On 40th Anniversary of Smallpox Eradication, Dr. William Foege Applies Lessons Learned to Current Pandemic Response

Task Force co-founder, William H. Foege, MD, MPH is an inspiration for all of The Task Force’s work. An epidemiologist by training, he was one of the architects of the successful smallpox eradication effort in the 1970s and served as executive director of The Task Force for 16 years, guiding the organization’s work to improve health equity and strengthen health systems.

This year, the official eradication of smallpox celebrated its 40th anniversary, maintaining its title as the only viral disease to be eradicated in humanity. Drawing on his experiences from 40 years ago, Foege reflects on lessons learned from eradicating a disease that was estimated to have killed 300 million people in the 20th century and what those lessons can teach health and government leaders during this coronavirus pandemic

This opinion piece was originally published in the Atlanta Journal Constitution on May 17, 2020.


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