FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

My Patients Health Depends on Confronting Climate Change

As a fourth-year medical student, I’ve learned plenty about caring for patients with common illnesses and injuries. But as a native of fire-ravaged Northern California, and a student in Pennsylvania — where I hear regularly about communities torn apart by the natural gas industry — I can’t help but worry about my ability to care for my patients in an age of climate change.

Climate change isn’t just an environmental crisis, after all. It’s a looming health crisis. More hurricanes, floods, droughts, and wildfires means more disease, dehydration, famine, injury, and death.

Our health system is already overburdened, and extreme climate change could put it over the edge. And it will unfortunately be our most vulnerable communities — low income communities, communities of color, and places where health care is already hard to come by — who will suffer the worst consequences.

While my medical school’s curriculum encourages deep thinking about how to expand health care for underserved communities, it’s included little if any acknowledgement of the coming climate catastrophe.

Some medical colleges are beginning to wake up to the need to prepare the future generation of physicians to handle these challenges, and more colleges are joining this critical effort each day. For example, the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai recently launched a Climate Change Curriculum Infusion Project, which seeks to prepare future physicians by weaving the impacts of climate change on health into existing medical curriculum.

We know that climate change is real, manmade, and accelerating far beyond what researchers originally predicted. It’s not up for debate. There are countless studies to back that up — including the Special Reportfrom the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the 2018 Global Climate Report, and the Fourth National Climate Assessment, to name a few.

We didn’t create this pending catastrophe — an overzealous, greedy fossil fuel industry did. But my generation will have to bear the consequences of their recklessness, and a whole generation of doctors, nurses, and other health professionals will have to care for those who suffer.

As the data rolls in, we understand that climate change has already begun to make permanent

changes to our world — and that only rapid, sweeping changes to our energy system and environmental policies will even begin to mitigate the damage.

The truth is we’re moving too slow. Under the current U.S. administration, we’re in fact moving in the wrong direction if we hope to minimize this looming health crisis. We need to commit to zero emissions and an overhaul of our energy system to renewables — yesterday.

Whatever happens on the policy front, health professionals need to be ready for the disruptions we know are coming.

Medical colleges are in a unique position, and have a distinct obligation, to prepare future generations of physicians for the challenge of a lifetime. Medical students need our educators to help us — not only to prepare our medical practice, but to take leadership in pushing for the sweeping policy changes required to avert the worst consequences of this impending disaster.

We need everyone to wake up and see that if we don’t act boldly now, we’ll have a crisis too big for our system to handle — and too much for any budding physician’s hands to hold.

Autumn Vogel is a fourth-year medical student at Penn State College of Medicine and a student representative on the board of Physicians for Social Responsibility.

More articles by:

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

June 18, 2019
John McMurtry
Koch-Oil Big Lies and Ecocide Writ Large in Canada
Robert Fisk
Trump’s Evidence About Iran is “Dodgy” at Best
Yoav Litvin
Catch 2020 – Trump’s Authoritarian Endgame
Thomas Knapp
Opposition Research: It’s Not Trump’s Fault That Politics is a “Dirty” Game
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
U.S. Sanctions: Economic Sabotage that is Deadly, Illegal and Ineffective
Gary Leupp
Marx and Walking Zen
Thomas Hon Wing Polin
Color Revolution In Hong Kong: USA Vs. China
Howard Lisnoff
The False Prophets Cometh
Michael T. Klare
Bolton Wants to Fight Iran, But the Pentagon Has Its Sights on China
Steve Early
The Global Movement Against Gentrification
Dean Baker
The Wall Street Journal Doesn’t Like Rent Control
Tom Engelhardt
If Trump’s the Symptom, Then What’s the Disease?
June 17, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
The Dark Side of Brexit: Britain’s Ethnic Minorities Are Facing More and More Violence
Linn Washington Jr.
Remember the Vincennes? The US’s Long History of Provoking Iran
Geoff Dutton
Where the Wild Things Were: Abbey’s Road Revisited
Nick Licata
Did a Coverup of Who Caused Flint Michigan’s Contaminated Water Continue During Its Investigation? 
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange and the Scales of Justice: Exceptions, Extraditions and Politics
John Feffer
Democracy Faces a Global Crisis
Louisa Willcox
Revamping Grizzly Bear Recovery
Stephen Cooper
“Wheel! Of! Fortune!” (A Vegas Story)
Daniel Warner
Let Us Laugh Together, On Principle
Brian Cloughley
Trump Washington Detests the Belt and Road Initiative
Weekend Edition
June 14, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Trump’s Trade Threats are Really Cold War 2.0
Bruce E. Levine
Tom Paine, Christianity, and Modern Psychiatry
Jason Hirthler
Mainstream 101: Supporting Imperialism, Suppressing Socialism
T.J. Coles
How Much Do Humans Pollute? A Breakdown of Industrial, Vehicular and Household C02 Emissions
Andrew Levine
Whither The Trump Paradox?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: In the Land of 10,000 Talkers, All With Broken Tongues
Pete Dolack
Look to U.S. Executive Suites, Not Beijing, For Why Production is Moved
Paul Street
It Can’t Happen Here: From Buzz Windrip and Doremus Jessup to Donald Trump and MSNBC
Rob Urie
Capitalism Versus Democracy
Richard Moser
The Climate Counter-Offensive: Secrecy, Deception and Disarming the Green New Deal
Naman Habtom-Desta
Up in the Air: the Fallacy of Aerial Campaigns
Ramzy Baroud
Kushner as a Colonial Administrator: Let’s Talk About the ‘Israeli Model’
Mark Hand
Residents of Toxic W.Va. Town Keep Hope Alive
John Kendall Hawkins
Alias Anything You Please: a Lifetime of Dylan
Linn Washington Jr.
Bigots in Blue: Philadelphia Police Department is a Home For Hate
David Macaray
UAW Faces Its Moment of Truth
Brian Cloughley
Trump’s Washington Detests the Belt and Road Initiative
Horace G. Campbell
Edward Seaga and the Institutionalization of Thuggery, Violence and Dehumanization in Jamaica
Graham Peebles
Zero Waste: The Global Plastics Crisis
Michael Schwalbe
Oppose Inequality, Not Cops
Ron Jacobs
Scott Noble’s History of Resistance
Olivia Alperstein
The Climate Crisis is Also a Health Emergency
David Rosen
Time to Break Up the 21st Century Tech Trusts
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail