Dr. Bill Foege on the Practice of Leadership in Public Health

by Ed Baker, MSc, MD, MPH


Drawing upon the popular column published in the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice, Management Moments with Public Health Leaders is a series appearing monthly on JPHMP Direct and will consist of video interviews with authors appearing in the column.

When I think of public health leaders whom I most respect and admire, my mind turns to Dr. Bill Foege, former CDC director, recipient of the Congressional Medal of Freedom, and chief architect of the Smallpox Eradication Program. In this interview, which I conducted at the Task Force for Global Health in 2018, Dr. Foege shared his wisdom and insights regarding the practice of public health leadership including:

  • Early life experiences which shaped his approach to leadership practice
  • Building a leadership team and trusting those on the team
  • Developing leadership skills including the necessity of seeking out mentors
  • Developing a life philosophy
  • Learning from mistakes

For each topic, Dr. Foege provides interesting and inspiring stories and reflections based on decades of leadership experience at the highest levels of public health practice. These memorable words of wisdom can serve as guideposts for aspiring leaders and for those further along the path. I highly recommend that you spend a few minutes with Dr. Foege. I expect that you will enjoy the experience and come away inspired on your journey as a public health leader.

Watch the interview at the Task Force Leadership Institute and then come back and leave your response to the following questions:

  1. What insights or concepts from the interview particularly resonated with you?
  2. How might you incorporate something that Dr. Foege shared into your own practice of leadership in public health?

Click to watch the interview at the Task Force Leadership Institute.

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Read other posts in this series:


Being Better Messengers

Ed Baker, MSc, MD, MPH

Dr. Edward L. Baker, a former Assistant Surgeon General in the US Public Health Service and former Director of CDC’s Public Health Practice Program Office, currently serves as Adjunct Professor at UNC and Harvard. He teaches a course on the theory and practice of leadership in the School of Public Health’s DrPH program and an online course on Designing and Managing Public Health Information Systems through the Public Health Informatics Institute in Atlanta. [Full bio.]