PHYSICIAN FELLOWSHIP IN CLIMATE CHANGE & HEALTH
To be a steward for human well being is to be an advocate for a safe and stable environment. Physicians have been conspicuously absent in the larger policy debates of environmental change and health, yet are the most well-respected and effective science communicators in society.
The Living Closer Foundation physician Fellowship in Climate & Health Science Policy is a 12 month program hosted by the University of Colorado Department of Emergency Medicine. This training program seeks to empower physicians through education and successful communication skills and to characterize the impact of these changes on our collective health. As the first non-governmental fellowship of its kind, we endeavor to train physicians regarding climate education, meaningful engagement, and effective communication to create leaders in the field of climate change and heath.
The Fellowship is based in the University of Colorado Department of Emergency Medicine*, and entails Fellow placement with our principal partners at the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health and locally through the University of Colorado Consortium on Climate and Health.
We believe this novel Fellowship will serve as a powerful accelerator for an expanded role for physician advocates in a time when public concerns about climate and health are growing.
Cecilia Sorensen, MD
Cecilia Sorensen, MD is the 2017-2018 & 2018-2019 Living Closer Foundation Fellow in Climate and Health Science Policy. She attended Drexel University College of Medicine and completed her residency training in Emergency Medicine at Denver Health Residency in Emergency Medicine. She is currently a clinical instructor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. Her research interests include understanding the effects of climate change on human health, global environmental health, Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown Origin (CKDu) and policy strategies for building climate-resilience in vulnerable communities.
Understanding Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown Origin
A silent pandemic of a new type of kidney disease, “Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown Origin” (CKDu), is having progressively devastating impacts among the world’s most vulnerable populations. It occurs in hot and humid regions among male agricultural workers aged 20-40 and is linked to extreme temperatures. Climate change has led to a significant rise in global mean temperature over the past two decades and correlates with the appearance of this disease, raising the question of whether CKDu is the first epidemic linked to global warming. As kidney disease progresses in workers, their productivity declines and they are unable to work. Additionally, dialysis and transplant services in affected regions is extremely limited. The loss of productivity and the loss of jobs has profound implications for both global food security and the ability of manual laborers to pursue a gainful employment in restrictive economies.
Through a partnership with the University of Colorado Center for Work, Health and the Environment the Living Closer Foundation Fellow participates in an active longitudinal research project in Guatemala to understand the root causes and clinical impacts of this disease.
The Living Closer Fellow is involved with a diverse array of educational projects:
The fellow works with the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health to bring educational resources to practicing physicians. This Consortium is a collective of over 21 professional medical societies who have formally recognized that climate change is a result of human activities and that it is a major threat to the health of all Americans. They support educating the public and policy makers in government and industry about the harmful human health effects of global climate change, and about the immediate and long-term health benefits associated with reducing greenhouse gas emissions. They support actions by physicians and hospitals within their workplaces to adopt sustainable practices and reduce the carbon footprint of the health delivery system. They work to engage health care professionals in policy making at the local, state, federal and global level to implement comprehensive and economically sensitive approaches to limiting climate change to the fullest extent possible.
Medical School Education
The Living Closer Fellow, in collaboration with the Colorado Consortium for Climate Change and Health has created a medical school curriculum for the University of Colorado Medical School that will be offered in 2019. Educating future physicians and health care leaders is essential for current and future climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts.
National and International Education
Through work the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences , the Living Closer Foundation Fellow has participated in the creation of national and international educational materials for students entering health care professions.
Policy and Advocacy
The Living Closer Foundation Fellow spends a week out of every month in Washington DC in the office of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences receiving close mentorship and working on a variety of projects.
National Climate Assessment
The LCF Fellow is currently involved as an author for the upcoming National Climate Assessment. Dr. Sorensen is a contributing author to the Health section of the Southern Great Plains Chapter.
International policy and advocacy
The LCF Fellow participated in a joint international conference, Environmental Impacts on Women’s Health, in Lucknow, India, presenting work related to the impact of Climate Change on Women’s Health. She is also engaged with projects related to the creation of early warning systems for climate sensitive infectious diseases through the government of Maharashtra.
Physicians for Social Responsibility
The LCF fellow works with Physicians for Social responsibility, a national organization with local presence in Colorado, to advocate for better understanding of the health impacts of Hydraulic Fracking and more state level policy involvement in protecting human health.
Attend and Present at Conferences
The LCF fellow has participated in several national conferences, including the 2017 NCAR/CDC workshop on weather, climate and health as well as the American Public Health Association national conference on climate change.