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Dr. William Foege To Receive A Presidential Medal of Freedom

He founded the Task Force for Global Health, which is based in Decatur.

Dr. William Foege, who helped eradicate smallpox and founded the Decatur-based Task Force for Global Health, will be awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Foege, former executive director of the Carter Center, is one of 13 people who will receive the nation's highest civilian honor. Singer and songwriter Bob Dylan, novelist Toni Morirson and former astronaut and senator John Glenn were also named.

The Task Force for Global Health has offices at 325 Swanton Way in Decatur, not far from the city police station.

The organization dedicated an expansion of the building on Thursday in an event attended by Rosalynn Carter and other dignitaries.

According to the Saporta Report, Decatur Mayor Bill Floyd spoke to the crowd and said he was happy to have the task force in the city.

When he attended the ground-breaking of the addition of the Task Force building last year, Floyd admitted that he knew little about the Task Force. Now, as he has become more aware of the extensive work that the Task Force does to help treat diseases around the world, Floyd told the nonprofit’s leaders: “You have me feel totally inadequate in my life and what I do. The more I learn, the inadequate I feel.”

Then, in all seriousness, Floyd said: “Thank you for what you do. You have made a difference in people’s lives around the world. I want to thank you for picking Decatur and helping us inadequate people be part of what you do.”

The White House explained why Foege was chosen:

A physician and epidemiologist, Foege helped lead the successful campaign to eradicate smallpox in the 1970s.  He was appointed Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 1977 and, with colleagues, founded the Task Force for Child Survival in 1984.  Foege became Executive Director of The Carter Center in 1986 and continues to serve the organization as a Senior Fellow. 

He helped shape the global health work of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and 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.

Foege is also professor emeritus in the Rollins School of Public Health.

Go to the White House website to see a full list of winners.


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