October 2021 Champion!
Bob Friedlander, MD
Dr. Bob Friedlander approaches the climate crisis from his perspective as a palliative care physician.
That’s not so bad.
As the retired oncologist and palliative care physician points out, palliative care is not solely for people at end-of-life. It is also for symptomatic relief in people with serious medical illness. “Both palliative care and climate action are focused on improving quality of life and, to a somewhat lesser extent longevity,” Dr. Friedlander says. “It’s important to frame both interventions in realistic but hopeful terms.”
Dr. Friedlander is working with a diverse group of healthcare workers in his state to create a grassroots, independent and nonpartisan organization, New Hampshire Healthcare Workers for Climate Action, an affiliate of the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health. The group’s mission is to provide healthcare workers with the tools to educate and mobilize colleagues, patients, family members, community members and policy makers in support of climate solutions to improve health for all, including the most vulnerable among us who often bear the biggest burden from climate change.
He carefully listens to healthcare workers and finds ways to both amplify their voices and support direct actions. “One of the hallmarks of palliative care is active listening,” he says. “You need an understanding of what patients and family members value most in their lives and where they find meaning.” That’s also true for creating effective grassroots organizations, he says.
Doctors consult on difficult cases, and Dr. Friedlander is consulting on the difficult case of climate change. The Concord resident has been a volunteer healthcare community organizer in his state for twenty years for both political and issue-based advocacy campaigns. He says healthcare workers are fortunate to have trusted messenger status on many issues. “Our voices are too often missing, however,” he says. “My primary mission is to amplify them.”