The path to climate-smart, net-zero emissions health care: A grand rounds series

  • US & Canada

Grand Rounds Series 2022 Image

Presented by Health Care Without Harm in partnership with the Global Consortium on Climate and Health Education, this five-part virtual grand rounds series explores strategies to reduce health care emissions and features the leadership of climate-smart clinicians and researchers.

During the sessions participants will learn about:

  • Strategies to achieve net-zero health care emissions
  • Opportunities to bring climate-smart health care to the bedside
  • Emerging research that supports health care decarbonization

Register now for upcoming sessions and view summaries and recordings of past sessions.

Upcoming sessions

Session 4
Sustainable ophthalmology: Eye care with a vision for climate-smart surgery
Sept. 22, 11 a.m. ET

In this session moderated by ENT surgeon Dr. Neelu Tummala, ophthalmologists will discuss the environmental impact of ophthalmic practice and share how ophthalmologists are leading the climate-smart surgery movement, reducing pharmaceutical waste and advocating for policy change.

View event details and register

Additional upcoming sessions will be added here as they are finalized.


Past sessions

Session 1
Climate, health care and the Race to Zero: A call to action
Jan. 27, 2022 11 a.m. ET

In our inaugural grand rounds session, Gary Cohen, president and founder of Health Care Without Harm, issued a call to action to the health care sector to urgently reduce emissions to protect health. He highlighted how the Global Roadmap for Health Care Decarbonization can help the sector meet the goals of the Race to Zero — to halve emissions by 2030 and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050— and why clinician leadership is critical in meeting this goal.

He was joined by Dr. Beth Schenk and Dr. Rengaraj Venkatesh, sustainability leaders from Providence and Aravind Eye Care System. Both of these visionary health systems understand that reducing health care emissions is at the core of their mission to improve health and have signed onto the Race to Zero, committing to reduce emissions across all scopes in line with the Paris Agreement.

Dr. Schenk discussed Providence’s bold commitment to become carbon negative by 2030 using their WE ACT framework, and why environmental stewardship is an organizational priority. She communicated the value of clinician leadership and shared the work of anesthesiologist Dr. Brian Chesebro who led Providence’s efforts to successfully transition to lower-emission anesthetics, achieving an 83% reduction in emissions and a 65% reduction in cost, resulting in $1.79M annual savings.

Dr. Venkatesh shared the inspirational story of Aravind Eye Hospital’s low-carbon eye care system and how they are challenging conventions about surgery and demonstrating that surgery’s climate footprint can be decreased by focusing on patient-centered care, efficiency and decreasing waste - without compromising quality. In addition to Aravind’s sustainability efforts, he also discussed a waste and life cycle assessment of phacoemulsification (a cataract surgery technique) finding that Aravind Eye Hospital’s carbon footprint is 5% of the UK’s footprint for the same surgery.

If you are interested in taking action to support the transition to zero emissions health care check out Health Care Without Harm’s health care climate action site. Learn about opportunities to get education about climate and health from the Global Consortium on Climate and Health Education.

View event recording


Session 2
Clinical leaders as drivers of sustainability: a physician-researcher perspective
Mar. 16, 11 a.m. ET

During our second session, presented with the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for the Environment and Health, Dr. Jonathan Slutzman discussed why clinician leadership and research are critical in reducing health care emissions, and why climate-health innovation centers are needed to deepen emissions reduction across the sector.

Dr. Slutzman explained why research, including life cycle assessment (LCA) and waste audits, is crucial to quantify health care emissions and provide the data needed for medical professionals to make evidence-based decisions and identify interventions that improve the environmental performance of clinical care. He reviewed health care sustainability science and several studies including an update of US health care emissions, an LCA comparing reusable vs. disposable laryngoscopes, along with two studies of his own - an analysis of transportation GHG emissions reduction related to telehealth and a 24-hour emergency department waste audit. He went on to discuss how clinical care is the driving force of pollution generation in health care and how a focus on prevention along with reducing inefficient, low-value clinical practices can yield waste and emissions reductions

In recognition of the impact of clinical care, hospitals and health systems are appointing medical directors of sustainability to lead efforts to reduce the impact of clinical services and bring a clinical perspective to sustainability decision-making. Currently, eleven US and Canadian physicians serve in this new role, including Dr. Slutzman. Contact Dr. Amy Collins if you want to learn more about this position or want support in making the pitch for the position to your leadership team.

Finally he shared his experience developing the Mass General Center for the Environment and Health and its mission to integrate environmental sustainability into the clinical, research, educational, and community health activities of the hospital. You can learn more about the potential of health system sustainability centers in this Health Affairs commentary by Dr. Matthew Meyer.

If you want to learn more about the medical director of sustainability position and sustainability centers check out the sessions on these topics during CleanMed 2022 Kansas City.

If you are interested in taking action to support the transition to zero emissions health care check out Health Care Without Harm’s health care climate action site. Learn about opportunities to get education about climate and health from the Global Consortium on Climate and Health Education.

View event recording


Session 3
Sustainable radiology: Bringing climate-smart medical imaging into focus
June 16, 11 a.m. ET

Our third session featured panelists discussing how radiologists are successfully creating a sustainable radiology movement through interdisciplinary collaboration, educating colleagues, and engaging radiologists and professional societies.

Interventional radiologist Dr. Jonathan Gross explained the main driver of emissions from diagnostic radiology is energy use for imaging equipment and workstations. Gross shared strategies to reduce emissions from diagnostic imaging equipment including powering down workstations and equipment when not in use, configuring workstations to enter standby mode after short periods of inactivity, and optimizing scheduling to minimize the time equipment is idle. He also gave an overview of the existing radiology literature including:

  • An investigation of abdominal imaging equipment emissions, finding that emissions from manufacturing and equipment use were greatest for MRI and each abdominal MRI generated enough emissions to cool a three-bedroom house for a day or drive a car 180 miles
  • A measure of energy consumption by three CT and four MRI scanners and their associated cooling systems over one year finding that the total was equivalent to the amount of energy used to power a town of 852 people living in four-person households
  • An evaluation of power consumption of radiology workstations finding the workstations were inactive 50% of the time and the majority of the energy was consumed when not in use
  • Research finding that emissions from 25 picture archiving and communication system (PACS) stations left on overnight and on weekends were equivalent to annual emissions from seven vehicles

Researcher Dr. Cassandra Thiel shared results of a life cycle assessment measuring emissions from a hospital interventional radiology department finding the majority of emissions are generated from energy used to maintain climate control and use of single-use supplies. Learn more about this study. Thiel explained that decarbonization of radiology practice and the health care sector will require partnerships and interdisciplinary collaboration with both internal and external stakeholders, including accrediting and regulatory bodies, professional societies, and manufacturers. 

Dr. Julia Schoen, founder and leader of Radiologists for a Sustainable Future (R4SF), shared her experience building a culture of sustainability in the radiology community. The group’s successes include leading efforts to get a climate and health resolution passed by the American College of Radiology and advocating for the theme of the Association of University Radiologists’ 2022 annual meeting to be sustainability, climate change, and radiology.

Schoen explained how medical imaging is a major source of health care overutilization. While the attention to low-value imaging has been motivated by interest in reducing costs and improving patient safety, reducing unnecessary imaging can yield environmental co-benefits including emissions reduction. She shared a study finding that through education and other interventions, inappropriate use of CT-PE (pulmonary embolus) studies decreased by 52%.

Learn more in this Q&A with Dr. Schoen and these articles she co-authored: Climate Change and Radiology and Radiology in Our Changing Climate: A Call to Action.

Radiologists interested in promoting sustainability and reducing the environmental impact of radiology through education, policy efforts, and research are encouraged to sign up for Health Care Without Harm’s Physician Network and join R4SF.

View event recording