Our members write about their experiences with MS4SF, climate change and health, and their future plans.
My Experience in MS4SF
Olivia is a fourth year medical student at Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit, Michigan in the Class of 2021. In 2017, she graduated from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio with a Bachelor of Science in biochemistry. In the future, Olivia hopes to pursue a career in Internal Medicine. She is passionate about the intersections of public health and social and environmental justice. In her free time, she enjoys watching Cleveland sports, being outside, and spending time with her friends and family.
Posted on 01/18/2021
Upon starting medical school, I knew I was interested in the environment and sustainability. I had recently presented my undergraduate senior capstone project on climate change and the food industry, but I had no idea how I could incorporate my love of the environment into my medical career. I joined a student organization that facilitated volunteer opportunities that were both sustainable and related to addressing social determinants of health as well as related to other social responsibilities of physicians; however, I lacked knowledge about how I could incorporate being conscientious about the environment into my practice as a physician. I was not sure if this was a topic that a lot of people were interested in or if I was mostly alone in my interest. I wanted to learn more but I was not sure where to find more information.
Throughout medical school, I volunteered with the local urban farm and engaged in sustainable activities as an individual, but I never found a student organization that truly encompassed my passion for educating about and advocating for the intersections of environmental and public health. Fortunately, during the COVID-19 pandemic, I came across In-Training, an online peer-reviewed publication for medical students. As I was reading the articles, I came across an opinion piece titled, “Medical Students Call to Flatten the Curve on Climate Change: Lessons from COVID-19”. I could not believe my eyes. As I read the article I was inspired and elated that there were other students who shared my interests. The authors were in a national student organization called, “Medical Students for a Sustainable Future” (MS4SF). This is exactly how I would describe myself: a medical student for a sustainable future.
I joined the organization and was amazed and encouraged by the passion of the students involved in this group. Not only did they send out monthly emails detailing the monthly events of the organization, but they also shared countless evidence-based articles, opinion pieces, news articles, networking and mentorship opportunities, and anything else you can think of, to allow members to learn more about climate change and the intersections of environmental and public health. They also held journal clubs to foster discussion, creative thinking, and to create a space where medical students can talk to colleagues and experts in medicine and environmental health about these issues that are not covered in medical school.
I attended the inaugural virtual climate and health journal club, which was sponsored by the Health Care Without Harm Physician Network and Medical Students for a Sustainable Future on September, 17, 2020. Attendees were from across the country and at different levels in their medical school training. We discussed an article titled, “Life Cycle Assessment and Costing Methods for Device Procurement: Comparing Reusable and Single-Use Disposable Laryngoscopes”. I had no idea what to expect. As a 4th year medical student, I felt I was late to the game when it came to my involvement and knowledge regarding sustainability in medicine. As a novice-expert on many topics covered in medical school, this was one where I was pushed out of my professional comfort zone.
I was really impressed with the journal club. Dr. Caitlin Rublee and Dr. Jonathan Slutzman, both emergency medicine physicians, walked the dozen-or-so of us through the article with patience and grace. We started by discussing Life Cycle Assessments in general. I had never heard of this type of assessment, so this was a great starting point and allowed me to catch up to speed with some of the other attendees who may have heard of this before. He then led us through each section of the article and discussed some key factors to consider when critically evaluating a life cycle assessment study, which includes the following: scope, inventory, impact assessment tools, interpretation, and costing comparison. Throughout the discussion, the floor was open to ask general questions about environmentalism in medicine in general as well as specifics about Dr. Slutzman and Dr. Rublee’s experience as physicians. The discussion was cathartic for me as this was the first time I had the opportunity to openly discuss issues of sustainability and environmentally cost-effective care with other people in medicine who understood my perspective and my passions.
Overall, my experience thus far being a member of Medical Students for a Sustainable Future has contributed significantly to my professional and personal joy and well-being. Not only has it allowed me to explore sustainability in medicine in a more structured and academic way, but also, it has opened my eyes to a network of over 300 medical students across the country who share my passion for incorporating environmental-consciousness into my practice as a physician. I love that this organization has opportunities to be as active or passive as you want, and cannot recommend joining this organization enough. I cannot wait to learn more by being a member of MS4SF as I finish up my fourth year of medical school and I am looking forward to incorporating the skills I learn into my practice as a resident, sharing my knowledge with my future colleagues and students, and knowing that I am not alone in my desire to consider the environment throughout my career as a physician.
If you are interested in learning more, I would highly recommend checking out MS4SF’s website and social media accounts! I have learned so much just by following them. You can sign up to receive MS4SF’s monthly email on their website. Check them out here:
MS4SF and the Physician Network- The Importance of Role Models by Genevieve Silva
Genevieve Silva is an MS2 at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine and was on the 2020 MS4SF Leadership Board as the Communications & Partnerships Co-Chair. She reflects after attending one of MS4SF’s climate & health journal clubs.
Posted on 01/10/2021
Throughout the course of my involvement with MS4SF over the past year, I have had the chance to observe firsthand the deepening of our group’s mission-driven identity, the growth of its membership, and the development of its core initiatives. Although MS4SF’s strengths are diverse, its focus on collaboration and partnerships is particularly salient to me. MS4SF has established relationships with organizations and individuals in the climate & health world who are truly impactful changemakers. For our part, we amplify their work and share our ideas, initiatives, and energetic membership base ready to engage with new projects. In turns, MS4SF’s partners in turn have provided a valuable connection to happenings in the larger climate change space and, critically, opportunities for mentorship. An example of this is MS4SF’s partnership with Health Care Without Harm’s Physician Network, a group of physicians committed to leveraging their positions to promote sustainability from a health care perspective.
The collaboration between MS4SF and the Physician Network has given rise to a climate & health journal club series, which had its inaugural meeting in September led by Drs. Jonathan Slutzman and Caitlin Rublee. Each journal club is led by two members from the Physician Network who facilitate a conversation around recent publications on topics like climate-smart healthcare and the impacts of climate change on human health and healthcare delivery. I had the pleasure of attending the most recent journal club in November, led by Drs. Cecilia Sorensen and Jay Lemery from the University of Colorado. We reviewed a paper analyzing the pattern of inpatient and outpatient presentations following the 2007 wildfires in San Diego, California, especially pertinent given the more recent wave of wildfires in the state. I was interested in the publication selected for discussion at the journal club, but what made me most excited was simply hearing from the physicians leading the session – this is true for all of MS4SF’s planned journal clubs thus far. While focus on sustainability in healthcare and physician climate change advocacy is growing, the field remains a relatively niche community, and the Health Care Without Harm Physician Network represents many of those at the leading edge. This is why, when the upcoming journal club facilitators are announced, I quickly Google their names to see how they are engaging with climate & health and breaking ground in the field. How exactly are they doing what I hope to do in the future? Which paths did they take?
Because of MS4SF’s expansive network of engaged medical students, I was also recently able to attend a virtual session organized by MS4SF members at Quinnipiac University called “Clinical Practice and Climate Change,” at which we heard from a panel of inspiring physicians in different specialties, all practicing medicine and conducting research from the angle of climate-smart health care. Not surprisingly, most of these panelists were also connected with the Health Care Without Harm Physician Network.
Experiences like these have been critical to my motivation throughout medical school thus far and have allowed me to feel connected to those who are currently shaping the field about which I am passionate. MS4SF’s partnership with the Physician Network is a valuable vehicle for trading perspectives that span career stages – I look forward to further opportunities to engage with physician climate advocates as a medical student and hope to one day participate in this exchange from the side of experience. I am certain that this sentiment is shared across MS4SF’s membership. Thank you to our mentors!
Find the upcoming journal club lineup here:
- January – Drs. Gaurab Basu and Neelu Tummala
- March – Drs. Andrea MacNeill and Cassandra Thiel
MS4SF has no financial disclosures to report and does not receive funding through any of our partners at this time.
Kate Pommert’s MS4SF Experience
Kate is an MS2 and MS4SF Campus Communications Representative at Oregon Health & Science University. She writes about her MS4SF and climate health experience.
Posted on 05/02/2020
When I think about my first week of medical school, what I remember is the dizzying confusion of orientation and the sense of anticipation of starting a new chapter, all shrouded in suffocating smoke from wildfires burning in Oregon’s beloved Columbia Gorge. If you’ve never experienced a wildfire before, it can only be described as apocalyptic. Every time you walk outside your eyes water and your lungs burn to the point where you are forced to stay inside – a sentence of isolation which we are all now familiar with due to COVID-19. Sometimes the smoke was so thick that it was hard to see across the street. It seemed dark in the middle of the day and if you caught a glimpse of the sun it appeared to be a blood red orb burning through the haze. My excitement at beginning the journey to become a doctor was in stark contrast to the despair I felt for the health of our planet.
Over my first two years of medical school, I have been taught the scientific foundations of medicine and realized that every aspect of human health is vulnerable to climate change. In a recent class on climate and health connections, I learned that increased heat and air pollution is associated with severe health consequences such as greater risk of stroke, cardiovascular disease, lung disease, and delayed development in children
(1). Infectious diseases are spreading more widely and unpredictably. The COVID-19 pandemic has already been immensely disruptive to life on our planet – imagine if this became our new normal. These direct health effects are in addition to the disastrous societal consequences like mass migration and food insecurity, which will significantly impact public health.
As long as we continue on our current course and do not significantly cut emissions climate change will have an increasingly devastating impact on our world. We will lose loved ones, loved places, and livelihoods. As a future physician, I will face the consequences of climate change in the deteriorating health of my patients and community. I must learn how to protect my patients from climate change and take action to demand our society to reduce emissions.
About a month ago, amidst the frenzy and panic of COVID-19’s global expansion, I got an email inviting me to join a new national group of medical students who are concerned about the health effects of climate change: Medical Students for a Sustainable Future (MS4SF). I did not have to think twice about signing up. It has been so reaffirming to meet other students who are worried about the state of health of our planet and who are organizing to take action. I have since been empowered to start a local chapter at my medical school, Oregon Health & Science University. Combating the climate crisis will require uniting our local, national, and global communities. I have always found comfort in taking action, and I am excited to begin this work for the health of my community with MS4SF.
Salas RN, Solomon CG. The Climate Crisis — Health and Care Delivery. New England Journal of Medicine. 2019;381(8):e13
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