Do health professionals have civic responsibilities? With limited time, can we expect doctors and nurses to advocate for clean energy policies? When during the course of their studies should medical students learn how to best engage on enviromental health matters? These are questions Medical Advocates for Healthy Air (MAHA), a group of health professionals throughout North Carolina, are posing in their presentations to medical students, health professionals and patients. MAHA educates people about the connection between poor air quality and disease, and calls for clean air policies that protect public health. Health professionals wind up addressing the very problems caused by environmental pollutants. This is why Climate for Health's leaders include medical professionals who advocate for environmentally responsible practices and policies. Medical students and leaders in higher education are also engaging on climate solutions. Are you in the health field? Find out how you can get involved.
By Gabe Rivin I November 19, 2015
The medical students sat around a conference table, some in white coats, some with stethoscopes around their necks, as Laura Wenzel explained the goals of her work.
“We work to educate you guys about air quality and its impact on health, and help you advocate for air policies that keep your patients healthy,” she said.
The students quietly bit into their burritos and salads as Wenzel, the manager of Medical Advocates for Healthy Air, launched into it: a whirlwind presentation on particulate matter, smog, climate change, federal law, tailpipe pollution and ozone, not to mention a smattering of health research about air pollutants.
It was a kind of Air Pollution 101, delivered in a conference room at WakeMed Health and Hospitals in Raleigh.
The presentation was one of many that Wenzel’s group has given. In part, the presentations expand upon medical schools’ curricula.
“I think [environmental health] is more of a public health school type of thing,” said Devin Holland, a fourth-year medical student at UNC-Chapel Hill and an audience member during Wenzel’s presentation.
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