Carl E. Taylor

The founder of Hopkins' international health program worked to improve medicine in Third World countries

February 11, 2010|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

Carl E. Taylor, the founder of the academic discipline of international health at what is now the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health who devoted his life to the medical well-being of the world's marginalized people, died Feb. 4 at his Lake Roland-area home.

He was 93.

"Carl was a pioneer. He was quite special and a visionary," said Dr. Robert E. Black, who succeeded Dr. Taylor as chairman of the department.

"He understood the concept of tropical medicine and the cross-cultural problems in developing countries," Dr. Black said. "He wanted to help the underserved in the world, and in doing so, inspired lots of people and several generations and students from across the world."

Born to medical missionaries in India, Dr. Taylor began his career when he was 7 years old as a "pharmacist's assistant" in his parents' ox cart-based clinic deep in the jungles.

After completing high school in Kansas, Dr. Taylor earned a bachelor's degree in 1937 from Muskingum College in New Concord, Ohio.

A 1941 graduate of Harvard Medical School, Dr. Taylor joined the staff of the Gorgas Hospital in the Panama Canal Zone, first as an intern and later as a resident in pathology and as a member of a tropical disease research unit.

From 1944 to 1946, he was chief of medical services of the Public Health Service Hospital in Pittsburgh.

In 1947, Dr. Taylor returned to India as director of the Presbyterian Mission's Memorial Hospital in Fatehgarh, where he led a medical team during the riots that took place after the separation of India and Pakistan.

Dr. Taylor completed the first health survey of Nepal, then the most isolated country in Asia, in 1949.

He then returned to Boston, where he earned a master's degree in 1951 from the Harvard University School of Public Health, where he was also a resident fellow and instructor in epidemiology.

After earning his doctorate in public health in 1953, also from the Harvard University School of Public Health, Dr. Taylor returned to India, where he established the department of preventive medicine at Christina Medical College in Ludhiana, the first such department in the developing world.

His doctoral dissertation provided the seminal research that defined the synergy between nutrition and infection, which now is a principle of public health.

Dr. Taylor taught preventive medicine and was an associate professor of epidemiology at Harvard Medical School from 1956 until 1961, when he joined what was then known as the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health.

As founding chairman of the department of international health, Dr. Taylor was responsible for designing the global agenda for health care in the 1960s and 1970s, which helped Third World nations anticipate and try to meet their health needs.

Dr. Taylor, who had a lifelong interest in health reform, was especially concerned about the integration of health services, and his research achievements were wide-ranging.

From 1960 to 1975, he led the Narangwal Rural Health Research Project in northern India, which made advances in diagnosis and treatment of childhood pneumonia, neonatal tetanus and delivering medical care to villages.

Other medical concerns included malnutrition and child mortality, and understanding the treatment of childhood diarrhea.

It wasn't uncommon for Dr. Taylor to travel to India three or four times a year to work with research teams at the Johns Hopkins centers, one dealing in tropical diseases and the other in rural health and family planning in the Punjab.

Dr. Taylor coined a word to describe his work - ecumedicine - "which refers to the unifying forces that bind the civilized world together," The Baltimore Sun reported in a 1966 article.

In addition to his work at Hopkins, Dr. Taylor had been senior adviser to Future Generations from 1992 until his death, and more recently, Future Generations Graduate School, where a professorship is endowed in his name.

From 2004 to 2006, he was Afghanistan country director for Future Generations, where he led field-based groups using more than 400 mosques as educational sites for Afghan women.

Last year, at the age of 92, Dr. Taylor returned to Afghanistan to test the hypotheses that "women in action groups can solve the majority of their family health problems."

For more than 30 years, he advised the World Health Organization on a variety of international health issues, and was the founding chairman of the National Council for International Health, now the Global Health Council.

Dr. Taylor was recognized in 1993 by President Bill Clinton for his "sustained work to protect children around the world in especially difficult circumstances and a lifetime commitment to community based health care."

Dr. Taylor said in the 1966 Sun article that there is a need to share information and skills with "colleagues in all countries," which requires "continual movement of medical people and their ideas across international boundaries."

He added: "Because of this, international medicine is one of our best instruments of peace."

Dr. Taylor was also a prolific author of articles to peer-reviewed journals, books, chapters and policy monographs.

His wife of 58 years, the former Mary Daniels, a Towson University professor and Presbyterian missionary, died in 2001.

Dr. Taylor enjoyed walking in the woods near his Lake Roland home and reading.

He was an active member of Brown Memorial Presbyterian Church, Park and Lafayette avenues, where a memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Feb. 20.

Surviving are two sons, Henry Taylor of Baltimore and Daniel Taylor of Franklin, W.Va.; a daughter, Betsy Taylor of Lexington, Ky.; two brothers, John Taylor of Herminie, Pa., and Gordon Taylor of Chattanooga, Tenn.; two sisters, Gladys McGarvey of Phoenix, Ariz., and Margaret Courtwright of Pittsburgh; and nine grandchildren.

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