UCSF Sustainability Stories

Robert Hood, September 2020

Climate Change Drives Dr. Sheri Weiser to Create Sustainability Curricula at UCSF

For Dr. Sheri Weiser, professor in residence in UC San Francisco’s Division of HIV, Infectious Diseases & Global Medicine at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, climate change has been an issue she’s been passionate about.

Fifteen years ago, Weiser began researching food insecurity and its impacts on health outcomes and it was clear that climate change was a primary driver of food insecurity in many regions of the world. “Based on my personal interest in climate change, it was a natural extension to expand my work to a focus on the intersection between climate change, food insecurity, and HIV.”

After Weiser gave a few more talks on climate change and infectious disease, Ruth Greenblatt nominated her to serve on the university’s Advisory Committee on Sustainability. Weiser has been an active member of the committee and weaving sustainability into curricula ever since.

Earlier this summer, Weiser, an epidemiologist and practicing internist at ZSFGH, received the Faculty Sustainability Award at the annual UCSF Sustainability Awards Program. She was nominated by Dr. Katherine Gundling, clinical professor in Allergy and Immunology. Gundling and Weiser collaborated to develop several symposia and teaching workshops and recently collaborated on a grant along with other faculty to create a center for research, education, clinical care and advocacy at UCSF.

“We have worked consistently together over the past two years to improve climate health efforts at UCSF,” Gundling, wrote in her nomination.

Sheri Weiser with farmer.
Gundling also noted that Weiser had integrated environmental sustainability into existing campus programs in education, research, operations and public service. She emphasized that Weiser had lectured across many departments and schools focusing on the effects of climate change on HIV/AIDS, infectious diseases, and migration and that Weiser had co-taught the Climate and Health Inquiry Course as part of the Inquiry curriculum.

From 2015-17, Dr. Weiser worked with Professor Arianne Teherani on a workshop for 20 faculty from across all professional schools at UCSF to infuse themes of climate change and sustainability across the university’s curriculum. This resulted in the more than 20 courses across UCSF that have incorporated climate change and sustainability into the standard coursework.

Weiser and Teherani were later funded by the UC Carbon Neutrality Initiative to co-lead a similar initiative across the UC system designed to infuse climate change and sustainability themes throughout all UC Health Professional Schools. The goal is to target 90 courses across the UC system.

“Arianne and I first partnered on a workshop to train 20 UCSF faculty to infuse climate change, sustainability, and environmental themes into health science curriculum,” Weiser said. “With support from the UC Office of the President’s Carbon Neutrality Initiative, we subsequently built a model to train two faculty leads from each UC health science campus, so they could train 20 faculty at each of their campuses.”

Weiser said the project is the first step towards building a UC-wide culture of integrating climate change, sustainability, and environmental themes into health science curriculum. “This effort will prepare future leaders in health sciences to meet the needs of their communities as they confront climate change and the many downstream impacts on health.”

Weiser is also busy planning this year’s Population Health & Health Equity Colloquium scheduled for next winter. “We plan to include topics that span cutting edge research, education, and policy/advocacy on key topics in climate and health including COVID-19 and climate change and wildfires. We will have a strong environmental justice lens that lines up with the focus of our new Climate and Health Center and is also in line with the Deans Office for Population Health and Health Equity.”

She said their vision for the Climate and Health Center is simple. “Our collective well-being depends on a thriving planet. Our vision is to advance effective climate solutions, rooted in principles of equity and social justice, that foster healthy, sustainable communities.”