Undergraduate Medical Education

We believe healthy people cannot exist on an unhealthy planet. Environmental hazards such as air pollution, extreme temperatures, and extreme weather – all related to climate change – threaten nearly every aspect of human health, and the magnitude of the impact is only increasing. This is why future physician-leaders must be well-versed in climate science, health system environmental stewardship, health co-benefits of climate change mitigation, and the management and prevention of climate-related health hazards (e.g. heat-related illness, exacerbation of allergies, asthma, and COPD) – specifically among highly vulnerable populations.

Our vision is for graduates to become physician-leaders capable of transforming the health of diverse communities. The evolving core curriculum in planetary health will ensure are capable of positively transforming human health while helping to reverse the environmental crisis.

A student-run subcommittee within CU CHASE (Climate & Health, Advocacy, Sustainability, and Education) and led by MS1 Jamie Smith, is currently mapping out the undergraduate curriculum to identify more opportunities to integrate learning objectives in planetary health.

The vision includes having a longitudinal curriculum beginning in the first year with fundamentals of climate science, health impacts of climate-related hazards, and impacts on vulnerable populations. Some curriculum will be a  standalone (such as climate science fundamentals) but other materials will be taught alongside traditional courses in physiology, nutrition, and pharmacology.

During the second and third years, students will practice applying knowledge during their clinical rotations. Students who want a deeper dive in planetary health could do so while working with faculty on their Mentored Scholarly Project.

Fourth year students currently have the option of taking the popular 2-week elective (see more below). Fourth year is also a good time to finish independent projects in advocacy, quality improvement, and research.

  • Current Core Offering(s)
    • 1-hour overview lecture in Climate and Health

  • Electives
    • Course Title: Climate Medicine (EMED 8010), University of Colorado School of Medicine

      • Date: February 13 – 24, 2023
      • Course Description:
        This two week condensed course will be offered to fourth year students in a hybrid format. 
      • Overall Course Goal:
        Students will develop a critical understanding of climate change and how to address resulting health threats. Students will also build skills in clinical care, communication, professionalism, and more.
      • Topics:
        Topics covered in the course will include heat waves and heat illness, extreme weather, vector-borne diseases, mental health, air degradation, water and food security, and vulnerable populations. We will also have op-ed writing workshops and students will learn relevant governance on climate change, both nationally and internationally.
      • Apply:
        University of Colorado School of Medicine students may apply through OASIS and visiting students may apply through AAMC’s VSAS program.
      • Director: Elizabeth Gillespie
        Coordinator: Meagan Rivers

    Beth Gillespie

    Beth Gillespie, MD, FACP, is an ABIM-certified hospitalist at Denver Health Medical Center, and an assistant professor in the CU School of Medicine. She is a masters candidate in epidemiology through the Colorado School of Public Health (expected graduation December 2023). Gillespie's primary professional interest is in clinical research and education surrounding the climate and health nexus, with particular focus on understanding the ideal role for local health systems in climate change mitigation and adaptation.

    She held a leadership position (January 2017 - June 2020) representing the Society of General Internal Medicine (SGIM) on the Steering Committee for The Medical Consortium on Climate Change and Health, and is founding member of SGIM’s environmental health interest group which authored SGIM’s Position Statement on Climate and Health (approved by Council 2021) and advocates for more cross-cutting sustainability practices in the organization. She serves as inaugural sustainability chair for SGIM’s Planning Committee. Locally, Gillespie co-chairs the Environmental Sustainability at Denver Health.

    In 2019, Gillespie completed a two-year clinical research fellowship focused on climate change and health through the Adult and Child Consortium for Health Outcomes Research and Delivery Science at the CU School of Medicine. Grateful for initial funding she received for climate-related health research through the Denver Health Pilot Program, Gillespie continued to work in this area through July 2022 as a guest researcher with the CDC’s Climate and Health Team, a position made possible through her 2021-2022 fellowship with CU’s Climate and Health Science Policy Program. Gillespie directs the medical school's elective on climate and health and is currently facilitating a group of motivated CU School of Medicine students working to integrate planetary health into the core curriculum.


    Administrative Support:

    Meagan Rivers: Meagan.Rivers@cuanschutz.edu

    Student Council Sustainability Co-Chairs:

    Student editors and contributors to the Planetary Health Report Card (PHRC). Link to University of Colorado PHRC 2022

    Rebekah Davis, MS1; Armaan Dhillon, MS2; Whitney Kelly, MS3; Monisha Lensink-Vasan, MS1; Vivian Rajeswaren, MS4 (primary contact); Alessandra Santiago, MS2; Lukas Sloan, MS3 (primary contact); Caroline Walsh, MS2

    Students focusing on planetary health subjects for their MSP: Armaan Dhillon, Jamie Smith

    The University of Colorado School of Medicine completed its first Planetary Health Report Card (PHRC) for 2022. We continue to improve based on our standings for 2023 and here is our detailed 2023 PHRC. The following students and faculty contributed to this 2023 Report:

    • Students:
      • Rebekah Davis, MS1
      • Armaan Dhillon, MS2
      • Whitney Kelly, MS3
      • Monisha Lensink-Vasan, MS1
      • Vivian Rajeswaren, MS4
      • Alessandra Santiago, MS2
      • Lukas Sloan, MS3
      • Caroline Walsh, MS2

    • Faculty Mentors:
      • Beth Gillespie, MD

    • Primary Contacts:


    • CU CHASE is an interdisciplinary group open to all students, faculty, and staff at CU Anschutz focused on raising awareness and taking action on the human health implications of climate change. The group is organized into our three areas of focus: Advocacy, Sustainability, and Education. We are an affiliate group of Medical Students for a Sustainable Future, and have access to their resources/opportunities. We are also closely associated with the CU Consortium for Climate Change and Health, a group of practitioners/researchers at CU who have united in their work to advance science and health practices related to the intersection of climate and health. To learn more or join our email list please write to CHASE@cuanschutz.edu.

    Medical Students for a Sustainable Future (MS4SF)

    • CU's MS4SF works closely with CU CHASE to broaden impact and to center the idea that addressing climate change and health is an interdisciplinary process. The current chapter leader of CUs MS4SF is Douglas Fritz (douglas.fritz@cuasnchutz.edu).

    Faculty Contacts for Research/QI:

    • Josina O’Connell, MD, and Janet Meredith, MBA: Community Perspective and Engagement on the Impacts of Temperature Extremes in Colorado‚Äč

    Advocacy Opportunities:

    Other Helpful Links:

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