Senior Advisor, Transdisciplinary Research for the March of Dimes Foundation; and Reuben S. Carpentier Professor Emeritus of Pediatrics and Professor Emeritus of Public Health, Columbia University.
As a Holocaust survivor, Michael Katz (NAM 80) is deeply committed to advancing human rights. The protection of people is probably the most important effort we can make in this very troubled world, said Katz. That commitment has inspired him to both serve on and generously donate to the Academies Committee on Human Rights for more than a decade.
The Committee uses the influence and stature of the Academies and its members in support of scientists, engineers, and health professionals around the world who have been subjected to severe repression for peacefully exercising their internationally recognized human rights. The Committee's often personal, colleague-to-colleague approach is unique and meaningful, Katz said. When one is isolated in matters of human rights violations, one feels that no one remembers. Making sure that they know that others are thinking of them makes an enormous difference for their psyche.
One of Katz's first efforts on behalf of the Committee was to meet with a biomedical researcher in Belarus who was being mistreated and under house arrest. We spent about 45 minutes with him and assured him that the Committee was thinking about him. He was actually crying because of how distressed he was. Ultimately, the researcher was able to emigrate to France.
The Committee's many successes in supporting and rescuing colleagues who are suffering spring from this individual approach, Katz said. It is much easier for [the Committee] to break through by saying that we are acting because our colleague is in trouble.