In May, President Obama awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor given to an American civilian, to epidemiologist and UW Medicine alumnus William H. (Bill) Foege, M.D. ’61. Foege, 76, is credited with devising the global strategy that led to the eradication of smallpox in the 1970s. A former director of the Centers for Disease Control, Foege is now an affiliate professor in the UW School of Public Health and a senior fellow at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
In a recent interview with Columns, the University of Washington’s alumni magazine, Foege reaffirmed several core beliefs: that global health requires optimism and hope; that there is reason for optimism — “we keep improving what’s possible,” he says — and that humanity and healthcare are synonymous. “We should always remember that there are faces behind the graphs and numbers,” says Foege. “We can’t become blind to why we do this work.”