Column: Global health pioneer Bill Foege to get Ga. Tech’s Ivan Allen prize March 15

By Maria Saporta
Friday, March 9, 2012

When William Foege receives Georgia Tech’s Ivan Allen Jr. Prize in Social Courage on March 15, it will accomplish two important goals.

It will shine the spotlight on a relatively unknown Atlanta leader who has had a tremendous impact on saving lives across the world.

And it will help reinforce Atlanta’s role as a nexus for global health.

Foege currently is a senior fellow at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
In 1977, then-President Jimmy Carter appointed him to be director of the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He also has had leadership roles at the Carter Center and was a co-founder of the Decatur-based Task Force for Global Health (formerly called the Task Force for Child Survival).

During his various roles over a 60-year career, Foege led the effort to eradicate small pox; guided the early response to the HIV/AIDS crisis; oversaw the eradication of Guinea worm disease, polio and measles as well as river blindness.

Foege’s “courage to do the right thing and his steadfastness, sometimes in the face of staunch opposition, has saved millions of lives and reshaped the global dialogue about what is possible in health and social progress,” said Jacqueline Royster, dean of Georgia Tech’s Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts, which awards the $100,000 prize. (The prize is supported in perpetuity through a gift from the Wilbur and Hilda Glenn Family Foundation).

“In 1988, it was Bill Foege who first articulated a vision that is now becoming known. He said Atlanta is destined to be the global center for public health,” said Bill Todd, professor at Georgia Tech’s College of Management who nominated Foege for the Ivan Allen prize. “He is generally regarded as the man who eradicated small pox. When he was director at the CDC, he showed character and the courage of doing the right thing about AIDS.”

Joe Bankoff, president of the Woodruff Arts Center, who chaired the selection committee for the Ivan Allen Prize, said the choice of Foege may have been unusual because he has never been in the public limelight.
“Dr. Foege is someone who has not sought publicity and someone who has not been in the public eye,” Bankoff said. “But he has had the courage of someone who has made a real difference in the world.”

Pete McTier, retired president of the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation, who also served on the selection committee, said Foege stood out because of his “humanitarian nature” and the impact he has had in the world and Atlanta

“Bill Foege was a leading figure in the evolution of Atlanta becoming the global capital for public health,” McTier said.

Although Atlanta is the home of the CDC, the Carter Center, Emory University’s School for Public Health, CARE, the American Cancer Society, the Task Force for Global Health and other organizations, the city has not leveraged its role as a center for public health.

“This is a seminal moment in Atlanta’s history,” Todd said.

Boys & Girls Clubs

A pilot program to focus on academic success at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta is showing significant results.

The pilot program — implemented at four of the organization’s 25 clubs — was made possible by a three-year, $4.4 million grant from the Joseph B. Whitehead Foundation in 2010.

An in-depth study of one of the programs showed that children who received academic support from staff and volunteers three times or more per week did significantly better in school.

There was an 80 percent improvement in their reading scores, a 75 percent improvement in their language arts scores and an 82 percent improvement in math scores.

“It has exceeded my expectations, and my expectations were really high,” said Bill Rogers, CEO of SunTrust Banks Inc. and the organization’s new board chair. “We are much more strategic about what we want to do. We want 90 percent of the kids we serve to graduate from high school and to graduate on time.”

Rogers has been involved with Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta for about 20 years.

Because of the success of the academic pilot program, BGCMA eventually would like to roll out the program to all of its 25 clubs, according to Missy Dugan, the organization’s president and CEO.

The UPS Foundation has given the organization a $100,000 grant for the program, according to Ken Sternad, the foundation’s president who is retiring March 9. That is coupled with UPS employees who volunteer in the clubs. Other major donors have been Georgia Power and Ernst & Young.

Because Atlanta also is the home of the national Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Dugan said the program has also become a national pilot.

Synovus CEO speaks to Rotary

Neal Purcell painted a dismal financial picture for banking when he introduced Columbus-based Synovus CEO Kessel Stelling to the Rotary Club of Atlanta March 5.

Purcell serves on Synovus’ board. Fortunately, Stelling said that after several difficult years, Synovus had enjoyed a couple of profitable quarters. Still Synovus has its challenges. It still needs to repay the federal government $1 billion in TARP money.

Stelling said Georgia’s financial institutions, including Synovus, got in trouble for over-investing in real estate. Georgia has been leading the country in the number of bank failures.

Toward the end of his talk, Stelling said more tough times are on the horizon for the state’s banking industry.

“There will be more bank failures in Georgia,” he said.

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