When one thinks of environmental issues, terms like climate change, deforestation or renewable energy often come to mind. But in the field of health care, challenges like water sanitation, housing and disaster preparedness are also included.
The Class of 2017’s Jackie Britz has been named to a national leadership role that will give her a forum for raising awareness of the damaging impact environmental issues can have on public health. She’ll use her position to encourage fellow medical students to advocate for the health of communities that have too few health care providers to serve their population’s needs.
For Britz, it all started with trips to medically underserved communities in places like South Africa, Peru, the United Kingdom and the United States. “In each context,” she says, “I have seen the devastating impact that conditions of poverty can have on health.”
These trips sparked her passion for public health, and she has followed this interest across the globe. She’s spent time in London, where she researched healthcare barriers experienced by vulnerable populations, and in Washington D.C., where she worked for a non-profit organization focused on public health policy. Now on the MCV Campus, she’s is taking on a new role as the American Medical Student Association’s Environmental Health Coordinator.
“I hope to increase awareness among medical students about the relationship between environmental factors and public health and inspire them to take action around these issues.” By engaging medical students she aims to create a vocal group that will get involved on the national and local levels, while also informing future doctors about issues they will encounter when they treat patients.
Britz and her colleagues at AMSA have several events planned that aim to increase student engagement. She is coordinating a webinar series and is also working on National Primary Care Week, the Public Health Scholars Program and increasing the AMSA’s involvement in policy discussions on climate change.
To accomplish her goals, Britz will rely on her past experiences in the public health field. While studying for a master’s degree in public health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, she completed an award winning thesis project on England’s proposed policy of charging immigrants to access primary healthcare services. Britz also has past experience with AMSA, having served as co-president for the organization’s VCU chapter and as a member of the Advocacy Leadership Course.
Britz just returned from AMSA’s national leadership meeting, where she learned about the organization’s environmental health priorities for this year. Now she’s ready to tackle the challenge of engaging her classmates and medical students around the country in environmental public health issues.
“There are many ways medical students can get involved, such as planning local chapter events to educate other medical students about these issues, or engaging in advocacy efforts at the state or national level that help promote the health of overall communities.”
By Jack Carmichael