Physicians base their everyday medical decision-making on the most updated research studies and statistics. A point I really took away from learning about “Health in the Anthropocene” in my Climate Change and Health course was the significant role of epidemiology in highlighting awareness of the impact of human energy consumption and industrial development on future generations. As more epidemiological studies regarding quantification of disease burden arising from environmental change are published, healthcare providers can incorporate these into their conversations with patients and personal thoughts on how to provide the best care. Observing conversations with patients on how to practice preventative lifestyle behaviors, I have yet to hear any physician inform on how patients can live a more conservative lifestyle in regards to waste and energy consumption. Although it may not affect the here and now as, it directly impacts the health of future generations. I learned in my studies that measures of life expectancy do not account for the future environment, but instead are based on the current individual’s experience; I think this highlights the point that we are too focused on the present and not actively thinking about the implications of our current lifestyle on future generations. Physicians have the ability to initiate these conversations with patients and open up discussion about health of future generations. Although for some climate change is a political issue, by presenting it in the context of health, it may be perceived differently or in a way that a patient had not previously considered. Medical professionals have access to studies, facts, and knowledge that may not be accessible to the average person. This puts healthcare providers in a powerful position – they can change patients’ mindsets and raise awareness.
Thoughts on Early Graduation
Alex is a fourth-year medical student at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. As an avid lover of the intellect and interspecialty collaboration associated with medicine, she is excited to be applying for Internal Medicine residency programs. Her interest in medicine largely stems from her volunteer work in free clinics in underserved communities and experiences growing up with a brother with autism.
Before attending medical school, Alex completed her undergraduate degree at Northwestern University in 2014 and her Master of Public Health (concentration in Chronic Disease Epidemiology) at Yale University in 2016.
When she is not working in the hospital or studying, you can find Alex running by the lake, doing circuit workouts outdoors in the fields, drawing and/or writing, or at home spending time with her family in the suburbs of Chicago.