In Memoriam

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Michael Thomas Makler ’58

A picture of Michael Makler

Michael Thomas Makler ’58, May 13, 2012, in Portland, from a rare form of thyroid cancer. A malaria researcher and pathologist, Michael studied at Reed for two years, but left after the birth of his second brother in South Africa to pursue medicine at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. In his public obituary, we read: “During those years, he saw first hand the viciousness of the apartheid system as he toured the townships with his physician stepfather. These experiences were the impetus for his lifelong effort to work for access to affordable quality medical care for all.” Michael studied biochemistry at Brandeis, earned an MD from Northwestern University, worked at the Biochemical Institute in Zurich, Switzerland, and did a residency in pathology at Penrose Hospital in Colorado Springs. Certified in anatomic and clinical pathology and nuclear medicine, he returned to Portland in 1976 to direct the clinical laboratory at the VA hospital. His interest in malaria, and, in particular, in finding an effective and economical means of diagnosing it, led to his discovery of novel malaria enzyme markers and to the invention of portable, inexpensive microscopy instrumentation. He retired from the VA in 1997 and founded the company Flow with partner Robert Piper ’85, professor in molecular physiology and biophysics at the University of Iowa. Together they developed OptiMAL, the first simple and low-cost rapid test for the diagnosis of drug-resistant malaria. OptiMAL was field tested through the work of Sam Martin ’72, top malaria investigator at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Kenya. “This disease has killed more people, mainly kids and pregnant women, than any other in the world, even more than the plague,” Michael told Reed in the August 1998 article, “The New, Improved 10-Minute Malaria Test.” His family reported, “In keeping with the ethic of science instilled by his mentors, he shared his expertise in malaria and laboratory science with young researchers from four continents who came to Portland to work with him.” Survivors include his wife, Andra MAT ’78; two daughters and a son; four grandchildren; and two brothers, including Harry M. Makler ’58.

Appeared in Reed magazine: September 2012

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