medal presented to William H. Foege October 28". Yale University. Archived from the original on July 14, 2012. Retrieved September 28, 2009.
  36. ^ "The Thomas Francis, Jr. Medal in Global Public Health. The 50th anniversary program – April 12, 2005". University of Michigan. April 12, 2005. Archived from the original on October 1, 2009. Retrieved September 26, 2009.
  37. ^ "Honorary degrees". Yale Bulletin & Calendar. June 10, 2005. Archived from the original on August 3, 2009. Retrieved September 29, 2009.
  38. ^ "Gold Medal Award". Sabin Vaccine Institute. Retrieved September 28, 2009.
  39. ^ Kabak V (November 1, 2006). "Public health school bestows top honor". The Harvard Crimson.
  40. ^ "Awards". National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. Archived from the original on July 13, 2010. Retrieved September 29, 2009.
  41. ^ "William H. Foege to receive Research!America Advocacy Award". Research!America. Retrieved September 28, 2009.
  42. ^ "CDC Foundation events". Retrieved September 30, 2009.
  43. ^ "Ivan Allen, Jr. Prize Recipients". Retrieved March 16, 2012.
  44. ^ "President Obama Names Presidential Medal Freedom Recipients". Retrieved April 30, 2012.
  45. ^ "Richard and Barbara Hansen Leadership Award and Distinguished Lecture". Retrieved October 24, 2012.

External links[edit]