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Disaster Medicine: Equitable Health Care in a Changing Climate

Public Humanities, Explorations in the Medical Humanities

February 18, 2022

From California’s Dixie Fire to Hurricane Ida, climate change is giving rise to more frequent and intense extreme weather events. Not only are these disasters fatal and costly, but they increase existing health disparities by differentially reducing access to medical care and exacerbating chronic conditions. Efforts to (re-)build environments resilient under extreme weather must be responsive to principles of climate justice. To explore the challenges of equitably adapting health care delivery systems to serve vulnerable populations in our changing climate, scholars in environmental health will discuss visioning health care delivery in extreme weather through a just climate lens. Each speaker will present a 15-20 minute paper, followed by a moderated discussion and audience Q&A. The event will take place on Zoom.

: Helen Zhao (Graduate Fellow in Medical Humanities)

Moderator: Dr. Christopher Tedeschi (Emergency Medicine)


  • Dr. Robbie M. Parks (Earth Institute), "Novel Assessments of the Health Impacts of Tropical Cyclones"
  • Dr. Joan Casey (Environmental Health Sciences), "Power Outage Preparedness, Distribution, and Duration: Spotlighting Environmental Justice"

Joan A. Casey is Assistant Professor of Environmental Health Sciences. She received her doctoral degree from the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in 2014. Dr. Casey is an environmental epidemiologist who focuses on environmental health, environmental justice, and sustainability. Her research uses electronic health records and spatial statistics to study the relationship between emerging environmental exposures and population health. She also considers vulnerable populations and the implications of health disparities, particularly in an era of climate change. Dr. Casey investigates a range of exposures including unconventional natural gas and oil development, coal-fired power plants, wildfires, power outages, and concentrated animal feeding operations. She also teaches in the MPH Core. Dr. Casey also holds a BS in Biological and Environmental Engineering from Cornell University and an MA in Applied Physiology from Teachers College at Columbia University.

As an environmental epidemiologist with a background in physics, Dr. Robbie M. Parks has diverse experience in large-scale multi-disciplinary quantitative research. He is currently an Earth Institute Post-doctoral Research Scientist at Columbia University. Robbie completed his PhD at the School of Public Health at Imperial College London with Profs. Majid Ezzati and Ralf Toumi in 2019. He graduated with a BA/MA (Oxon) in Physics from the University of Oxford.

Christopher Tedeschi, MD, MA, is Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center and director of emergency preparedness for the Department of Emergency Medicine at Columbia. His interests include wilderness and environmental medicine as well as disaster preparedness and response. Dr. Tedeschi sits on the editorial board of the Journal Wilderness and Environmental Medicine and is a Fellow of the Academy of Wilderness Medicine. He has worked in disaster preparedness and response locally and internationally, with an interest in media coverage and ethical, legal, and social issues during public health emergencies. He is course director for the medical student course in austere medicine at VP&S, and track leader for the austere practice track at NYP's emergency medicine residency. He served as NY Presbyterian’s team leader during the Hurricane Maria relief effort in Puerto Rico in 2017.

Helen Zhao is a PhD candidate in the Department of Philosophy. She is the inaugural SoF/Heyman Graduate Fellow in Medical Humanities and is writing her dissertation, advised by Philip Kitcher, on feminist values in science and medicine. She is a member of the Harvard GenderSci Lab and the Motherhood and Technology Working Group at the Columbia Center for the Study of Social Difference.