Stories from the Field: What is your vision 200 years from now?

It’s impossible not to be moved by William Foege, MD, MPH, a leader in public health who continues to educate, motivate and challenge those who are searching for new solutions to complex global issues.  Last week at the Global Health Council’s annual meeting, Dr Foege spoke to individuals interested in pursuing careers in global health.  He chose to share lessons from his years of experience…. lessons we can all learn from.

  1. Preparation:  You cannot know everything in advance, public health combines multiple disciplines. Become a generalist and find a specialty that interests you.
  2. Possibilities: 10 years ago the options were few, now the possibilities are endless.
  3. Set your vision for 200 years from now: The Founding Fathers did not work on 4 year cycles; they planned for future generations – 200 years out. Think like them; create a vision that you can steer towards.
  4. Coalitions: Everything takes a coalition, and the key to its success is getting the vision right, describing the last mile and work towards it together.
  5. Always ask if there is another way, avoid centering on only one solution.
  6. Truly understand “Do No Harm”: know the impact of not doing something. Errors of Omission are equally important.
  7. Tenacity: is sometimes the only thing that will get you where you need to be.
  8. Global Health Equity: the measure of a civilization is how we treat each other.
  9. The need for optimism: keep pessimism out of your life and off your staff.

Dr Foege closed his thoughts with one from Gandhi: “People often become what they believe themselves to be”.  See yourself as a global health professional and you will become one.



Dr Foege is a Senior Fellow at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a professor emeritus in the Department of International Health at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health and serves on the Board of Directors for the Global Health Council.


The University of Washington has two of Dr Foege’s lectures available via podcasts:

“Global Health: A Voyage of Discovery.” Download lecture (34 minutes runtime, 16MB)

 “Global Health: Looking for Shortcuts.” Download lecture (58 minutes runtime, 27MB)

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