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