Working parents juggle a lot. Single working parents juggle so much, they tire of answering the question everyone always asks: “How on earth do you…
When you ponder the accomplishments of the man credited with ridding the world of smallpox, you might wonder where his path to success began.
In an essay he wrote years ago, epidemiologist William Foege said his interest in science took root at age 13 when we worked in a small-town drug store in Eastern Washington. After college, he earned a medical degree, working after school and on weekends at Seattle-King County’s public health department. He developed a fascination with infectious diseases, and later got his master’s in public health.
One challenge, one achievement at a time, Foege’s many contributions to the world of health sciences led him to the White House this week, where he was awarded the Medal of Freedom alongside folk legend Bob Dylan, novelist Toni Morrison, former Secretary of State Madeliene Albright and others.
President Obama hailed him as a leader in “one of medicine’s greatest success stories.” (Watch Obama rave about Foege, getting some laughs when telling a story about a Nigerian village chief who once called the scientist “the tallest man in the world.”)
Pacific Lutheran University, where Foege earned his undergraduate degree in biology (with a minor in chemistry), shared these inspiring, one-step-at-a-time words of wisdom from the president:
“No one picks up a guitar or fights a disease and thinks, ‘In 2012, I’m getting an award from Barack Obama.’” Nor does it take only extraordinary talent or drive, he added. But the award is given for the incredible impact each of the recipients have had on so many people, Obama said.
“And not in short bursts, but in a steady pace over a lifetime,” he said. “Some are household names and others have labored out of the public eye. This is one more accolade for a life well lived.”
And you never know: If public health fascinates you, maybe you’ll be on that Medal of Freedom stage someday.
Photo credit: Tom Paulson/Humanosphere