Meet Our Health Professionals
These health professionals are stepping up to support urgent action to address air pollution and climate change. To share your own story about why you fight for clean air and climate action, please visit our Share Your Story page. You can learn more about some important ways you can make a difference at our Health Professionals for Clean Air and Climate Action page.
Sumita B. Khatri, M.D., M.S.
Asthma Center, Cleveland Clinic
National Board Member, American Lung Association
Climate change affects everyone.
There are many reasons why I work to fight and increase awareness around climate change. The most important reason is simple: Humanity. Climate change affects everyone, particularly those without wealth or resources to adapt. Extreme weather events such as flooding, drought, and wildfires are becoming more frequent and intense, and public health has suffered as a result. We must take swift action now to reduce the worst health impacts of climate change.
Lucy Kalanithi, M.D., F.A.C.P
Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine
Stanford School of Medicine
As a physician and mother, the climate crisis is never far from my mind.
As a physician and mother, the climate crisis is never far from my mind. Climate emergency is inseparable from human health and survival. A rapid, just transition to a clean energy economy yields health and societal benefits that vastly outweigh the costs of inaction. We are part of a growing movement that needs everyone. Join us with your action, advocacy, anger and courage.
Aparna Bole, M.D.
UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital, Cleveland
Support clean air policies for our children’s health.
As a pediatrician, I am dedicated to ensuring a healthy future for all children. Climate change poses serious health threats that disproportionately impact children, from extreme weather events, to increased air pollution, to changing patterns of infectious disease. I invite my fellow health professionals to join me in supporting policies and practices that result in cleaner air, healthier children and vibrant communities.
Therese Smith, RN, BSN
Michigan Medicine, University of Michigan
Clean air is essential to all of us.
I fight for clean air and climate action because I lost my mom to lung cancer in 1986. Ever since then I have been fighting, and with even more conviction since losing my in-laws—sister, mother, and father-in-law—to lung cancer and other lung diseases. My daughter and I both have asthma; I was diagnosed as an adult. Clean air is essential to all of us. There is no planet B.
Peggy Ann Berry, PhD, MSN, RN, COHN-S, PLNC
Make the change toward a healthier environment.
The reality is that breathing is becoming more difficult for many older adults and children with asthma because of climate change. Those with lung disease feel the greatest impacts from air pollution and climate change. Health professionals are critical leaders in the fight to for a cleaner environment so we can protect our health today and into the future.
Sonal R. Patel, M.D.
Pediatric Asthma, Los Angeles
I owe it to my children to fight for climate health.
With asthma, you wheeze, your chest tightens, you cough and are short of breath. It is a terrifying experience for my patients and their families. I want to be able to tell my children and grandchildren I did everything I could to fight for clean air and a healthy climate. What is more important?
Sunil K. Saini, M.D.
Asthma and Allergy Specialist, Upland
Associate Clinical Professor, UC Irvine
Clean air is the right of every individual.
As a specialist in treating childhood asthma, I see first-hand the effects that pollution has on the health of our most vulnerable population - children. We should view clean air as a right of every individual. We must work together to improve air quality to ensure a healthy future for not only ourselves, but also for future generations.
David Tom Cooke, M.D. and Lung Surgery Team
UC Davis, Sacramento
Fighting for a healthy climate.
Too many of our patients surviving lung diseases are being sickened by air pollution. Dirty air increases the risk of lung cancer, not to mention heart disease, and asthma, and diminishes quality of life. We stand in support of our state's clean air laws. People all across our great state are taking action for the health of their families, their friends and future generations. Will you stand with us to protect our clean air laws from outside interests?
Marc Futernick, M.D.
Dignity Health California Hospital Medical Center, Los Angeles
Regional Medical Director, VEP Healthcare
Climate action is the best medicine.
As an emergency physician, I see the profound effect climate change will have on our lives. Unless we take bold action now, more frequent heat waves, wildfires, flooding, and other natural disasters will wreak havoc on our communities. If we care about people, we need to address climate change now.
Mary Anne Tablizo, M.D.
Valley Children's Hospital, Fresno
Strong clean air leadership will help my patients breathe easier.
As a pediatric pulmonary specialist, I support policies that will help improve air quality. Communities designed around healthy transportation options like walking, biking and public transit can promote cleaner air, protect our environment, as well as help reduce obesity and a wide range of chronic illnesses. By calling on our leaders to support clean air policies, I can help my patients today and into the future.
Afif El-Hasan, M.D.
Pediatrician, San Juan Capistrano;
Governing Board Member, American Lung Association in California
Cutting emissions today means healthier children tomorrow.
Like air pollution, climate change impacts vulnerable populations the most, including our children. Children living in polluted areas experience higher rates of asthma and slowed lung development. This is a terrible burden we are putting on our children and future generations. We must dedicate all available resources to get off fossil fuels to protect children today and into the future.
Catherine Sonquist Forest, M.D., MPH, FAAFP
Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine
UCSF Natividad Family Medicine Residency
Stanford School of Medicine
Fighting climate change is crucial primary care medicine.
Climate health is crucial for public health. Science continues to demonstrate that we must join together with the rest of the world to slow climate change. This will require a concerted effort to reduce reliance of fossil fuels, limit industrial and agricultural pollutants, and strive for equal access to clean water. I feel compelled to speak out as a provider of primary care for all people impacted – which is all of us. Invest in health, not in fossil fuels.
Bruce Bekkar, M.D.
Climate Activist, Obstetrics and Gynecology
We must act decisively, and now.
The food patients eat, the water they drink, and the air they breathe are all crucial for their well-being. The climate crisis threatens each of these, and therefore health professionals must be at the front of this fight. Science tells us that we can't wait and incremental improvements aren't enough. We must act decisively, and now.
Linda Rudolph, M.D., MPH
Center for Climate Change and Health, Public Health Institute
Climate change is a global health emergency.
We are already seeing the harmful health impacts of climate change. Children, the elderly, low-income communities, and communities of color are disproportionately impacted - climate change exacerbates health inequities. We know what we need to do to chart a new course to prevent catastrophic climate change: stop burning coal, oil, and gas, as quickly as possible. But time is short. We urgently need to take action to transform our transportation and land use, energy, community infrastructure, and food systems to support a just transition that offers hope to our children for healthy people, healthy places, and a healthy planet. Health professionals must speak out for a healthy future.
David Pepper, M.D.
Staff Physician, Contra Costa Health Services
Co-Founder, Medical Advocates for Healthy Air
The planet has a fever.
I address climate change as a physician. The patient - our planet - has a fever. In addition to increased temperatures, the acid level in the oceans has increased 0.15 units in the last 100 years. If a human patient had these findings, we'd have them in the ICU, and perhaps on life support. The cause is clear: carbon pollution. We need less cars, and more walkable, bike-able infrastructure and smarter, cleaner energy alternatives. Many physicians and scientists are working on solutions. What are you doing?
Robert M. Gould, M.D.
President, SF-Bay Area Chapter
Physicians for Social Responsibility
Associate Adj. Professor
UCSF Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment
We must act urgently to halt global warming.
We need to act urgently to halt the worsening course of global warming. We need to speak clearly about the health impacts of continued fossil fuel use, and encourage all health professionals to support sustainable energy choices that guarantee a livable world for future generations.
Jose Joseph-Vempilly, M.D.
Chief, Pulmonary & Critical Care, Veterans Administration
We are what we breathe.
The Central Valley has been consistently ranked one of the regions with the worst air quality in the nation for over a decade. It's high time we clean up our act and the air we breathe. We owe this to our children and patients with heart disease and lung diseases such as asthma, COPD and lung cancer.
Daya Upadhyay, M.D.
Medical Director, Lung Nodule Program; Associate Prof of Medicine, UCSF Fresno, Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine
We must raise our voices to fight climate change
Climate change imposes a serious threat to human health and our environment. We must act now and raise our voices to fight climate change and support strong clean air policies. This will improve public health immediately and create a livable environment for future generations.
John R. Balmes, M.D.
Professor of Medicine, UCSF;
Professor of Environmental Health Sciences,
Climate change is the greatest environmental threat to public health.
As a physician and researcher, I know that climate change is an urgent health issue that affects my patients now and future generations. In fact climate change is the most significant environmental threat to public health of our century. As physicians, we must raise our voices against the public health threat of climate change just like we did with cigarettes a generation ago.
Angela Wang, M.D.
Pulmonologist, Scripps Clinic
Climate change is real, it is now.
Climate change is real. It is now. As a mother and pulmonologist, I see the myriad ways through which climate change corrodes the health of not just my patients, but my family, friends, neighbors and community. It's not just the rising rates of asthma and allergies, it's the stunted lung development of our children, the effect on our food supply, the poisoning of the air and water needed to sustain life. As ordinary citizens, we can all do our part to push back, either by speaking up or through individual actions that conserve energy or supporting organizations like the American Lung Association. No action is too small. The time to get involved is now.
Praveen Buddiga, M.D.
Family Allergy Asthma Clinic, Fresno
Cleaner fuels will help my patients breathe easier.
We have no control over the air we breathe, but we do have a say in what pollutes it. My patients suffer the side effects of pollution every day, whether they live in cities or rural areas. They have the most to lose if we don't continue pushing for cleaner air. That is why I support California taking the lead in reducing its carbon pollution from transportation fuels.
Sharon Chinthrajah, M.D.
Pulmonary/Critical Care and Allergy/Immunology, Stanford
All communities deserve a healthy climate.
Air pollution has detrimental effects on fetal development, sends people to the hospital for respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses, and worsens asthma and COPD. Climate leadership is about improving the lives of our most vulnerable communities and bringing hope for a better future.
Laren Tan, M.D.
President-elect, California Thoracic Society
Director, Comprehensive Program for Obstructive Airway Diseases
Assistant Professor of Medicine, Loma Linda University Health, California
You can't run from climate change.
We breathe better with clean air. Exercise and healthy living are both affected when the air we are breathing is filled with air pollution. As a pulmonologist, I've witnessed firsthand the effects of climate change and poor air quality on my patients with chronic respiratory diseases. Taking a stand to reduce climate pollution is what our children and patients deserve. The California Thoracic Society is proud to work closely with the American Lung Association in educating and promoting ways to reduce climate pollution and enable our communities to run towards a life of better breathing.
Alex Sherriffs, M.D.
Family Medicine, Fowler
California's leadership is keeping my patients healthy.
Strategies that lower greenhouse gas emissions also lower ozone precursors and the most deadly small particle pollutants. I am proud Californians have made our state a global leader in confronting climate change. We can all breathe easier today, and future generations will respect and thank us for our commitment to making difficult choices now.
Karen Jakpor, M.D.
Volunteer Physician, American Lung Association in California, Riverside
When you can't breathe, nothing else matters.
Forget the "controversy"-- fighting for clean air results in reduced greenhouse gas emissions and benefits the health of all. No matter what your political persuasion, you need to breathe. As an asthmatic I know first-hand that when you can't breathe, nothing else matters. Air pollution not only affects the lungs-- it can cause heart attacks, stroke, and cancer. For the sake of our children, let's clean the air.
Tze-Ming (Benson) Chen, M.D.
Critical Care & Pulmonary Medicine, San Francisco
Clean air equals healthy air.
Climate health is of critical importance to our own personal well-being and that of our children and future generations. We can all agree that air pollution threatens our ability to breathe comfortably and provide a safe and healthy climate for our children and grandchildren. Join me in our efforts to protect our air and environment now and for the future.
Gary Pace, M.D.
County Health Officer, Mendocino County Health and Human Services Agency
The wildfires are a wake-up call.
The devastating wildfires in our communities served as a wake-up call. The unfolding climate crisis is impacting human health now and will become even more of a factor in the future. The medical community has a huge role to play in advocating for reducing emissions and highlighting the health benefits of doing so.
Hassan Bencheqroun M.D., FCCP
Interventional Pulmonary and Critical Care
Assistant Clinical Professor – UC Riverside School of Medicine
Chair, Council of Networks CHEST (American College Chest Physicians)
Patients with lung disorders are most impacted by air pollution.
We know that even when people improve their health by kicking smoking and exercising more, air pollution can slow that progress, and lead to more pulmonary and cardiovascular consequences. Our patients trust our recommendations. We as healthcare professionals must be vocal in supporting clean air legislation that will protect their health. We will all benefit today and into the future.
Michael Ong, M.D., PhD
Professor of Medicine in Residence
David Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA
Healthy solutions will help California achieve smog and soot goals.
Air pollution harms lung health, affects lung development and growth in children, causes asthma attacks and kills thousands of Californians each year. We need to get out of our cars and make walking and cycling the easy choice. I support the rapid transition away from dirty gasoline and diesel fuels in favor of healthier options like electricity and hydrogen. These are key health solutions that will help everyone breathe easier.
Penny Borenstein, M.D., MPH
San Luis Obispo County Health Agency
We take health and climate change personally.
As a health officer with the San Luis Obispo Public Health Department, I view climate change as an urgent health issue. I am working hard with my staff to educate the public about ways we can work together to improve health and fight climate change. We're doing our part to raise awareness of climate impacts in our community. We invite others to join us!
Cindy Russell, M.D.
Chair, Environmental Health Committee
Santa Clara County Medical Association
To do so we need to extract ourselves from the use of oil, gas and coal, implementingcradle to cradle clean energy systems in concert with conservation measures. Oil wells and pipelines will not create a clean energy future. Walkable cities, expanded bike routes, solar power and local organic sustainable food systems address not only climate change and air pollution but also the major health threats we see as physicians such as asthma, cancer, heart disease and obesity. Industry, governments and individuals alike need to think about transforming their habits of consumption and travel. Together we can preserve a healthy, beautiful, livable planet.
Page Last Updated: August 14, 2019