July 30, 2015

NewmanSF Bay Area PSR Board Member Dr. Tom Newman is a physician and professor with his eyes constantly on the big picture. While treating his own patients with diligent care, and teaching his students, he returns again and again to the primary value of public health. Dr. Newman is clear that the biggest threats to health are those we face collectively, whether it is climate change, infectious diseases, toxics, unhealthy or inequitable food systems, or the persistent threat of nuclear weapons.

It is that last issue, nuclear weapons, on which Dr. Newman is a particular expert . He speaks all across the Bay Area to Rotary Club members about the humanitarian and potential climatological effects of nuclear weapons. For example, in the event of even a “limited” nuclear war between regional powers such as India and Pakistan, the consequent incineration of cities would and blockage of sunlight has been predicted by many experts to lead to long term cooling, loss of crops, widespread famine and ultimately the death of over 1 billion people. Dr. Newman also speaks of the often half-hearted attempts of many world leaders to reduce the number of nuclear weapons, with the legacy of failed treaties and unkept promises. While many think that the threat of nuclear war has passed with the end of the Cold War, Dr. Newman works to continue to educate and remind us all about the need to continue our anti-nuclear activism.

He also speaks about another severe threat – climate change – and more specifically about the health effects to individuals, from ill effects to pervasive heat waves to respiratory ailments from increasing emissions.  From ground rounds to a speaking series to conference keynotes to sermons at his Unitarian Church, Dr. Newman has been dedicated to raising awareness of the dangers of climate change to the planet and to human health.

He is also focused very close to home through his work with the office of sustainability at the University of California at San Francisco, where he’s a physician and professor. He’s pushed for sustainable food sources, green office standards and works with various offices at UCSF to improve sustainability. Throughout all of this work, he’s pursued the ethic that health care quality and value is directly linked to sustainability, pushing for health over profits.

Dr. Newman speaks passionately about his connections with PSR. They’re invaluable, he says, to staying informed, to being inspired by like-minded and passionate doctors, and to the work of connecting his priorities with ever-expanding networks. Like PSR, he views health care as essential not just on an individual basis but on a local, national and global scale – all in pursuit of a vibrant present and future.