WHO director-general to receive Thomas Francis Jr. Medal at U-M

March 9, 2023

The University of Michigan will award Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, the Thomas Francis Jr. Medal in Global Public Health March 13.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization.

Tedros, the first African and first nonphysician director-general of WHO, led the global public health organization through the COVID-19 pandemic. He will engage with the campus community at various events throughout the day, including a student poster session to showcase global health work and a panel discussion with public health experts from other universities.

The medal ceremony will take place 3:30-5 p.m. in Robertson Auditorium and Lobby at the Ross School of Business. A keynote speech will be delivered by Tedros followed by a panel discussion of guests and faculty highlighting collective action for a healthier world. The event is currently at capacity but will be livestreamed.

“We are so grateful to Dr. Tedros for his compassion and commitment to preventing disease, improving health and equity, and lifting those in need,” said U-M President Santa Ono. “We share that dedication to serving society through excellence in research and education.”

Named after renowned U-M virologist and infectious disease expert Thomas Francis Jr., the medal comes with a $50,000 award and is one of the university’s highest honors. It recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to the advancement of global health.

Three years into the COVID-19 pandemic, as the world still faces considerable public health challenges including monkeypox and the recent resurgence of polio, the acknowledgement of robust global public health efforts is as important as ever, said U-M’s School of Public Health Dean DuBois Bowman, who chaired the selection committee.

Born in Eritrea, Tedros was first elected as WHO director-general in 2017 and reelected for a second term in May 2022. Before joining WHO, he served as minister of foreign affairs in Ethiopia and, previously, as minister of health. In these roles, he developed a health care workforce strategy considered transformational for the country and was involved in global health initiatives related to HIV, tuberculosis and malaria.

Previous medal recipients include Sir Fazle Hasan Abed (2016), Alfred Sommer (2010) and William Foege (2005).