Arianne Teherani created a groundbreaking curriculum to teach medical students and other future health professionals about the impacts of climate change on human health. Her work is designed to help future doctors, pharmacists, nurses, physical therapists, and dentists understand and prepare for the challenges ahead.

Arianne is a Professor of Medicine at UC San Francisco. In addition, as the Director for Program Evaluation, she oversees the planning and design of the School of Medicine Curriculum. As an educational researcher in the Center for Faculty Educators at UC San Francisco, Arianne focuses on developing effective clinical teaching practices. She is actively involved in both educational research and sustainability groups, and recently chaired the UCSF Academic Senate Committee on Sustainability. She holds a doctorate in education from the University of Southern California.

To learn more about Arianne visit her profile page.

Arianne works at the intersection of education and medicine. Health professionals will increasingly need to care for patients suffering from climate change-related health issues like the spread of infectious disease and a lack of food security. By transforming the healthcare curriculum, Arianne hopes that future practitioners will be prepared to confront these issues and aware of the larger context behind them.

 

 

Arianne designed a curriculum that teaches environmental issues in healthcare at U.C. San Francisco’s health professional schools, making it the first school in the country to teach this cutting-edge issue to medical and pharmaceutical students. The curriculum has also been implemented at Georgetown, Yale, and Mt. Sinai, as well as in several European institutions. It is designed to teach students about how the environment and climate change impact health; it also introduces them to the ways that the healthcare industry impacts them to the environment. Specifically, Arianne’s project:

  1. Identified a core set of learning objectives to help future health professionals understand the relationship between environment and health
  2. Developed effective strategies for teaching those objectives, including an elective course, a required lecture, and participation in small discussion groups.

Students who participated in the first elective course went on to use that education towards activism on campus, developing the student-led Committee on Climate Change Policy Response to address sustainable policy issues on campus, starting with a “Beef-Free UC.”

Arianna Teherani presenting her work on a screen.

Arianne presents her curriculum model at the 2016 UC Carbon Slam.

Q&A WITH ARIANNE

What is a common misperception from non-scientists about climate research?

People simply aren’t aware of how much climate change will impact human health. Climate change is already increasing the spread of infectious diseases and causing food scarcity. Even in the developed world, rising pollen counts are leading to worse allergies, and the long, extreme heat waves are causing genuine distress. This is where education comes in. We can create a paradigm shift that helps health professionals understand that these issues are real and important. Then we can teach them the skills to recognize and treat these health issues.

What is the most rewarding part about being a UC Climate Action Champion?

Building connections among people who really care about this topic—at UCSF, across the country, and globally. I feel very connected to those folks; I don’t feel like I’m working in a silo anymore. But in addition, I’m an educator, not a climate-change expert or a health professional. It was rewarding to realize that scientists need to collaborate with educators. It can’t be just me or just them; we need each other to affect change.

What do you hope your project contributes to your university, the UC-system, and society?

At the university, I want to create a cadre of healthcare educators who can teach about climate-related issues in their day-to-day coursework. This kind of material can be taught in virtually every healthcare course, from biostatistics to epidemiology. I’m also working with Matthew St. Clair at UCOP to develop a workshop for faculty from all the UCs, so that people can teach these issues at their own health professional schools. I hope that we can make practitioners all over the world more aware of the connections between climate and health, and ready to proactively address them.

What is one thing you want to tell non-scientists about climate change?

We are all responsible. Recognizing that, internalizing it, and making it a part of our education starting from when we are young is critical to sustaining the planet.

ACHIEVEMENTS

• Developed a core set of learning objectives and strategies for teaching future healthcare professionals about climate change-related health issues

• Created a curriculum at UCSF to teach students about the intersection between climate change and health

• Inspired students to form the student-run Committee on Climate Change Policy Response

• Collaborated with medical schools in the US and elsewhere to adapt the climate change and health curriculum

 

Arianne Teherani headshot
"People simply aren’t aware of
how much climate change will
impact human health."
Arianne Teherani headshot
"My goal is to make climate change
and the effect of the
environment on health
a part of health professional’s education."
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Arianne Teherani discusses the responsibility of healthcare professionals to focus on sustainability and its relationship to public health and her work identifying objectives and methods to do so.

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