Deborah Fleischer & Jennifer Armenta, Green Impact, April 2016

Arianne Teherani Honored with The Faculty Climate Change Champion Award

UCSF’s commitment to sustainability continues to inspire faculty and staff to an ever increasing level of excellence in heathcare. To honor these individuals the UC Global Climate Leadership Council delegated the Academic Senate Committee on Sustainability to bestow The Faculty Climate Action Champion Award to one exceptional faculty member who shows a commitment to activities that engage students and the community, while providing campus-wide leadership in sustainability issues. The award incentivizes and supports faculty engagement in climate change research, teaching, and engagement. The selected champion’s projects is intended to help focus student demands for climate education and inspire faculty to take up the challenge of engaged research and education to achieve carbon neutrality.

This year, Arianne Teherani, PhD Professor of Medicine in the Division of General Internal Medicine and a research faculty member in the Office of Research and Development in Medical Education at UCSF, was awarded The Faculty Climate Action Champion Award for her research project on developing a new curriculum for health professionals that takes into account sustainability issues on health. Teherani believes that an important first step is to define the impact of the environment on health as well as the impact of the health care industry on the environment. The award will give her the opportunity to develop a thorough curriculum on environmental sustainability and health for the health professional schools of Medicine, Nursing, Dentistry, Pharmacy and Physical Therapy. 

Teherani explained, “This award is paramount because it helps fuel important research on climate change and sustainability. Given the mounting evidence of the impact humans have on resources, climate, and disease, it is important to teach students about the contributions the health care system makes to the problem and the solution. Health professionals will be called upon to care for patients who bear the burden of disease from the impact of climate change and ecologically irresponsible practices.”

As a UCSF faculty member, Teherani observed that, “Healthcare professionals have yet to fully embrace a culture of sustainability. Because of our position to view sustainability from multiple angles, we should strive to push health and the healthcare culture toward greater ecological responsibility which will improve patient and public health.” These professionals must first recognize the connection between environmental sustainability and health and their responsibility and capacity as health professionals in changing the status quo. She is excited about this project because, “we will be one of the first few institutions to be able to define what this curriculum should look like, and this, in and of itself, is a huge first step.”

Project Overview

Teherani’s project will create a curriculum in environmental sustainability and health for the health professions schools (i.e., medicine, nursing, pharmacy, physical therapy, and dentistry). The curriculum will be developed for use locally and globally and will include a shared curriculum for all health professions schools as well as individualized curriculum for each school. The specific aims of the project are:

1. To identify and validate a core set of learning objectives on the impact of environmental sustainability and health.
2. To determine the timing and location during the educational trajectory in which individual objectives should be introduced and the optimal educational methods for teaching each objective.
3. To develop a curriculum for educating students on environmental sustainability and health which incorporates what was learned in Aim 1 and 2 and brings together faculty and staff to form an interdisciplinary community of environmental sustainability and health educators a UCSF.

Challenges and the Future

Teherani knows that there will be challenges as we shift the curriculum to incorporate sustainability. She shared that, “As knowledge proliferates there are greater demands on learners to have the knowledge and skills needed to become health care professionals. And so the ultimate challenge will be incorporating the curriculum under existing constraints.”  The grant will create a proposed curriculum, and it is Teherani’s hope that each school will decide how to incorporate it into their programs.

Story by Green Impact: Making Green Happen