September 2019 Champion!

Dr. Marcalee Alexander

Physiatrist and Co-Founder of Canada to Key West

Dr. Marcalee Alexander is working on the climate crisis literally one step at a time.

The physiatrist took a break from practice to walk on an awareness-raising mission from Campobello Island to Key West, Florida. (Campobello Island, linked by an 879-foot-long bridge to Maine, was the location of the family summer place at which Franklin Delano Roosevelt contracted polio in 1921.)

Dr. Alexander started her walk on June 21, the day of the summer solstice. A big part of her purpose is a specific event she’s launching on September 22 in Washington, the Day for Tomorrow, a movement she’s building to focus on the needs of people with disabilities. “People with disabilities are disproportionately impacted with weather emergencies such as hurricanes, and will be with climate change,” she says. “This is an especially vulnerable group.”

Day for Tomorrow encourages people with and without disabilities to meet their neighbors and work today in community, based on the idea that no one, including those free from disability, knows what tomorrow will bring.

Day for Tomorrow is one day after the United Nations Youth Climate Summit, when young people from around the world will showcase their solutions. And it is the day before the Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit at the UN on September 23. Dr. Alexander wants to start a movement to pay attention to those with disabilities.

But the Washington event is only one stop in a trek to launch Day for Tomorrow and educate people about the need for the group.  Dr. Alexander talks with most everyone she sees, from giving grand rounds through contacts in medical schools to chatting with waitresses at restaurants. “When you talk with people, so many people know someone with a disability,” she says. And, she says, they’re noticing changes – such as increasing vector-borne diseases from ticks – even if they don’t make the climate crisis connection until she guides them to it, a step at a time.

Which brings us back to Dr. Alexander’s steps. She’s been putting in 13-14 miles a day, when she’s not giving talks or appearing at events. It’s no walk in the park from Canada to Key West even with her backup team, which basically is her husband, Craig, a psychologist. But she keeps the goal in mind. “You have to do something radical to get people’s attention,” she says.