Renowned Researcher Terrie Taylor '77 Working to Cure Malaria

Terrie Taylor '77

My North: Traverse City's Terrie Taylor Working to Cure Malaria

For nearly 30 years, Terrie Taylor ’77 has conducted research in Malawi that has made her a “malaria research rock star” and earned her global renown.

Taylor's reputation was already solid in the malaria research world when in March 2015, she and her team published a paper in the New England Journal of Medicine that elevated her reputation from well-respected clinical researcher to research celebrity. Under her guidance, the team at her Malawi clinic was able to finally prove and show to the world how cerebral malaria kills its victims. The finding does not offer a cure, but it does help researchers zero in on that specific lethal mechanism and focus on treatments that can save lives from a scourge that has beset humans and shaped cultures for 500,000 years, killing untold millions along the way.

Taylor grew up with a general practitioner dad who left the house each morning with this declaration: “I’m going out to save lives and stomp out disease!” With that daily dose of indoctrination, it’s perhaps only logical that she would want to go to medical school, but it was an event in her freshman biology class at Swarthmore College that ignited her research instincts, the love of intellectual discovery.

She had to conduct a tricky lab experiment involving the genetics of fruit flies, and she was sketching the problem on a blackboard, when suddenly it became clear to her what the solution was. She ran to the professor’s office, but he was on the phone, with his back turned to his blackboard. Taylor drew the solution out in chalk. “He swiveled around and smiled a BIG smile,” Taylor recalls. “That moment was great. How exhilarating it was to discover something!” she says, channeling the vivid emotions of her 19-year-old self from 41 years back.

Read the full profile at My North

Terrie Taylor '77 graduated from Swarthmore with a major in biology and earned her D.O. from the Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine. An internationally recognized scientist and physician, Taylor spends six months of the year in the African nation of Malawi, conducting malaria research and treating patients, the vast majority of whom are children. The Blantyre Malaria Project, established by Taylor and Malcolm Molyneux, conducts research and patient care in the area of pediatric malaria, specifically cerebral malaria.