The University of Michigan awards the Thomas Francis, Jr. Medal in Global Public Health to individuals who have made significant contributions to the advancement of global public health. It is the highest recognition granted by the university.
The medal was founded in 2005 on the 50th anniversary of Dr. Francis’ historic announcement of the success of the polio vaccine trials.
‘Safe, effective and potent’
On April 12, 1955, the University of Michigan’s Thomas Francis Jr., announced that the Salk polio vaccine was up to 90 percent effective in preventing paralytic polio.
The world rejoiced in the announcement, made before a crowd of journalists and scientists at the University of Michigan’s Rackham Auditorium.
Dr. Francis was chair of the U-M School of Public Health Department of Epidemiology where Jonas Salk, his former student, did postgraduate training. Dr. Francis led two-year national field trials of the poliomyelitis vaccine, involving more 1,800,000 children. The trials were unprecedented in magnitude — and Dr. Francis’ announcement continues to resonate today as a monumental moment in human history.
Dr. Francis was a University of Michigan physician, virologist, and infectious disease researcher renowned for his work in the successful development, field trial, and evaluation of protective influenza vaccines. His work also included developing the first killed-virus flu vaccine.
Honoring achievement in global public health
- Major scientific discovery or invention
- Leadership in development, implementation, or promotion of effective public health policy
- Seminal support for the development or implementation of effective action that advances global public health
The Francis Medal’s selection committee is comprised of University of Michigan faculty, nationally distinguished public health scholars and advocates, and university leaders, evaluates nominated individuals and recommends a recipient.
The medal is accompanied by a monetary award of $50,000, and the recipient is asked to deliver a keynote address at a symposium on a major topic in world health.
The medal is given periodically to a recipient whose contributions have advanced global public health and helped to establish a healthier future for society.
The University presented the Thomas Francis, Jr. Medal in Global Public Health for the first time on April 12, 2005 to Dr. William Foege on the 50th anniversary of Francis’ historic announcement that the results of the polio vaccine trials had proven the Salk vaccine to be “safe, effective, and potent.” The medal was next given to Alfred Sommer in 2010 and Sir Fazle Hasan Abed in 2016. The medal will be given periodically to a recipient whose contributions have advanced global public health and helped to establish a healthier future for society.
2016 Recipient: Sir Fazle Hasan Abed
The University of Michigan awarded the Thomas Francis Jr. Medal in Global Public Health to Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, founder and chairperson of BRAC — a Bangladesh-based development organization that works to alleviate poverty by empowering the poor.
2010 Recipient: Alfred Sommer
The University of Michigan awarded the Thomas Francis Jr. Medal in Global Public Health to Alfred Sommer, whose research into vitamin A deficiency has saved millions of children from blindness and death.
2005 Recipient: William Foege
William Foege, the recipient of the first-ever Thomas Francis Jr. Medal in Global Public Health, pioneered a successful strategy to eradicate smallpox in the 1970s. Foege is the former director of the Carter Center and now senior advisor to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.