I may have less direct patient interaction as a radiologist than in other medical specialties. Still, I have a unique vantage point from which to observe the overall picture of the hospital. I see the prevalence of diseases affecting our patients and their demographics. While working at a children’s hospital in the Pacific Northwest, I have repeatedly witnessed the devastating effects of wildfires over the past few summers, interpreting and diagnosing numerous cases of asthma exacerbation and complicated sinusitis, for instance, attributed to climate change. Climate change is here and undeniable. As physicians, we encounter its impacts daily, even if they go unobserved.
It is encouraging to see that the next generation of physicians, the millennials and Generation Z, are particularly passionate about addressing this issue of climate change. They understand that their future patients will be further impacted by climate change and are eager to learn how they can make a difference. Unsurprisingly, the medical students at Harvard Medical School have taken the lead by advocating for the inclusion of climate change in their medical education. This sentiment is echoed by the efforts of Medical Students for a Sustainable Future (MS4SF), a volunteer coalition from 105 medical schools as of early 2023.
As educators of the next generation of physicians, it is imperative that medical schools and graduate medical education (GME) programs do a better job of incorporating the impacts of climate change on patient health into their curricula. This is what the next generation of doctors wants to learn, and our responsibility is to meet their needs and equip them with the knowledge and skills to address this pressing issue. By doing so, we will ensure a better future for us all.
Helen Kim is a radiologist.