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November 16: Climate Change and Infectious Disease

November 16, 2013
[caption id=“attachment_22725” align=“alignleft” width=“250”]4-6newsEpstein Photograph © Randy Brogen, CPP[/caption] Dr. Paul R. Epstein, co-founder of Harvard’s Center for Health and the Global Environment and one of the first scientists to analyze the link between global climate change and the spread of infectious diseases, was born in New York on this date in 1943. After attending the Little Red Schoolhouse, Stuyvesant High, Cornell, and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, he became an expert on tropical diseases and spent several years in Mozambique and other African countries, as well as working in impoverished American communities. During the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, Epstein and Eric Chivian, a Harvard psychiatrist, “noticed something alarming,” according to a Harvard Medical School obituary of Epstein, who died of lymphoma at 67 in 2011. “While wolves, whales, oceans and trees garnered ample attention, no one was talking about humans.... Over the next several years, Epstein and Chivian continued to make the concept of global environmental change concrete and personal for people.... Epstein was among the first to recognize the less obvious health effects of greenhouse gases, from ragweed pollen to extreme weather events.” He wrote and spoke extensively on the likely human toll of global climate change to make it an intimate rather than abstract issue. “His rare ability to communicate the subtleties and complexities of his field in layman’s terms and his strong desire to reach out and educate people about the climate crisis are a lasting part of his legacy.” —Al Gore