Dr. William H. Foege Receives Lifetime Achievement Award

November 20, 2019

William H. Foege, MD, MPH, Emory Emeritus Presidential Distinguished Professor of International Health, received a lifetime achievement award for his work surrounding disease eradication during the REACH Awards at the Reaching the Last Mile Forum in Abu Dhabi on November 19.

Established by the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, the biennial REACH Awards (Recognizing Excellence around Champions of Health) acknowledge those who have demonstrated extraordinary leadership and commitment in the field of disease elimination. Awards were presented on stage by Bill Gates, co-chairman of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“I want to thank His Highness for his leadership and for acknowledging the important milestone we are approaching as we near the 40th anniversary of the eradication of smallpox,” says Foege, who delivered his acceptance over video. “We have the opportunity to rewrite history and prevent suffering before it happens. This award is more than a recognition of past work; it is also an acknowledgement of the global genius cluster that is working together toward a brighter future for all. The work is urgent and our goal is aspirational – I hope one day this period will be known for forever improving the fate of all humankind." 

Foege is credited with developing the global strategy that led to the eradication of smallpox. His various leadership roles over the years include: director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), executive director of The Carter Center, and senior medical advisor for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. He co-founded The Task Force for Child Survival (now known as the Task Force for Global Health). He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in 2012.

The Reaching the Last Mile Forum convenes global health leaders to share insights and best practices on how to map out, eliminate, and eradicate infectious diseases. This year’s forum brought together more than 250 public health leaders under the theme, “Accelerating the Pace,” and featured a range of speakers including Gates; Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization; and Dr. Robert R. Redfield, director of the CDC.

At the first Reaching the Last Mile Forum in 2017, the Lifetime Achievement Award was awarded to President Jimmy Carter in recognition of the work being done at the Carter Center in the fight to eliminate Guinea worm disease.