William Foege, ’61, has left his mark on public health

Those of us born before 1971 carry a small scar, usually on our upper arm, that is the indelible mark of smallpox. When young, we were inoculated with the smallpox vaccine; a lasting mark designates that spot.

Our children, and those of the rest of the world, are scarless. They don’t need the vaccine because smallpox no longer exists on the planet, save for some microbes inside test tubes in a medical lab. One of the success stories of 20th century medicine is the global eradication of smallpox. One of the contributors to that achievement, Dr. William Foege, took his first steps on the path to global eradication when he attended the UW medical school in the late 1950s.

Like a smallpox scar, a good education can last for life. Put into contact with what he calls “a stable of stars unlike any medical school in those days,” Foege, ’61, carried that knowledge to Africa, where he came up with a new way of vaccinating mass populations.

Foege is not alone in his praise of a UW education. In March, U.S. News and World Report ranked the medical school and three other UW graduate programs among the top 10 in the nation. Closer to home, alumni and students have praised their professors and TAs for the lasting impression made on their lives. We carry brief profiles of four faculty, two TAs and three public servants in our “Best of 1994” article.

Speaking of the best, we also have one of the top trauma centers in the nation at Harborview, one of the UW’s two teaching hospitals. But the trauma center doctors and staff would like to work less—they are seeing too many cases resulting from our violence “epidemic.” In the article “In the Line of Fire,” they offer some public health solutions to the violence scourge that scars our society.

Another scourge that leaves scars in our society is racism. Sometimes an unintentional remark or thoughtless insensitivity can leave a lasting mark. For the cover story “In Living Color,” we interviewed six African-­American alumni about their good and bad experiences at the UW. Though somewhat scarred, they have inspiring stories to tell.