William Herbert Foege[2] M.D., M.P.H. (/ˈfeɪɡiː/;[4] born 1936 in Decorah, Iowa[4]) is an American epidemiologist who is credited with "devising the global strategy that led to the eradication of smallpox in the late 1970s".[5]

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

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.[7]

Early life

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

In his younger days he was inspired by the life of his uncle, a Lutheran missionary to New Guinea. 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.[55] When a teenager he expressed a desire to practice medicine in Africa.


Foege received a B.A. from Pacific Lutheran University in 1957.[11] 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.[55] 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.[56] 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,[58] Foege entered the Master of Public Health program at the Harvard School of Public Health where he studied with Weller.[55] He received his M.P.H. in 1965.[11]


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.[16]

He has held various positions during his career:

Personal life

Also known as "Bill Foege," he is noted for his height of 6 feet 7 inches (2.01 m).[5][4] Foege and his wife Paula had three sons, the eldest of whom died in 2007.[23] He has been described as a "religious man";[4][4] between 1997 and 2006 he served on the Board of Regents of Pacific Lutheran University.[4][4]

Awards and honors

Selected publications

Books and book chapters

  • Foege WH, Amler RW (1987). "Introduction and methods". In Amler RW, Dull HB. Closing the gap: the burden of unnecessary illness. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-505483-0. OCLC . 
  • 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 . 
  • Ross DA, Hinman AR, Saarlas K, Foege WH (2003). "Foreword". In O'Carroll PW, et al. Public health informatics and information systems. Berlin: Springer. pp. v–vii. ISBN 0-387-95474-0. OCLC . 
  • Foege WH; et al., eds. (2005). Global health leadership and management. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. ISBN 0-7879-7153-7. OCLC . 
  • Foege WH (June 2011). House on Fire: The Fight to Eradicate Smallpox. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-26836-4. 

Journal articles

  • Foege WH, Millar JD, Lane JM (October 1971). "Selective epidemiologic control in smallpox eradication". Am J Epidemiol. 94 (4): 311–5. PMID . 
  • Foster SO, Brink EW, Hutchins DL, Pifer JM, Lourie B, Moser CR, Cummings EC, Kuteyi OE, Eke RE, Titus JB, Smith EA, Hicks JW, Foege WH (1972). . Bull World Health Organ. 46 (5): 569–76. PMC Freely accessible. PMID . 
  • Ruben FL, Smith EA, Foster SO, Casey HL, Pifer JM, Wallace RB, Atta AI, Jones WL, Arnold RB, Teller BE, Shaikh ZQ, Lourie B, Eddins DL, Doko SM, Foege WH (1973). . Bull World Health Organ. 48 (2): 175–81. PMC Freely accessible. PMID . 
  • Henderson RH, Davis H, Eddins DL, Foege WH (1973). . Bull World Health Organ. 48 (2): 183–94. PMC Freely accessible. PMID . 
  • Foege WH, Millar JD, Henderson DA (1975). . Bull World Health Organ. 52 (2): 209–22. PMC Freely accessible. PMID . 
  • Ravenholt RT, Foege WH (October 1982). "1918 influenza, encephalitis lethargica, parkinsonism". Lancet. 2 (8303): 860–4. doi:. PMID . 
  • Foege WH, Amler RW, White CC (September 1985). "Closing the gap. Report of the Carter Center Health Policy Consultation". JAMA. 254 (10): 1355–8. doi:. PMID . 
  • Hinman AR, Foege WH, de Quadros CA, Patriarca PA, Orenstein WA, Brink EW (1987). . Bull World Health Organ. 65 (6): 835–40. PMC Freely accessible. PMID . 
  • McGinnis JM, Foege WH (November 1993). "Actual causes of death in the United States". JAMA. 270 (18): 2207–12. doi:. PMID . 
  • McGinnis JM, Foege WH (Mar–Apr 1999). "Mortality and morbidity attributable to use of addictive substances in the United States". Proc Assoc Am Physicians. 111 (2): 109–18. doi:. PMID . 
  • Foege W (April 2002). . J Nutr. 132 (4 Suppl): 790S–3S. PMID . 
  • Foege WH (March 5, 2003). . MedGenMed. 5 (1): 11. PMID . 
  • Foege WH (December 18, 2003). . MedGenMed. 5 (4): 34. PMID . 
  • McGinnis JM, Foege WH (March 2004). . JAMA. 291 (10): 1263–4. doi:. PMID . 
  • Foege WH (Winter 2004). "Redefining public health". J Law Med Ethics. 32 (4 Suppl): 23–6. doi:. PMID .