By Christin Senior | January 9, 2017 10:32 am

The World Health Organization predicts climate change will significantly increase the cost of healthcare globally in the next two decades with its effects on basic needs, such as agriculture, water and sanitation.

About 200 healthcare students and faculty from across Florida will explore these issues at the College of Medicine’s 2017 Global Health Conference entitled, “The Effect of Climate Change on the Health of the World’s Most Vulnerable Populations” scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 21.

Now in its sixth year, the conference is organized by MedPACt (Medical Students Providing Across Continents) a student organization at the UCF College of Medicine dedicated to promoting awareness and participation in improving the health-related needs of people throughout the world.

“It’s important for us to understand how the world is changing as future health care providers,” said first-year medical student Jenna Driscoll, an organizer of the conference who said the event will help students learn how to use their clinical knowledge to treat the aftermaths of global change.

“We are going to do biopsies for skin diseases, learn to deal with air pollution and its effects, waterborne diseases and other health risks associated with climate change.”

The keynote speaker is vice president for global health at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Dr. Sten Vermund who researches infectious disease control and prevention with a focus on developing countries and underserved areas of the U.S.

The yearly highlight of the conference is the series of interactive workshops and simulations featuring patient actors and computerized medical mannequins. This year, there will be seven exercises under the theme, “Across the Continents”, each featuring a climate change related health issue in a particular continent. Attendees will gain hands-on experience working with the challenges of water sanitation while using rehydration techniques and basic life support to help save a child in South America, or make rounds in a clinic in the middle of an overwhelming heatwave in Europe. Closer to home, you can step into the shoes of a first responder, treating victims from a series of motor vehicle accidents brought on by high speed winds of a hurricane in North America.

“Students can really look forward to gaining hands-on experiences from our simulations where we will treat someone suffering from a heatstroke or deal with a mass casualty incident resulting from a hurricane,” explained first-year medical student and conference organizer Arjun Patel. “If you’re a student, this is something you may not otherwise experience during your training.”

Attendees will also receive training on being advocates for climate change awareness in their role as health professionals.

“When you think of climate change, you’re not immediately thinking of children dying,” Patel noted, “but the reality is with climate change, the people who are going to really get hit hard are those in developing countries who don’t necessarily have the resources to respond to the changes they will experience.”

Researchers are invited to submit abstracts for poster presentations by January 15.

All proceeds from the conference will benefit Partners in Health, an organization that establishes treatment centers and other resources in developing countries.

To register for the conference, visit


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