HSPH Symposium Honors Thomas A. Weller, Awards William H. Foege With Inaugural Prize

William H. Foege, a senior fellow in the Global Health Program at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, was awarded the inaugural Thomas H. Weller Prize yesterday at the “Ancient Diseases, Modern Killers: The Eradication of Infectious Disease” symposium sponsored by the Harvard School of Public Health.

A graduate of the School of Public Health, Foege is an epidemiologist who was involved in the campaign to eradicate smallpox in the 1970s. He was later awarded an honorary degree from the University in 1997.

“Bill has had an industrious career,” said School of Public Health Dean Julio Frenk, who presented Foege with the award. “[He] exemplifies how leaders can make enormous contributions in global health...his career has truly been an inspiration to many, including myself.”

Weller, the award’s namesake and the symposium’s honoree, was a physician and virologist who won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1954 for his work in tissue-culture research, which led to the development of vaccines for polio, chicken pox, measles, and other viral diseases. Weller died in 2008.

The symposium featured a presentation on “The Unfinished Agenda of Infectious Diseases” by Barry R. Bloom, professor of public health and former dean of the School of Public Health, as well as a panel discussion about the eradication of infectious diseases.

In his acceptance speech, Foege said he thought the symposium was notable in covering not only the science of infectious diseases, but also the greater social implications of disease and the spirit of Weller’s work.

“I’m pleased to have been a mentee of Tom Weller,” he said. “I’m pleased to have been able to been a part of this moment, and I’m pleased that you’re keeping Tom’s contribution flowing on forever.”

—Staff writer Xi Yu can be reached at xyu@college.harvard.edu.

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