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35 Who Made a Difference: Bill Gates

The king of software takes on his biggest challenge yet

The foundation is also helping The Carter Center to realize the goal of eliminating river blindness disease from Latin America in this decade. River blindness is caused by parasites left by the bites of small black flies that breed in rapidly flowing streams; the parasites infect a victim's eyes, often leading to blindness.

In this case, medicine is the answer. We've determined that treating 85 percent of the half-million people at risk in the Americas with semiannual doses of ivermectin will halt transmission of the disease.

Bill likes the payoff from this initiative. But I would hate to imply that it's only Bill's intellect and business sensibilities that drive his philanthropy. It's his heart. "I believe the death of a child in the developing world is just as tragic as the death of a child in the developed world," I've heard him say. And if we can make sure that all people, no matter what country they live in, have the preventive care, vaccines and treatments they need to live a healthy life, he says, "it will be the best thing humanity has ever done." He adds: "I believe we can do this."

Bill and Melinda's foundation has set a major change in motion, elevating the potential of public health research and policy to improve life on earth. It has energized research into global health, made that work a credible career choice and attracted politicians to the cause. Perhaps most important, the confidence Bill has brought to the field has stimulated much more funding. As a result, we can see a day when sufficient resources are applied to global health to prevent the suffering and deaths of tens of millions of people.

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