“If your life’s work can be accomplished in your lifetime, you’re not thinking big enough.” These words from Wes Jackson, co-founder of the Lands Institute, ground me as I advocate for the health consequences of climate change. As part of the last generation that can prevent runaway climate change, I feel charged to advocate for a healthier planet for future generations.
As a future physician, I understand that to provide optimal care for my patients I must understand the broader dynamics influencing their health outside of a clinical setting. Furthermore, I appreciate that global is local and recognize that staying globally informed is essential to advancing care on local levels.
Climate change poses threats to human health globally, from heat strokes to respiratory issues. As extreme weather events drive people out of their homes, dense crowding will cause increased incidence of infectious diseases. Furthermore, proper medical treatment is less effective when environmental and social determinants of health are compromised. Critical patient needs, including access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene, are threatened when climate change puts a strain on valuable resources. Climate change may also create unanticipated health crises, to which entire populations are susceptible without sufficient emergency preparedness infrastructure. Climate change will have particularly disastrous consequences for some of the most vulnerable populations globally.
Before medical school, I collaborated with the United Nations on the Paris Climate Agreement, attending the COP20 in Lima, Peru and COP21 in Paris, France. In my career, I plan to advocate for patient needs both inside and outside of a clinical setting. I will dedicate my career to drawing important connections across sectors of government, business, and healthcare to build a healthier world for all. My experiences thus far have shown me that not only is health the foundation of an individual’s life, but also of a community. I want to be part of a generation of physicians driving progress and moving the planet forward.