University of Michigan
Advancing Global Public Health

"Epidemiology must constantly seek imaginative
and ingenious teachers and scholars to create
a new genre of medical ecologists who, with both
the fine sensitivity of the scientific artist,
and the broad perception of the community sculptor,
can interpret the interplay of forces which result in disease."

—Thomas Francis, Jr.

Selection Advisory Committee (for second recipient) How to Nominate


About the Medal

The Thomas Francis, Jr. Medal in Global Public Health will be awarded to individuals who have contributed to the significant advancement of global public health through:

  • Major scientific discovery or invention.
  • Leadership in development, implementation, or promotion of effective public health policy, nationally or internationally.
  • Seminal support for the development or implementation of effective action that advances global public health.
  • Distinguished service in the promotion of global public health.

The medal will be awarded once every three to five years. The medal recipient will be asked to deliver the keynote address at a symposium on a major topic in world health.

The medal will be accompanied by a grant of $50,000 for support of efforts to advance global public health.

Thomas Francis, Jr.

Dr. Thomas Francis, Jr., University of Michigan director of the Poliomyelitis Vaccine Evaluation Center and the founding chair of epidemiology in the School of Public Health, directed the field studies of the Salk polio vaccine, developed by Dr. Jonas Salk and his team at the University of Pittsburgh. Salk studied under Francis as a graduate student at the University of Michigan.

Francis designed and led an unprecedented $17.5 million nationwide field trial to test the vaccine. Conducted by a staff of more than 100 people from the University of Michigan, the year-long trial involved 1.8 million children in the U.S., Canada, and Finland and an enormous network of community volunteers. The results of the study were announced in Rackham Auditorium of the University of Michigan on April 12, 1955, and signaled an era of hope and success in combating infectious diseases and, more broadly, in the development of large-scale efforts for the good of society.

Francis is also remembered for first isolating influenza virus and for developing the first killed-virus flu vaccine—the technology still used in flu shots. Salk’s polio vaccine employs the same approach as Francis’ flu shot to develop immunity. Francis also mentored John Maassab, who, as a U-M epidemiology professor, developed the technology behind the nasal spray flu vaccine, employing attenuated live flu virus.

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. 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.

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