Lectures and Special Events

New Science, New Solutions: Preparing for the Next Pandemic

May 18, 2017

petri dish with culture of bacteria



Whether caused by natural diseases or bioterrorism, pandemics represent a real threat to public health and security. Are we ready? From “zombie task forces” to rapid response training, how will our cities prepare for the next pandemic? 


Wafaa El-Sadr_Pandemics

Wafaa El-Sadr—Professor of epidemiology and medicine at Columbia University. Dr. El-Sadr is a prominent researcher and has led numerous epidemiological, clinical, behavioral, and implementation science research studies that have furthered the understanding of the prevention and management of HIV, TB, and noncommunicable diseases. She is a principal investigator of the NIH-funded HIV Prevention Trials Network, which seeks to prevent HIV transmission around the globe.

Tom Frieden_Pandemics

Tom Frieden—Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 2009 until January 2017. Before that, he was New York City Health commissioner.  A physician with training in infectious diseases, he began his career at CDC as an Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer, working in New York City and India, where he led efforts to control tuberculosis.

Laurie Garrett_Pandemics

Laurie Garrett—Pulitzer Prize-winning science journalist and writer of two best-selling books. She was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Journalism in 1996 for a series of works published in Newsday chronicling the Ebola virus outbreak in Zaire.

Mark Siddall_Pandemics

Mark Siddall—Curator of Annelida and Mollusca Collections at the American Museum of Natural History and principal investigator, SICG Genomics Lab Professor, Richard Gilder Graduate School. Dr. Siddall's career has been devoted to uncovering biodiversity and evolutionary histories for the most successful animal life-history strategy of all time: parasitism. His research has encompassed protistan parasites from giardiasis and malaria to commercially significant shellfish pathogens, helminths, and even blood-feeding ectoparasites from bed bugs to leeches. He presently serves as former president-elect of the American Society of Parasitologists and as treasurer of the Willi Hennig Society and is the curator of the Museum’s exhibition Countdown to Zero: Defeating Disease and traveling exhibition The Power of Poison.

Don Weiss_Pandemics

Don Weiss—Medical epidemiologist with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. He is the Director of Surveillance for the Bureau of Communicable Disease and the Co-Lead of the Surveillance and Epidemiology Emergency Response Group.


Ray Suarez

Ray Suarez—American broadcast journalist. In September 2017, veteran journalist Ray Suarez will begin an appointment as the McCloy Visiting Professor of American Studies at Amherst College. He was most recently the host of Al Jazeera America’s daily news program, Inside Story. Before coming to AJAM, Suarez spent 14 years as a correspondent and anchor at public television’s nightly newscast, The PBS NewsHour, where he rose to become chief national correspondent. He has been a frequent presenter, speaker, and moderator at the World Economic Forum, held annually in Davos, Switzerland. He has also been a featured speaker at the Aspen Ideas Festival.


Image credit: Copyright: <a href='https://www.123rf.com/profile_olegdudko'>olegdudko / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

This lecture is generously supported by the Abel Shafer Public Program Fund, a fund created by the Arlene B. Coffey Trust to honor the memory of Abel Shafer.

Abel Shafer

Abel Shafer was born in Toronto, Canada in 1917, to Russian parents who then immigrated to New York circa 1924. He graduated from Stuyvesant High School in 1935 and attended the Arts Students League of New York to study painting. He was a talented artist, and although his career was in commercial print production and color lithography, he remained deeply passionate about painting for his entire life. 

Though his interests were wide and deep—including history, exploration, and art—travel was his greatest passion of all. Abel was a SeaBee in the United States Navy during World War II, serving in the Philippines in the 115th Construction Battalion, and his lifelong commitment to photography and travel was solidified during this time. Abel went on to travel extensively throughout the world, visiting every continent, including seven different visits to Antarctica. He was fascinated by the history of exploration, and particularly revered Sir Ernest Shackleton.

He was a lifelong bachelor who believed deeply in the importance of family. Well into his 90s he was a frequent visitor at the American Museum of Natural History, walking back and forth to the Museum from his 14th Street apartment.


Arlene B. Coffey

Arlene B. Coffey, known to friends and family as Arla, was the first of Abel Shafer’s many nieces and nephews. They were devoted to one another throughout their lives and shared both an interest and talent in painting, drawing, and, in Arla’s case, rubbings.

In writing about her, The East Hampton Star said that “her flair for the dramatic extended to painting, drawing and cooking. Words like phenomenal and exotic were used to describe her ability in the kitchen.” In the 1950s she and Mr. Shafer studied at the Art Students League of New York. In the early 1970s a show at Guild Hall in East Hampton featured her rubbings of local tombstones and Manhattan manhole covers. The manhole covers were rendered in bright colors that highlighted their geometric designs. Con Edison purchased one for its 1972 Annual Report.

She was also a noted Hollywood costume supervisor and designer. Clothing from her collection was used in films such as The Cotton Club, Legal Eagles, Raging Bull, and The Natural. She also worked on The Sopranos.

Nothing would please Arla more than to know that her name will be perpetually linked with that of her beloved uncle, through this public lecture series at the American Museum of Natural History.