UCSF Sustainability Stories


Deborah Fleischer, August 2012


Spotlight on UCSF Sustainability Award Winner:  Sandrijn van Schaik, MD

Sandrijn2Sandrijn van Schaik, MD, Assistant Clinical Professor, Pediatrics was recently awarded the UCSF 2012 Sustainability Award.  Dr. van Schaik is professor of Pediatrics in the School of Medicine and has been a champion of UCSF sustainability for many years.  She is driven by her personal interest in environmental stewardship and has incorporated this into every aspect of her various clinical, research and leadership roles at UCSF. She worked closely with Capital Programs in the construction of the LEED Gold certified medical simulation center known as the Kanbar Center, where medical students work with highly technical robots to learn patient care skills in a controlled simulated setting.

We had the opportunity to ask the Dr. van Schaik a few questions about sustainability at UCSF.

1. Why do you think sustainability is important for UCSF?

UCSF is a leader in the field of health care and medical science, and has a responsibility towards society to model the way towards a sustainable future. This should exemplify itself not only in how we think about health care delivery, but also in our every day operations. The medical sciences are inherently wasteful, since so much of what we do in patient care and research is based on trial and error. This, combined with increasing use of disposable equipment to handle infectious disease concerns and decrease labor associated with reusable materials, has led to incredible amounts of waste. But if we don’t pay attention to the impact of all this waste on our natural environment, we will end up battling ourselves since disrupting the environment will have major consequences for human health.

2. What do you see as the link between health and the environment?

Our natural environment provides us with essential resources to maintain health, including clean air to breath, fresh, unpolluted water to drink, natural food products for nutrition. If we destroy the natural environment with pollution and waste, we will loose these resources, but also disrupt natural balances with the ecosystem that will lead to new (infectious) diseases and other threads to human kind, such as natural disasters due to climate change.

3. What accomplishment are you most proud of around promoting sustainability at UCSF?

I have to be honest that I am slightly embarrassed to get this award, since I really have not done much. Perhaps my quarterly column in the Resident Report gets some attention, and I continue to try to convince people to recycle their plastics and papers, turn off lights when they leave a room, use double-sided printing, tap water instead of bottled water, etc. But I am certainly not perfect myself - I forget my coffee mug regularly and too often print things that I could have just read electronically. But, I do bike to work every day!

4. What is one action you would like to see your fellow staff/students take?

Too often disposable equipment gets thrown away even if it was never used. Someone opens the wrong lumbar puncture kit, or takes out a central line kit but only uses one item out of it. Other items expire and get disposed, or perhaps a new model is introduced and the old ones are no longer used. The Kanbar Center for Simulation and Clinical Skills can use many of these items for skills training of students of all levels, but outside of what I find in my own clinical arena, the pediatric intensive care unit, I don’t seem to be able to get a hold of this equipment. If all clinically active personnel could keep an eye out for such equipment and save it for Kanbar, we would come yet another small step closer to reducing waste and increasing efficiency.

Congratulations Dr. van Schaik.