The Foege Fellows during their 10th anniversary reunion, their first meeting as a group.
Ayman El Sheikh's impact on health changed dramatically after studying at the Rollins School of Public Health. Before he enrolled, he worked as an electronics engineer with IBM and as an IT manager for Save the Children in Sudan. After graduating from the RSPH, El Sheikh returned to his homeland, where he helped the Carter Center set up a database to better track progress toward guinea worm eradication and secured a $15.8 million grant from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria to strengthen the nation's TB program. He now works in Namibia to ensure that 300,000 schoolchildren are receiving proper nutrition through the United Nations World Food Program.
El Sheikh (2005, Master of Public Health) is among the first students to benefit from the William H. Foege Fellowships in Global Health at Rollins. Now in its 10th year, the program has enabled 24 mid-career professionals from 22 countries to become more effective leaders in global health. For the first time this fall, 21 alumni and current fellows met at Rollins to share their successes and challenges during their 10th anniversary reunion. Deborah McFarland, director of the Foege Fellows Program, has mentored all of the fellows since the initiative began in 2003.
"You are the ones on the frontlines of public health," McFarland told the fellows. "We want you to use this meeting time to share the skills, philosophy, and values that drive the health decisions you make to enhance training for future generations of Foege Fellows."
Her comments echoed the sentiments of Bill Foege, the smallpox eradication pioneer and former CDC director for whom the fellowships are named. A decade ago, Melinda Gates was instrumental in creating the Foege fellowships by providing an endowment through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where Foege serves as a senior fellow. In 2012, the foundation provided another grant to increase the number of fellowships and sponsor a workshop.
"Through the centuries, there have always been shining lights—people who keep us on the right path in this complex world," said Foege, Presidential Distinguished Professor Emeritus of International Health at Rollins. "It's gratifying to see how you have changed lives and how people treat one another."
Also attending the workshop were top leaders from the CDC, the Carter Center, the Task Force for Global Health, CARE USA, and Emory, which nominate fellows for the program each year.
"A lot of what happens in public health happens because of the passion of a few people," said Patricia Simone, deputy director of the Center for Global Health at the CDC. "The Foege Fellows are part of that. You are changing the culture to address public health problems in a scientific way."