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Profile: Dr. William Foege

"I can think of no other human endeavour that has as dramatic, deep and positive a legacy as does immunization."

-- Dr. William Foege
in The Progress of Nations 2000

Dr. William Foege has played a key role in many of the major important public health advances of the 20th century, including the eradication of smallpox, successful attacks on Guinea worm disease and river blindness, and the creation of a model for improving nutrition in developing countries.

A medical doctor and a public health specialist, Dr. Foege is currently dedicating himself to the global need to immunize children against disease. "We're using inexpensive tools but we have a great impact on the health of people in the world, " he says. He serves as Senior Adviser to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has committed $1 billion to providing vaccinations for all children -- particularly those in developing nations -- in part through the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI). The GAVI partners include UNICEF, WHO, the World Bank, the Rockefeller Foundation, industry, national governments and the private sector.

In 1997, Dr. Foege joined the faculty of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, where he is the Presidential Distinguished Professor of International Health at the Rollins School of Public Health.

In the 1960s, while working as an epidemiologist in Africa and faced with a critical shortage of vaccines, he came up with a strategy to eradicate smallpox. And during his leadership as Director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from 1977 to 1983, smallpox was eradicated worldwide.

In 1984, UNICEF, other international organizations and the Rockefeller Foundation collaborated with Dr. Foege to form the working group now known as the Task Force for Child Survival and Development, with the aim of accelerating childhood immunization. Dr. Foege was its Executive Director until 1999 and continues to serve as Principal Investigator on grants awarded. From 1986 to1992, Dr. Foege was Executive Director of the Carter Center in Atlanta.

A graduate of Pacific Lutheran College in the state of Washington, Dr. Foege completed his medical degree at the University of Washington. In 1965, he earned a master's degree in public health from Harvard University.

Dr. Foege has received the WHO Health for All medal, an award from the Healthtrac Foundation and the Calderone Prize. He holds honorary degrees from 10 institutions, including Harvard University, and was named a Fellow of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. He is the author of more than 125 professional publications and yet finds time to lecture on domestic and international public health policy. Dr. Foege says, "I firmly believe that ours is a cause-and-effect world. It is the driving force in public health. You do these things because it is actually possible to change the world."

Bill Foege talks about immunization. Click on a question, to view the video answer. You will need the RealPlayer, available from Real Networks.

Why are you devoting so much of your attention to immunization?

What are the biggest problems in childhood immunization today?

What is the role of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) in making immunization less costly and more effective for all children?

What's your hope for the future of immunization?

Bill Foege speaks out on immunization

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