Call for Change in Response to Climate Crisis

Millions of voices raised around the planet, world leaders gathered at the United Nations, and a recently passed resolution by the students in our Medical School are all focused on one thing: the crisis of global warming.

In medicine, we are guided by science, and the scientific evidence of climate change is unequivocal. As residents of this beautiful, blue planet and as people charged with protecting the health and wellbeing of our patients and communities, global warming will impact us in ways we cannot yet imagine. The resolution passed by our students asks us—as M Health, as M Physicians, and as M Health Fairview—to not only make changes to lessen our impact on the planet but also to drive change in the way medicine is practiced.

We already have a lot of initiatives for change in the works—improving wellbeing, developing a true academic medical practice, making salaries and opportunity equitable among our faculty, and moving forward in a new clinical partnership. It would be nice if we could put off efforts toward slowing climate change a year or two until things settle down. But, we can’t.

We start now, and these are the first steps we will take: 

  • One area highlighted by our students was the excess plastic waste the medical system produces. We will start by offering two $50,000 grants for collaborative proposals between the College of Science and Engineering and the Medical School that will tackle this problem in an immediate way, integrating reduction of packaging and innovative compostable materials.
  • We will activate a sustainability team to look at efforts in place at other institutions, to coordinate with the University’s Office of Sustainability, and to evaluate which changes we can make that will have the most impact.
  • I will bring the student recommendations to our clinical operations leaders to determine our options for implementing more sustainable energy options.

I emphasize that this is just the beginning of the work we can and must do, and in addition, I would ask that we all think about our individual impact on this planet. As overwhelming as the problem is, each one of us can make a personal commitment—from eating meat one day less a week, to not flying to a meeting, to considering the carbon output of our next vehicle—to large and small modifications that will tie together to create the overarching cultural shift that we need to fix our planet.  

The New England Journal of Medicine has recently focused two issues on this subject. If you read nothing else, please read The Imperative for Climate Action to Protect Health.

Want to be part of the team (or teams) that helps move us forward? Have an idea? Please let me know via the feedback button below.

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