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Harvard Medical School adds climate change to its curriculum

Harvard Medical School soon will be adding climate change to its curriculum, a decision made by its Educational Policy and Curriculum Committee last month.

The addition will “examine the impact of climate change on health and health inequality, applications of these impacts to clinical care, and the role of physicians and health institutions in arriving at climate solutions,” according to The Crimson campus newspaper.

HMS Climate and Health Curriculum Theme Director Gaurab Basu (pictured) and members of the group Students for Environmental Awareness in Medicine led the curriculum change effort.

Basu is a trained community organizer and “has been recognized nationally for his work in climate change and health equity,” according to his faculty page. He’s won the HMS Equity, Social Justice and Advocacy faculty award and has served on the HMS’s Task Force to Address Racism.

The Harvard School of Public Health’s Caleb Dresser said students and faculty “have been pushing” to add a climate change component into the HMS studies for some time.

“Many graduates of Harvard Medical School go on to leadership positions in medicine and beyond,” Dresser said. “It’s going to be increasingly important for people in leadership roles in healthcare and other industries to integrate climate change and climate-related hazards into their strategic decision making as they lead organizations.”

MORE: Climate change protesters charge onto field during Harvard-Yale football game

From the story:

[Student Benjamin] Grobman said changes in the Medical School’s curriculum are just one step toward addressing the impacts of climate change on health care.

“It has to go beyond that, and I think that’s something that hopefully we can start to do in the future,” he said. “But I think curriculum is essential because it really lays the groundwork for people to be thinking about these issues.”

HMS student Madeleine C. Kline said though medical education remains outside of her core passions, the potential for enhanced patient care has motivated her to push to modify the curriculum.

“Every student who comes through the Medical School will leave with an understanding of what climate change is and what it means for their patients,” she said. “I think it is going to mean a lot for their patients.”

[Student Julia] Malits said she hopes the successful push to include climate change in the curriculum inspires other students to pursue advocacy.

The medical school’s moves are sure to satisfy Harvard’s Committee on Climate Education, which last fall put out a report calling for an “all-hands-on-deck approach” to battling climate change. One of the committee’s recommendations noted that “existing degrees should integrate education on climate change.”

MORE: Harvard prof flies around globe, decries climate change ‘deniers’

INTERIOR IMAGE: Harvard U. screencap

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