What I hope to be my main focus in medicine is to strengthen the link between climate change and community health. To work towards energizing the medical field in identifying climate change as an immediate threat to global and community health, and to mobilize the medical community into action in a manner similar to that of the AIDS crisis. At the height of the AIDS crisis, physicians (like Dr. Abraham Verghese) went out into their communities to educate them about the early risk factors associated with the disease as well as the importance of precautionary measure and regular screenings. We can address climate change in a similar way by using this approach as a foundation; but the threat of climate change to global and community health is far more systemic than the HIV/AIDS virus was and continues to be.
When polled about climate change, the responses of many Americans identify climate change and global warming as a real threat but few believe that climate change will affect them personally — this is a reaction that many had about the AIDS crisis as well. To many, AIDS was a gay man’s disease, it was retribution for a life of sin — a punishment. But comfort in the retribution for the misgivings of others ebbed with increased understanding of what the disease is and how it spreads, and that everyone is susceptible to it. Now, we are closer than ever to a cure because our understanding of the disease evolved, it was identified as a legitimate threat to the global population, and it was addressed. Climate change is an even larger threat, yet still we see very similar reactions to its presence: it’s a real thing, just not real for me.
I am of the belief that physicians can make a difference in reframing the argument of climate change from “is climate change real?” to “this is how climate change is impacting our community right now.” Physicians have the potential to be the perfect conduit for this change because of the status in their communities that they already hold. People listen to their doctors, they respect them, they are pillars of their communities. Climate change is a threat to these communities; and physicians need to start speaking out.
So that’s my big crazy idea. Mobilize physicians, address climate change as an immediate threat to public and global health, sway the court of public opinion, convince communities to care, change the world.