Taylor Brashear

Taylor grew up in the suburbs of Kansas City and started college there with the intention of pursuing a career in medicine before transferring to Quinnipiac University in Hamden, CT.  At Quinnipiac he discovered a passion for learning about global health issues and studying infectious diseases.  While at Quinnipiac, he was better able to pursue these interests and minored in Global Public Health as well as Microbiology & Immunology. He was chiefly interested in learning about infectious diseases that more often afflict those in resource-poor settings, such as in low- and middle-income countries.  In addition, through Quinnipiac, Taylor was able to participate in an elective with Child Family Health International to observe healthcare delivery and the implementation of public health interventions in Ecuador as well as volunteer with a pilot community engagement project in the Cusco region of Peru.  During this time, he also worked as an emergency department technician at a local hospital and volunteered with a local refugee resettlement agency – assisting in teaching English to recently arrived refugee children, volunteering in the food pantry program to supply food and other goods to refugee and immigrant families, and participating in fundraising and community-building events.  He said all of those experiences inspired him to pursue a global health-focused career in medicine, especially one in which he can help to address health issues in communities with little access to healthcare and other important resources that contribute to the overall health of the community.

Comparison of HIV Reservoirs HIV-infected Patients With Current TB infection, History of TB, and Those Never Infected With TB in Port-au-Prince, Haiti

What does the Kean Fellowship mean to you?
The Kean Fellowship is important to me, as it is a recognition that the work that I am interested in pursuing is important and valued. It often seems that projects aimed at helping individuals in resource-poor settings and targeting diseases that disproportionately affect individuals living in these areas are underfunded and under-appreciated. Recognition with awards such as the Kean Fellowship help to legitimize the work that we are doing in seeking to address the health inequities that exist throughout the world. In normal years, the Kean Fellowship would help to defray the cost of travel, which has unfortunately been a large barrier to my involvement in international projects in the past. I consider having the opportunity to qualify for such an award a great honor and wish that I had been able to travel this year to complete my project over the summer. However, the Kean Fellowship has helped to fund my research that still aims to address health issues in a low-income, resource-poor setting.  My hope is that my involvement in this study, and others like it, will continue as I try to remain involved in projects with efforts that go toward improving the health and well-being of resource-poor communities.

What do you anticipate learning?
My project this summer is aimed at identifying markers that can be used to identify individuals at-risk for recurrent tuberculosis infection. Our hope is that we may use existing testing and screening paradigms to detect cytokine profiles that will identify individuals at-risk for recurrent infections.  If our hypothesis is correct – and cytokine profiles do indeed differ among individuals susceptible to recurrent infections – we may be able to implement strategies to reduce the risk of recurrent infections in these individuals, whether that be through an extended course of anti-mycobacterial drugs, prophylactic therapies, or closer observation and general sanitation and hygiene recommendations. In time, I hope to learn to work as part of an international team and to learn how to coordinate resources from afar to complete projects of this nature. I hope that this project can also help to teach me about the complexities of conducting international research and help to inform decisions about both my future clinical and research careers. In this way I hope to better incorporate global health work that takes into account the needs of the communities in which I wish to work in my future endeavors.

What interests you about tropical medicine and what problems are you interested in solving?
The impacts of global climate change on human health are expected to be both widespread and severe with Tropical medicine interests me because of its focus on the study of diseases that are largely neglected in terms of research and funding dollars by institutions in high-income countries.  Because of this lack of attention and the lack of access to healthcare and resources in the communities in which tropical diseases are more prevalent, the morbidity and mortality of these diseases remains high. Despite impressive advances in therapeutics and medical technologies over the last few decades, there has been little improvement in comparison in the control and treatment of many of the diseases of greatest concern in tropical medicine. Thus, tropical medicine is interesting to me partially due to the lack of resources that are devoted to the study of this field compared to other fields of medicine. This lack of funding and resources contributes to unique challenges posed in studying tropical diseases, as well as designing and evaluating cost-effective interventions to address these health issues. Solving these problems thus requires creative solutions that flexible and adaptive to the needs of the communities in which they are targeted.  Finding a field in medicine in which creativity is valued and there is an opportunity to provide innovative solutions to these complex problems at the biological and societal level is exciting to me.