Dr. David Satcher to Receive 2021 Fries Prize for Improving Health

Satcher Honored for Championing Health Equity and Commitment to Eliminating Health Disparities

October 25, 2021 at 10:30 AM ET - View Livestream

ATLANTA — David Satcher, MD, PhD, 16th U.S. surgeon general, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and founder of the Satcher Health Leadership Institute, today received the 2021 Fries Prize for Improving Health. Satcher was honored for his outstanding achievements and lifetime commitment to eliminating health disparities and championing health equity for all.

The Fries Prize for Improving Health award was presented this morning at the American Public Health Association’s (APHA) annual meeting, which is taking place in Denver, CO. The award recognizes an individual who has made major accomplishments in health improvement with emphasis on recent contributions to health in the United States. It is intended for an individual who has done the most to improve health for the greatest number of people. The Fries Prize for Improving Health award is $60,000.

“Dr. Satcher’s teaching, and achievements have been inspiring to thousands of Americans who have learned from him and whose lives have been impacted by his work,” stated Regina Benjamin, MD, 18th U.S. surgeon general, one of his former students who helped champion Satcher’s nomination for the Fries Prize. “His career has raised awareness and affected system change to help eliminate health disparities and achieve health equity in the United States and globally.”

Throughout Satcher’s career he has held firm to eliminating health disparities throughout the United States, and this focus is evident in his public health leadership roles. He served as the 16th U.S. surgeon general from 1998 to 2002 while also serving as the 10th assistant secretary for health in the Department of Health and Human Services, making him only the second person in history to have held both positions simultaneously.

During his time as U.S. Surgeon General, health disparities in tobacco use and access to mental health services by race and ethnicity came to the forefront. The Office of the Surgeon General released 14 reports focused on issues such as tobacco and health, mental health, suicide prevention, oral health, sexual health, youth violence prevention, overweight and obesity, and the health of persons with intellectual disabilities.

Satcher led the department’s effort to eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in health, an initiative that was incorporated as one of the two major goals of Healthy People 2010. In May 2000, Satcher briefed members of Congress on health disparities and endorsed the Minority Health and Health Disparities Research and Education Act of 2000, which led to the establishment of the Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) program CDC.

His tenure of public service includes serving as director of CDC from 1993 to 1998 and Administrator of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. During his time at CDC, he spearheaded initiatives that have increased childhood immunization rates, upgraded the nation's capability to respond to emerging infectious diseases and laid the groundwork for a new Early Warning System to detect and prevent food-borne illnesses.

In 2006, Satcher founded the Satcher Health Leadership Institute (SHLI) at the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta and is currently a senior advisor there. SHLI’s mission is to create systemic change at the intersection of policy and equity by focusing on three priority areas: the political determinants of health, health system transformation and mental and behavioral health.

“Dr. Satcher’s commitment to eliminating health disparities has been an inspiration to us all. His leadership and research have created a strong foundation for our journey moving forward to make health equity a reality. We are delighted to award him the Fries Prize for Improving Health,” said Judith Monroe, MD, president and CEO of the CDC Foundation.

Satcher has held top leadership positions at the Charles R. Drew University for Medicine and Science, Meharry Medical College, and the Morehouse School of Medicine. He has been a Macy Foundation Fellow, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholar and a senior visiting fellow of the Kaiser Family Foundation. In 2005, Satcher was appointed to serve on the World Health Organization (WHO) Commission on Social Determinants of Health.

He has received over 50 honorary degrees and numerous distinguished honors including top awards from the National Medical Association, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the Ronald Davis Special Recognition Award from the American College of Preventive Medicine, and the Symbol of H.O.P.E. Award for health promotion and disease prevention. Satcher received the Benjamin E. Mays Trailblazer Award and the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Humanitarian Award for contributions to the health of humankind from the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.

Satcher is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Morehouse College and received his MD and PhD in cell biology from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

The James F. and Sarah T. Fries Foundation is a nonprofit corporation incorporated in 1991. The mission of the foundation is to identify and honor individuals, organizations or institutions, which have made great contributions to the health of the public. The foundation seeks to reward accomplishment rather than promise, practicality rather than theory.

The CDC Foundation is honored to partner with the James F. and Sarah T. Fries Foundation, which established and funds the award. As of 2016, the CDC Foundation manages and administers the Fries Foundation’s public health award programs, which include the Fries Prize for Improving Health and the Elizabeth Fries Health Education Award.

About the CDC Foundation

The CDC Foundation helps the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) save and improve lives by unleashing the power of collaboration between CDC, philanthropies, corporations, organizations and individuals to protect the health, safety and security of America and the world. The CDC Foundation is the go-to nonprofit authorized by Congress to mobilize philanthropic partners and private-sector resources to support CDC’s critical health protection mission. Since 1995, the CDC Foundation has raised over $1.6 billion and launched more than 1,200 programs impacting a variety of health threats from chronic disease conditions including cardiovascular disease and cancer, to infectious diseases like rotavirus and HIV, to emergency responses, including COVID-19 and Ebola. The CDC Foundation managed hundreds of CDC-led programs in the United States and in more than 140 countries last year. Learn more at www.cdcfoundation.org and follow the Foundation on TwitterFacebookLinkedIn, Instagram and TikTok.


Amy Tolchinsky