Four new physicians are adding their voices to the Vancouver Acute/Vancouver Community (VA/VC) Medical Staff Planetary Health Committee. Drs. Matthew Bennett, Kelly Lau, David Smith, and Tyler Smith join committee chair Dr. Rashmi Chadha and Drs. Fahreen Dossa and Harpinder Nagi as VPSA representatives in promoting the committee’s work. The group’s mandate is to educate, engage, and empower medical staff to become planetary health leaders in their professional lives with the goal of increasing awareness within their departments and affiliated institutions to lead rapid change in systems and processes.
“We were impressed by the quality of all candidates and thank everyone who applied,” said Dr. Chadha. “I would also like to thank Dr. Gordon Finlayson, who contributed so much to the committee but has now decided to step down.”
Dr. Bennett is a member of the Division of Cardiology’s advocacy committee responsible for planetary health initiatives. He is also chair of the Canadian Cardiovascular Society’s (CCS’s) Planetary Health Committee.
“I work with our division’s advocacy committee to advocate for and create action items for our division to support,” said Dr. Bennett. “These include physician and patient education about the impact of air pollution and extreme weather events on cardiovascular health, promoting initiatives with planetary and cardiovascular health co-benefits such as increased active transport and minimizing dietary meat, and creating planetary health stewards in our workplace. Through CCS, I have presented at our national cardiology meeting on planetary health topics several times. We continue to raise awareness about the interaction of planetary health and the development of cardiovascular disease. I believe my participation in the VA/VC Medical Staff Planetary Health Committee will dovetail well with this work and I am excited to bring my enthusiasm to the committee.”
Dr. Lau is an early career family physician passionate about environmental health. She is particularly interested in the role physicians can play in advocating for climate action within our community. She works in diverse settings including an outpatient family practice clinic, urgent care, and rural family medicine.
“I believe my experience in climate advocacy as well as my interest in planetary health and motivation to move towards meaningful change within our clinical work will be an asset to the committee,” said Dr. Lau. “I have promoted educational initiatives on planetary health both within my clinics as well as with residents and medical students. I have been involved in climate advocacy as a member of Doctors for Planetary Health as well as Canadian Association of Physicians for the environment. I hope my experience in community organizing, linking to different partners, as well as creativity in engaging colleagues will be valuable to this committee. I am involved in QI initiatives within my clinic such as introducing a bimonthly QI choosing wisely information as well as educational initiatives to help change inhaler prescribing use and removing exam room paper from our clinic.”
Dr. David Smith is an emergency physician at VGH. He has worked at all levels of the health-care system, from small rural clinics to tertiary centre ICUs. As an immigrant, he brings a unique perspective to our privileged work environment.
“I have witnessed acutely how climate change is affecting our patient population, by way of mass events (e.g., the heat dome, floods) and chronic illness exacerbation such as COPD and asthma,” said Dr. Smith. “I would like to look at ways of making our department more ecologically minded, by using green ED initiatives. I am hoping this may translate into wider initiatives throughout the hospital and even perhaps one day provincially.”
Dr. Tyler Smith is a hematopathologist; he believes that in the broadest picture of the future, management of planetary resources and climate will have the largest impact on human health.
“Although we physicians are trained to treat individuals with disease, we cannot ignore the environmental impacts of humans on the planet and their downstream impacts on our livelihood,” said Dr. Smith. “As a laboratory physician, I think I could best contribute to the committee in terms of utilization management of lab tests and resources. I hope to work with my clinical colleagues to reduce our lab’s impact on environmental waste.”
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Photo: (from left) Drs. Matthew Bennett, Kelly Lau, David Smith, and Tyler Smith.