Climate, Health, and Healthcare: The World Needs Nurses Now

2022 Marion Woodward Lecture

Date: 20 Oct 2022

Presented by: Elizabeth Schenk, PhD, RN, FAAN, Exec. Director of Environmental Stewardship, Providence Health & Services, USA; Assistant Professor, Washington State University College of Nursing

Room: Jack Poole Hall | Robert H. Lee Alumni Centre | 6163 University Blvd | UBC

Hybrid event: Online (Zoom) & In-Person
(This event will be recorded. The recording link will be posted here within a few days of the live session.)

Time: 12 - 2pm


The climate crisis is happening now.  Across North America, we are living with unprecedented climate events that include long periods of higher than average heat. This has had devastating physical impacts through intense fire, smoke, heat and flooding. Climate change has also negatively affected the mental health of individuals, families, and communities. Dr. Schenk will discuss opportunities for nurses and other health professionals to engage with these challenging issues. With a solutions-based approach, she will describe her WE ACT Please framework, the Climate and Health Tool (CHANT), and her work leading environmental stewardship at Providence, one of the largest non-profit health systems in the US.


Elizabeth Schenk, PhD, RN, FAAN
Exec. Director of Environmental Stewardship, Providence Health & Services, USA; Assistant Professor, Washington State University College of Nursing


PANELISTS: Natania Abebe, Zachary Daly, Raluca Radu & Dr. Elizabeth Schenk
MODERATOR: Dr. Emily Jenkins

Natania Abebe, RN, MSN/MPH (she/her) works as a professional practice consultant at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Center in Ottawa, Ontario. Having recently obtained a double master's degree in nursing and public health from UBC, Natania's clinical focus is on both mental health and public health. Natania's interests include gender equality, immigrant mental health, anti-racist health care approaches and media and health. In her spare time, Natania makes films that discuss health issues. For example, her short film, Just a Nurse won an international film competition and premiered at Lucasfilm Studios in 2018. Her film was subsequently translated into Spanish by the General Council of Nurses of Spain. In Spring 2022, Natania directed and produced a documentary and toolkit exploring the mental health impacts of climate change. Using a strengths-based approach to mental health promotion, Natania's film and toolkit are meant to empower audience members to think critically about the relationship between anthropogenic activity, mental health and one's values, emotions and behaviours. Her work has been featured in various media outlets including CTV, MedScape, CBC, Spice Radio, and Global News among others.

Zachary Daly is a registered nurse, who has worked in child and adolescent mental health, in both inpatient and outpatient settings, since graduating from the UBC School of Nursing in 2017. He is currently in the second year of his PhD in Nursing, also at the UBC School of Nursing, where he is studying the mental health impacts of climate change on youth in Canada. He is interested in participatory approaches to research in which youth are involved as co-researchers and hopes to bring a strength-based and mental health promotion lens to his work, recognizing that while climate change can bring about strong emotions, these feelings are generally a rational response to the reality of climate change. He is also a member of The Canadian Association of Nurses for the Environment BC Committee (CANE BC) and feels strongly that nursing has a critical role in responding to climate change.

Raluca Radu, RN, MSN (she/her) is a Lecturer at the University of British Columbia School of Nursing, where she teaches in the BSN program and leads the Health Impacts of Climate Change course taught to undergraduate students from diverse professional disciplines. Ms. Radu is a past executive board member of the Canadian Association of Nurses for the Environment (CANE), however she is still involved with this work at the national and provincial levels across Canada. At an international scale she is involved with the Global Consortium on Climate and Health Education Nursing Working Group, focusing on implementing climate change topics in nursing curricula through competency + skills development. Ms. Radu has been instrumental in advancing knowledge situated at the intersection of climate change and human health as a result of her involvement in the academic and NGO-sectors, which has supported her ongoing growth in this sphere. She is grateful for having had the opportunity to present her work at a local and global scale, such as at the ICN 2021 Congress and the 2022 United Nations Commission on the Status of Women event highlighting Women's Health & Climate Change, to name a few. Ms. Radu hopes to continue to mentor others in their own journeys within the planetary health context, as this has been among the most rewarding aspects of her career.

Elizabeth Schenk, PhD, RN, FAAN
Executive Director of Environmental Stewardship, Providence Health & Services, USA
Assistant Professor, College of Nursing, Washington State University

Dr. Beth Schenk serves as the Executive Director of Environmental Stewardship for Providence, one of the United State’s largest non-profit health systems. On Earth Day, 2020, Providence announced its goal to become carbon negative by 2030.  Dr. Schenk is helping lead this effort through strategy and innovation, conservation of resources, by improving the efficiency of practices and processes, and through education and research, built on her experience decreasing the environmental impacts of health care for almost 30 years.

Dr. Schenk is an assistant research professor at Washington State University College of Nursing. She led the development of CHANT: Climate and Health Tool, measuring health professionals’ awareness and engagement with climate change and health. CHANT has been translated to several languages and used in over 30 nations. She developed the WE ACT Framework (Waste, Energy/water, Agriculture/food, Chemicals, Transportation) to organize the extensive range of environmental stewardship while motivating action.

She is active at national, state, and local levels, serving on the boards of the national organization The Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, the state organization Montana Health Professionals for a Healthy Climate, and the local organization Climate Smart Missoula. She hosts the Nurses for Healthy Environments Podcast, now in its fifth season.

Dr. Schenk has been honoured with the Charlotte Brody Award, as a distinguished alumnus from the University of Montana, and as a Fellow in the American Academy of Nursing, serving on the Expert Panel for Environmental and Public Health.

She is driven by her personal passion to conserve our natural world while building better health. She celebrates the joy of living in Montana with her family, friends, and pets – hiking, gardening, knitting, and playing music.