In this session host Stephen Wood speaks with Dr Louis Nguyen and Dr Liz Yates, surgeons and researchers at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston discuss the impact of climate change on healthcare and patient outcomes. Dr Yates and Dr Nguyen discussed the large carbon footprint of the healthcare industry, especially in developed nations. This includes the large amount of waste that stems from pre-made kits as well as other disposables. Similarly, the amount of energy that is dedicated to healthcare accounts for a large carbon footprint among industries. This leads to a discussion on the impact of climate change on patient accounts. The focus was on surgical patients and how issues like heat islands and lack of access to air conditioning can result in higher morbidity and mortality. This extends to other patient populations including OBGYN patients, pulmonary patients as well as the vulnerable young and elderly. More concerning is how this impact seems greater for marginalized and underserved populations. The group spent the remainder of the conversation discussing how everyone can make an impact with even small, local actions.

Louis Nguyen Bio: Dr Louis Nguyen is a vascular and endovascular surgeon at Brigham & Women’s Hospital and Associate Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School. Within the Department of Surgery, he serves as the Vice-Chair for Digital Health Systems; and within the Division of Vascular & Surgery, he is the Director of Clinical and Outcomes Research, as well as the Director of Quality, Safety, and Value. His interest in Environmental Sustainability focuses on minimizing the environmental impact from healthcare through education and implementation programs

Liz Yates Bio: Elizabeth Yates, MD, MPH is a general surgery resident at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.  She has completed three years of clinical training and is currently completing a research fellowship at the Center for Surgery and Public Health, focusing on sustainable surgical care delivery and the impact of climate change on surgical outcomes.

Show Notes:

Matthew J. Eckelman, Kaixin Huang, Robert Lagasse, Emily Senay, Robert Dubrow, Jodi D. Sherman. Health Care Pollution And Public Health Damage In The United States: An Update. Health Affairs, December 2020

Rizan C, Steinbach I, Nicholson R, Lillywhite R, Reed M, Bhutta MF. The Carbon Footprint of Surgical Operations: A Systematic Review. Ann Surg. 2020 Dec;272(6):986-995.

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