Campus News

Dr. Michael Fiore '76 to Receive 2009 Common Good Award

Story posted March 31, 2009

Dr. Michael Fiore '76 has dedicated his career to addressing the dangers posed by tobacco. For his tireless efforts, Fiore has been selected by the Board of Trustees to receive the 2009 Common Good Award.

Mike Fiore150.jpg
Dr. Michael Fiore '76

Established on the occasion of the Bowdoin College Bicentennial, the Common Good Award honors those alumni who have demonstrated an extraordinary, profound and sustained commitment to the common good, in the interest of society, with conspicuous disregard for personal gain in wealth or status.

In the late 80s, as a new doctor in Madison, Wisconsin, Michael Fiore was working with a middle aged woman who smoked a pack of cigarettes a day, but had finally decided to quit because her first grandchild was on the way.

With Fiore's help, she did indeed kick the habit — only for doctors to find, just a few weeks later, a tumor the size of an orange in her lung. She died eight months later.

"It really drove home for me the personal tragedy of tobacco dependence in our society," Fiore says. "The story she shared with me — her struggles in overcoming tobacco struggles in the past — really highlighted for me the critical importance of having options for smokers who want to quit."

Her story deepened an interest in prevention that had been sparked a year earlier, when Fiore was working with then-Surgeon General C. Everett Koop at the U.S. Office on Smoking and Health, part of the Centers for Disease Control.

"It was then that I became really focused on tobacco with a passion that has carried me through my life since that time."

Now a professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin Medical School and director of the University of Wisconsin Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention, which he founded in 1992, Fiore has become a nationally recognized expert on tobacco.

He has written numerous articles, chapters, and books on cigarette smoking and was a co-author and consulting editor of Reducing Tobacco Use — A Report of the Surgeon General (2000). He served as chair of the panel that produced the United States Public Health Service Clinical Practice Guideline: Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence in 2008.

Fiore chaired the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Subcommittee on Tobacco Cessation of the Interagency Committee on Smoking and Health, which produced a comprehensive plan for promoting tobacco cessation in the United States. In July 2003, he was one of five national recipients of the Innovators in Combating Substance Abuse Award from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

His chief research and policy focus has been to develop strategies to prompt clinicians and health care systems to intervene with patients who use tobacco. As part of this effort, he spearheaded the concept of expanding the vital signs to include tobacco use status.

Fiore says his success is just one more example of the American Dream. His father grew up in Italy. Neither of his parents graduated from high school, but they emphasized that the way to make a difference in America was through education.

"That's why this award means so much to me, because I'm totally clear that the reason I've been able to succeed in my life professionally is because of Bowdoin," says Fiore.

"Bowdoin took a chance on a poor Boston kid who didn't have the most stellar high school resume, but some teachers felt had promise. Bowdoin provided scholarships and loans, which allowed me to attend the College. It also nurtured me during a difficult first year, when my high school education hadn't fully prepared me for the academic rigors of a place like Bowdoin. With that academic help, I quickly got up to speed, and then was able to thrive at Bowdoin. From there, I was able to successfully move on to medical school — Bowdoin fundamentally changed my life."

Fiore lives in Madison, Wis., with his wife Beth Jones Fiore. His son, Christopher Fiore Marotta, is a member of Bowdoin Class of 2009.

Common Good Award recipients personify the idea of the common good as set forth by Bowdoin's first president, Joseph McKeen. In his inaugural address on September 2, 1802, McKeen reminded his audience that, "It ought always to be remembered that literary institutions are founded and endowed for the common good and not for the private advantage of those who resort to them for education. It is not that they may be able to pass through life in an easy and reputable manner, but that their mental powers may be cultivated and improved for the benefit of society."

The Common Good Award will be presented Saturday, May 30, 2009, during Reunion Convocation.

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