April 19, 2013

Dr. Tom Newman has been involved in PSR for more than 30 years. He is a member of the SF Bay Area chapter’s Steering Committee and Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and Pediatrics and Chief of the Division of Clinical Epidemiology at UCSF’s School of Medicine. Dr. Newman has infused PSR issues into traditional academic environments in a variety of ways, calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons in an article in Pediatrics and in a New England Journal of Medicine book review, giving Grand Rounds talks on climate change and on nuclear weapons,  and co-leading a session on nuclear power and nuclear disarmament with Dr. Helen Caldicott at the American Academy of Pediatricians National Conference and Exhibition.

At UCSF, Dr. Newman is spearheading work on sustainability, transitioning a Sustainability Task Force into a full-fledged standing committee of the Academic Senate. In its current form, the Sustainability Task Force proposed a resolution calling on the University of California to phase-out its purchasing of meat and poultry raised with non-therapeutic antibiotics.  The Academic Senate leadership and the faculty councils of the schools of medicine and pharmacy have unanimously endorsed this resolution.  Dr. Newman said it was at a PSR Board meeting that he first heard the effects of raising livestock on the environment (particularly climate change), and decided to stop eating beef, lamb and pork. PSR was also where he initially heard about fossil fuel divestment, the topic of another resolution of the Sustainability Task Force. “PSR helps me stay informed and provides a great group of role models who encourage me to continue to work on these issues.”

Dr. Newman told the story of an invitation he received to speak at UCSF’s Annual Advances and Controversies in Pediatrics meeting. “They asked me to talk about urinary tract infections, and I said I’ll give that talk if you’ll let me talk about climate change.”  The organizers not only agreed, they made the climate change talk the keynote.

Dr. Newman reports that pediatricians have been receptive to the message.  “Pediatrics as a specialty has a long tradition of realizing that we’ll have a much bigger impact on the health of children by including public health and advocacy efforts in what we do.”

Another important group in Dr. Newman’s life is the Unitarian Universalists of San Mateo. Last summer he led a service on climate change, including a sermon entitled “Caring for the Earth and Ourselves.”  And he agreed to be head of the congregation’s facilities committee to make their building more Green.

Dr. Newman joined PSR in the early 80s.  “It was when Reagan was talking about winning a nuclear war, so it was a scary time and there was a clear role for health professionals to talk about how absurd that was.”

Dr. Newman also serves on the National PSR Board of Directors as chair of the Audit Committee and member of the Environmental Health Committee. Dr. Newman is Chair of the UCSF Academic Senate Sustainability Task Force and member of the UCSF Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Sustainability. He received UCSF’s first Annual Faculty Sustainability Award in 2011.