Where Students Learn to Lead and Tackle the Impacts of Climate Change on Health

We believe that climate change is among the world’s most pressing environmental health issues.  Our department helps train the next generation of leaders to prepare for impacts including increases in catastrophic storms, air pollution, and heat stress.  Climate change has motivated our faculty to publish groundbreaking research and produce award-winning documentary films. Our alumni play key roles at the White House, in federal agencies and nongovernmental organizations.  

EOH Department Chair Melissa Perry has made educating our students to tackle the health impacts of climate change her mission since arriving at GW from Harvard five years ago.  In addition to the extensive curricula that prepare students to become leaders able to address climate change, our program is housed in a LEED platinum certified building with climate-preserving features. This building is the subject of study and a constant reminder that changes to mitigate or improve climate are achievable. Our students have embraced that conviction, and often choose to focus on climate-related topics during their course of study. Collaborating with their professors, students have recently published studies on heat deaths and greenhouse gas emissions from fracking

Associate professor and accomplished filmmaker Sabrina McCormick produced two segments of the Emmy-award winning documentary Years of Living Dangerously.  She is currently working on the documentary’s next episodes.  Her research projects include important investigations into the underreporting of heat deaths and American cities’ preparedness for and vulnerability to climate change. 

EOH students have completed internships and practica at environmental vanguards, including the White House’s U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP). Among them, EOH alumnus Mark Shimamoto, now USGCRP’s health lead, helped arrange for GW’s Milken Institute SPH to host a town hall meeting on climate change and public health. Our department’s faculty, students, and alumni have attended White House gatherings on climate change including roundtables and events that convene the media and scientific community. EOH faculty have also served as White House advisors and featured speakers, in addition to providing expert opinion at panel discussions for policymakers on Capitol Hill

The depth and scope of the potential climate change crisis are only starting to emerge and EOH faculty are at the forefront.  Many members of our department pooled their expertise to coauthor a systematic review outlining the risks that climate change pose to worker safety and health. Dean Lynn Goldman and Perry spearheaded the creation of an environmental and occupational health consortium of DC-area universities that recently held a meeting on the threats climate change poses to Washington, DC. To ensure a better-protected future for everyone, the department intends to continue identifying the distinctive threats that climate change poses to public health and worker safety.