Science & Tech

the earth
"The more voices involved in the discussion, the more ideas can be brought up in regards to changes and alterations that can benefit the Earth." Photo: Pexel/Stock
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On Sept. 2, 2021, the University of Ottawa announced the appointment of Husein Moloo as the director of planetary health. This step comes at a critical point, and is the direct result of the University’s transformation 2030 pledge. Both the pledge and position aim to decrease our environmental impact by collaborating students’ initiatives, passions, and drive with the faculty’s and their partners’ work. Dr. Moloo believes that positive and necessary change will be able to take place in the faculty of medicine, healthcare system, and on campus.

In an interview with the Fulcrum, Moloo explained his vision for the role. 

“I think planetary health is kind of this realization that, for you and me to be healthy, for humanity to be healthy, it depends on a healthy planet as well.”

To achieve this goal, the director of planetary health will be working on applying longitudinal integration into the medical school curriculum, which could involve discussing how air pollution affects respiratory issues, how cancer incidence is connected to environmental exposure, and why sex trafficking goes up when there are areas that experienced drought and subsequently loss of employment.  

“By collaborating the efforts of students and professors, we can have a better impact. One example of that is through education, allowing the public to understand the intersections between our physical, mental and planetary health,” said Moloo.

Many areas of healthcare require tools or practices that worsen our planet’s health. Moloo discussed some ways to mitigate them. In procedures such as those using anesthetics, where different gases are used to put people to sleep. Moloo estimates those gases, compared to CO2, have 40,000 times the impact on the atmosphere. An alternative to this can be opting to use regional anesthetics in the spine (epidurals). 

In his research, Moloo focuses mainly on colorectal cancer, though he also recognizes the greater impact to hospitals are coming from surgeries and operations. He explains a more effective way to reduce our carbon footprint. 

“So we know that [a] colonoscopy, for example, is preventative, right, in terms of colorectal cancer screening, right? So we focus more on prevention, versus trying to do things better in the operating room. It’d be better if we didn’t operate at all, because that would actually reduce it even more.”

The director of planetary health believes it’s important to take what’s been observed during the pandemic and to learn from it in order to question whether or not old practices are ethical. He feels medical students are ready for change, and he’s willing to meet them halfway. Moloo is committed to educating the public in hopes of shifting the culture. 

He added, “working as a community will help us look into adjustments that can be made to lessen the University’s carbon footprint, as well as the amount of waste produced. The more voices involved in the discussion, the more ideas can be brought up in regards to changes and alterations that can benefit the Earth, and, in the end, our futures.”