What does it mean to be a “green” pediatrician?
I’ve recently been dubbed a “green” pediatrician by the Queen-of-Green, Deirdre Imus, whom I serve as a medical advisor at the Deirdre Imus Environmental Center in New Jersey. I took it as the compliment it was intended to be, but I also considered that the phrase might mean different things to different people. The term “green” is generally meant as an environmentally-conscious label. Green products are considered safe for the environment and healthier for people who use them. Are green doctors the same? I think so. A central tenet of integrative practice is mindfulness about the effect the environment has on health and wellness, and about the effect health care has on the environment. An example is the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital at Hackensack University Medical Center, the nation’s first completely green women and children’s hospital. It’s actually a healthy environment for sick and well folks – which can’t be said about most hospitals. From providing organic food choices to using non toxic cleaning agents, HUMC is certainly green.
But to be a green doctor, I think, also means adopting holistic, “whole child” philosophies central to healing practice. Respecting and communicating with patients, collaborating with CAM therapists, recognizing the importance of mind-body connections, using natural resources for healing, and of course, working with children within the context of families and communities are key components of being green.
The community aspect is so important. We do not exist in isolation, and we have an obligation to advocate for the sake of our most precious natural resource, our children. And as Kermit said, sometimes it’s not easy being green. Even as I write this, I’m embroiled in a local environmental “situation”– working with parents and teachers at a school for autistic children who may have been exposed over recent years to a variety of neurotoxic industrial waste products. Sometimes you have to be willing to stand up for the kids, even when “the authorities” and medical establishment may not agree, or worse, actively work against the truth. I’m not saying this is the situation in Northvale; in fact, this is an opportunity for all of us to work together for the community’s benefit. I am cautiously optimistic that this is the way it’ll go. But I can tell you this – the parents of these children won’t let it turn out any other way. And I’m honored to work with them.
I’ll leave you with a relevant section from a recent interview I did for WebMD:
“There’s still definitely a gap between what we know to be true scientifically and what we theoretically think is true, but either way, avoiding even potentially damaging compounds, particularly in young babies, can never be a bad thing, and it simply makes good common sense,” says Rosen, section chief of the division of pediatric integrative medicine at Hackensack University Medical Center and medical advisor to Deirdre Imus Center for Pediatric Oncology.
Moreover, he says that while we may have less evidence of the good that “going organic” can accomplish, we do have very strong evidence of the kind of harm that is being done via nonorganic living.
“There are advantages to doing something, and then there are also risks and costs to not doing it. And certainly, there are theoretical environmental compounds or toxins that have negative health consequences, either leading to cell damage or cell death or down the road, cancer, heart disease, and neurological changes,” says Rosen.