PNWU’s Dr. Kimberly Taylor Presents at Columbia University Seminar on Pollution and Water Resources

Taylor, Kim Color.jpgThe University Seminars were begun at Columbia University in 1945 by Frank Tannenbaum, a Columbia Professor.  This academic year marks the 74th year for the University Seminars which have maintained the mission since their founding to “transcend and enrich the departmental disciplines on which great universities thrive. Each seminar brings scholars and practitioners together to work on a particular problem or body of thought. Seminars include members from multiple academic departments, and non-Columbia members who link Columbia with the intellectual resources of the surrounding communities. Seminars admit their own members, non-Columbia associates, and guests by invitation. Participation is voluntary and unpaid.”

There are 90 Seminar topic areas with around 3,000 members worldwide. I was appointed an Associate Faculty member of the University Seminars on Pollution and Water Resources in 1997 by Chair of that Seminar Division, Dr. George Halasi-Kun. 

Dr. Halasi-Kun was my mentor during my Ph.D. graduate studies in Hungary in the 1990’s. He was the founder of the Pollution and Water Resources Seminar Division in 1967 – a division whose founding was urged by the 36th President of the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson – and remained Chair until his passing in 2011.  I was invited in the spring of 2017 to specifically present this upcoming Seminar by the current Chair, Dr. Richard LoPinto.

The overall focus of the presentation is a review of one of the research projects conducted during the summer of 2017 in the Division of Microbiology lab entitled “U.S. Trends in Water-Related Infectious Disease Rates Correlated to Climate Change Process,” in which a group of four second – year PNWU students (Mandy Kaur, Lana Dashkevych, Wiley Harkens, and Shahrzad Dow) conducted narrative review research on qualitative and quantitative elements of infectious disease (on the individual microbial level) whose rates could be affected by climate change process in the United States. 

The goal of the presentation is to increase awareness of water-related infectious disease in the United States as alterations in atmospheric chemistry continue.  Awareness leads to preventive measures taken by members of society, as well as timely and accurate diagnosis of diseases that do not present as regularly in certain geographic areas of the United States. The effects on human health (from an infection standpoint) that are predicted via mathematical modeling of climate could be mitigated to some degree in every instance if altered human behavior occurs; a fact that climate model experts agree are not and cannot be included in the artificial model upon which our predictions are based.

I believe it is important to present this information for the sake of topic awareness, shared communication and ideas from across many disciplines on how to best address the topic (from a systemic perspective), and to enhance the work the students are pursuing as important scholarly experience….experience that is important in the short – term, as well as their long – term development as physicians.

I am excited and honored to be asked to present at the University Seminars for both current and historical reasons.  I enjoy Columbia University and my University Seminar colleagues when I have the opportunity to interact with them. 

I am also very happy I am able to communicate PNWU’s founding and our mission to a group of East Coast colleagues who might not otherwise have the opportunity to become familiar with PNWU. I am proud to communicate PNWU’s mission nationally, proud of our nation’s only “grassroots” medical school, and proud of the American spirit embodied by its founding. From a historical perspective, I dedicated this presentation to the memory of Dr. George Halasi-Kun. He was a friend, mentor, inspiration, and role model, not only to me, but to so many others whose lives he touched.  He brought speakers from around the world to Columbia.  More than three dozen volumes of the “Proceedings of the Columbia University Seminar on Pollution and Water Resources” were published while he was Chair. He passed in 2011 just one week short of his 95th birthday. 

The University Seminars are designed to allow for interdisciplinary, societal cross – section open discussion on a presented topic.  There is not a unified “database” or compilation until this point of the individual water-related (either water – borne or vectored by a blood-sucking arthropod whose life cycle is dependent on water) microbes that could have increased or decreased prevalence in the United States as climate change ensues.  Since this is an interdisciplinary problem and requires a coordinated, systemic approach as it is addressed, it is valuable to have as many individuals in varying professions partaking in shared dialogue.

I am truly looking forward to the discussion and input from those in attendance – input I will be able to bring back to the student researchers here at PNWU as we continue our work on this topic. 


- Kimberly J. Taylor, Ph.D.

September 26, 2017