Is Bill Foege.
This may sound like a personal opinion but it is, in fact, an informed, journalistic and observational if slightly gestalt statement of reality … insofar as I can tell.
I’ve covered global health as a journalist now for as long as it’s been a popular phrase and I would argue — with anyone, Bill Gates, Bono or Jimmy Carter if need be — that Bill Foege is probably the single most important person in global health.
The reason he has been so influential is the same reason so many people don’t seem to know who he is — or if you do know of him, how to pronounce his name.
It’s Fay-Ghee. Not Fogey. Or Foje.
You should know his name because he’s the guy who figured out the strategy that rid the world of smallpox — so far the only human disease ever eradicated. Foege is credited by Bill and Melinda Gates for helping craft their global health mission — a mission that now, arguably, sets the agenda for international health.
He was the head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, appointed by President Jimmy Carter and stayed on for the first part of the Reagan Administration when the AIDS epidemic first emerged. His career in global health started half a century ago, when he and his wife Paula moved to Nigeria where he worked as a medical missionary.