Not My Job by Pat Conrad MD

A couple decades ago in med school, I passed a girl in the hall wearing a sweatshirt that proclaimed “Global Warming!” which I thought was hilarious because of, y’know, the irony.

The latest Family Practice News reminds me of that girl, and of how much contempt I have for so much that falls under the term “medicine.” FPN has a commentary from Lise Van Susteren, MD titled, “Climate change: A call to action for physicians.” (The link is to the exact same commentary that was printed in “Clinical Psychiatry news, 1/24/17).

Dr. Van Susteren – apparently no stranger to irony herself – begins with citing “about 90 psychiatrists…[of whom] the overwhelming majority believed that climate change is human caused and would soon be harming their patients. They expressed an interest in knowing more, reporting that they sometimes had little knowledge about the issues.” I must have heard a joke somewhere that began “90 issues-challenged shrinks walk into a bar and…” but I forget how it ends.

Van Susteren wants her Climate Psychiatry Alliance to address “the mental health impacts of climate disruption with practical advice on how to help our patients and our communities in the face of climate disasters…” She cites the National Academy of Sciences, that “recently linked the Zika outbreak to a rise in temperature. The expanding reach of malaria and the growing incidence of such illnesses as dengue, chikungunya, and Lyme also are linked to higher temperatures.”

And that’s not all! She also quotes studies that link climate change to violent and self-abusive behaviors: “The link between climate change and aggression is clear: For each standard deviation of increased temperature and rainfall, a 4% rise in aggression between individuals and a 14% rise among groups can be expected.”

Van Susteren is a well-connected D.C. activist, an Al Gore disciple, a Huffington Post commentator, and is on the board of directors for both the Center for Health and Global Environment at Harvard Medical School, and the National Wildlife Federation. And she ran for the 2006 Democrat nomination for the U.S. Senate from Maryland.

Please understand that I am not debating the merits of the climate change movement. I happen to live on a Gulf Coast beach and have not felt particularly aggressive, but admittedly that’s anecdotal. What I am offended as all hell about is Family Practice News publishing a political piece by a self-aggrandizing left-wing busybody and dressing it up as medicine. Unlike any other profession or industry I can name, everyone seeks to use physicians to push their own agendas, and doctors are the worst of the bunch. Van Susteren can go collect all the speaking fees, board member honoraria, and media adoration she wants. As it is, she is part of a large and growing collective seeking to force physicians to address all sorts of non-health issues with their patients. Doctors are supposed to ask about AND DOCUMENT regarding a patients’ language skills, whether they can pay the light bill, whether they feel threatened by a family member, or if there are any guns in the home, whether they have any food insecurity, and whether they have any gender identity issues. Now we can start documenting if a patient or their family is worried about climate change, about which I cannot do a damn thing, with an idiotic AFBM MOC module to follow.

Van Susteren says, “We must confront our values: Climate disruption is an issue of social justice, because those who will be hurt the most are from disadvantaged communities, and it is an intergenerational justice issue, because our children will inherit our mistakes. How will we answer these questions?”

Now I have to be responsible for social justice too? My values, Dr. V., are to mind my own damn business, stick to what I know, and not run through life clubbing people with my medical degree just to push a political agenda, however lucrative.