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It’s Time for Medical Schools to Introduce Climate Change Into Their Curricula

Wellbery, Caroline MD, PhD; Sheffield, Perry MD, MPH; Timmireddy, Kavya; Sarfaty, Mona MD, MPH; Teherani, Arianne PhD; Fallar, Robert PhD

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000002368
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Climate change presents unprecedented health risks and demands universal attention to address them. Multiple intergovernmental organizations, health associations, and health professions schools have recognized the specific importance of preparing physicians to address the health impacts of climate change. However, medical school curricula have not kept pace with this urgent need for targeted training.

The authors describe the rationale for inclusion of climate change in medical education and some potential pathways for incorporating this broad topic into physician training and continuing medical education. Reasons include the magnitude and reach of this transboundary issue, the shared responsibility of the U.S. health care sector as a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, and the disproportionate effects of climate change on vulnerable populations. The integration of climate-change-related topics with training of essential physician skills in a rapidly changing environment is feasible because many health topic areas already exist in medical school curricula in which climate change education can be incorporated. To fully integrate the health topics, underlying concepts, and the needed clinical and system-wide translations, content could be included across the scope of training and into continuing medical education and faculty development. The authors provide examples of such an approach to curricular inclusion.

C. Wellbery is professor, Georgetown University Medical Center, Washington, DC.

P. Sheffield is assistant professor, Department of Environmental Medicine and Public Health, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, New York.

K. Timmireddy, at the time this article was written, was a student intern, Department of Environmental Medicine and Public Health, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, New York.

M. Sarfaty is director, Program on Climate and Health, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia.

A. Teherani is professor and director for program evaluation, Department of Medicine, University of California San Francisco, School of Medicine, San Francisco, California.

R. Fallar is assistant professor, Department of Medical Education, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, New York.

The authors have informed the journal that they agree that both Dr. Wellbery and Dr. Sheffield have completed the intellectual and other work typical of the first author.

Funding/Support: The authors acknowledge the following funding sources: National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS K23 ES024127 [P.S.] and P30ES023515 [P.S.]).

Other disclosures: None reported.

Ethical approval: Reported as not applicable.

An AM Rounds blog post on this article is available at academicmedicineblog.org.

Correspondence should be addressed to Caroline Wellbery, Georgetown University Medical Center, 3900 Reservoir Rd., N.W., PreClinical Science, Room GB-01B, Washington, DC 20007; telephone: (202) 687-8647; e-mail: Caroline.Wellbery@georgetown.edu.

© 2018 by the Association of American Medical Colleges