First graduate program merging climate and health to launch

By UM News

First graduate program merging climate and health to launch

By UM News
Faculty with the Miller School of Medicine and Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science will teach the interdisciplinary course.

Recognizing the risks of climate change and extreme weather to public health, the University of Miami is launching the nation’s first Master of Science in Climate and Health (MSCH) program. Offered by the Miller School of Medicine and the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, the two-year graduate program will train future generations of clinical and research professionals. 

“Climate change poses a very real risk to our health,” said UM President Julio Frenk.  “The new Master of Science in Climate and Health will provide an exciting interdisciplinary approach to understanding and mitigating the many complex factors that impact this new frontier in public health.” 

The MSCH program will offer four tracks: public health, toxicology, marine and atmospheric science, and public health, and provides opportunities to pursue interdisciplinary research, according to Naresh Kumar, program director and associate professor of environmental health in the Department of Public Health Sciences. 

“Enrollment is now open for the fall 2019 cohort with a maximum of 24 students,” said Kumar, noting that 12 fellowships will be available. “In addition, the deans of the two schools are pooling their resources to offer one scholarship in each of the first three years.”   

Elliot Atlas, program co-director and professor in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the Rosenstiel School, said the MSCH program covers geophysical principles and processes that regulate global and regional climate and weather patterns. Students will also examine the direct and indirect relationships between health, weather, and climate. 

Miller School faculty members will discuss topics like infectious disease and the greater risks vulnerable populations may face during times of extreme weather events or climate change, said Kumar. 

“Most clinicians and researchers are not trained to examine complex interconnections between public health and climate,” said Kumar. “Some impacts may be easy to understand, such as an increase in fatalities in low-lying communities after a tidal wave. But others may not be so readily apparent, such as shortage of medical supplies, such as insulin for diabetic patients after a severe hurricane.” 

Another example is the relationship between local weather conditions and pollen counts, which can impact the heath of individuals with allergies. “A meteorologist with training in public health could provide more than a daily pollen count,” Kumar said. “If the prevailing breeze is from the Atlantic Ocean to the east, someone with allergies might still be able to enjoy a day at the beach despite a high pollen level.” 

For several years, the Miller School has co-hosted the University of Miami Climate and Health Symposium with the Rosenstiel School and the College of Arts & Sciences, with another conference planned for May 11. 

“Our new graduate program is a natural progression from our collaborative educational and research activities,” said Kumar. “We are committed to bringing science and health together in a way that will educate and engage our nation’s future policymakers. 

For more information, contact Kumar at nkumar@med.miami.edu or visit the public health graduate application site, sophas.org.