New endowed professorship honors professor and work in global health


Friendships can lead in many directions. For a small group of northern Michigan friends, it has led to the establishment of an endowed professorship in the Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine (MSUCOM).

Daniel and Marsha Edson committed $1 million to establish the Daniel C. and Marsha J. Edson Endowed Professorship in Global Health in Honor of Terrie Taylor, D.O., ensuring the vital work Dr. Taylor and MSUCOM are doing in Malawi continues far into the future.

The path that would eventually lead to the endowment began with work that Daniel Edson did with Taylor’s father, Ken Taylor, D.O., in Traverse City, Mich. Edson said he admired Ken Taylor and after learning more about Terrie Taylor’s work with malaria in Malawi, he reached out to her because he was working with malaria proficiency testing. The friendship between Edson, Taylor and her husband, John Robert Williams, grew.

Taylor, an internationally recognized expert on malaria and other tropical diseases and a MSU Distinguished Professor and MSU Foundation Professor, studies malaria, which continues to kill hundreds of thousands of people a year, mostly children in sub-Saharan Africa, even with available drugs that can kill the parasite very quickly. Her work is focused on finding how to intervene to rescue these children from the disease.

Taylor said the endowed professorship will help continue the work, even after she retires, by providing the recipient significant discretionary funds to cope with unpredicted occurrences, such as a compressor going out on a freezer holding samples, which could be disastrous, or a patient with unusual complications who needs a medicine not available at the hospital.

“There are myriad opportunities to put these funds to great use,” Taylor said. “I’m so appreciative.”

For Edson, this was an opportunity to add to his support of MSU. In addition to this endowed professorship, he contributes significantly to MSU Athletics, the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the College of Human Medicine and the College of Natural Science.

He hopes this endowed professorship inspires other potential donors to consider the “good program and great cause” and get behind it. “I wanted to establish another legacy gift and I thought about Terrie and her work, her career in Malawi,” Edson said. “It felt like a way to recognize someone who grew up in northern Michigan who has made an international name for herself.”

“What finer way to support Terrie and Michigan State,” he added. “It just feels right. Sometimes you go with your heart.”

The gift from the heart provides resources to MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine to recruit and maintain its world class faculty in global medicine.

MSUCOM Dean Andrea Amalfitano, D.O., Ph.D., agrees. “This work is a long-standing and premiere highlight of not only COM, but MSU’s research and outreach efforts internationally that has done so much for so many,” he said. “With Terrie’s strong leadership at the helm, this work was destined for success.”

The gift, Taylor added, will enhance the attractiveness of the position. “It’s a tremendous validation of the efforts in Malawi and an insightful recognition that grant funds don’t cover everything required to keep the ship sailing straight,” she said. “This endowment will allow the recipient to take advantage of new opportunities, generate preliminary data and respond quickly to unanticipated needs.”

Taylor lives six months of the year in Malawi – during malaria season – and has done so for 35 years. Living there is of incalculable value, she said. “This has allowed me be an effective partner in this now not-so-new medical school here,” Taylor said. “When you live here six months a year, or more, you are able to perceive needs that may not be immediately obvious – and this professorship provides some help in responding.”

This endowment continues Edson’s legacy of giving to support MSU, where he earned a Master of Science degree in Clinical Laboratory Science in 1979. As an MSU graduate student, he developed the first blood test for Legionnaires’ Disease and helped investigators trace the cause to contaminated air conditioner cooling reservoirs at a Philadelphia hotel. He then went to work at Sparrow Hospital to establish a Virology Laboratory and later joined a Traverse City firm that specialized in analyzing pathology work for hospitals. When the company relocated to Chicago, he devised a novel way to assess the accuracy of laboratory tests performed in hospital and physicians' office laboratories and formed American Proficiency Institute (API) in 1991. Since then, API has expanded on a global scale with more than 20,000 subscribers to their programs for both clinical and food safety proficiency testing.

Edson was awarded the 2002 College of Natural Science Outstanding Alumni award and the 2004 MSU Distinguished Alumni award.