On February 7, 2020, the newly formed student group, Emerging Leaders for Environmental Sustainability in Healthcare (ELESH), held their inaugural event, the Greening Healthcare Case Challenge Showcase. The Showcase featured the work of 13 interdisciplinary teams of students from 15 departments or faculties across all three University of Toronto campuses. The teams worked together during the month of January to propose ideas towards environmentally sustainable healthcare. The showcase was hosted by ELESH leadership and Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation PhD students Anna Cooper Reed and Victoria Haldane. At the showcase, teams presented their ideas to an expert panel of judges for a chance to win cash prizes.
The winning team included Master of Health Informatics candidates, Irfan Hakim and Sandi Johnson, as well as Master student, Aravind Rajendran, who is in the Health Services Research program. In addition to placing first with the judging panel, they also won the audience choice award for their project on green burials titled Sustainable Passings.
Sandy, Aravind, and Irfan shared their thoughts on the experience:
“The idea for sustainable burials had been floating in the back of my head for a few
years. The case competition created an encouraging environment to work with my team on figuring out how the idea could be made actionable in Toronto and how best to pitch the idea. I got to learn a lot from my team, the case competition mentors and the ELESH group. Overall a wonderful experience!” – Sandy Johnson
“I wanted to do the case challenge to work on my creative problem-solving skills and practice my public speaking. Through the case, I was also hoping to learn as much as I could about sustainability in healthcare in the time given. I enjoyed the experience and particularly liked showing our ideas to the audience in the final event. Moving forward I hope to continue learning about sustainability.” – Aravind Rajendran
“Sustainable burials was an amazing idea to just go through and parse out. This case competition allowed my team and I to have direction and really go through the different lens to tackle the issue of sustainable health. The mentors were immensely helpful in giving insights and giving us the ability to apply a holistic approach to sustainable healthcare, especially our idea for burials. Additionally, when it came to the environment and feel of the case competition, the enthusiasm and the excitement that everyone felt both before and during the day of the competition was almost palpable. Like others, I got to learn from everyone who participated and their ideas. The experience as a whole was perfect and I would most certainly like to do it again when it comes around next year. Thank you ELESH!” – Irfan Hakim
The Canadian College of Health Leaders (CCHL) Innovation Prize for the 2nd place team went to medical students Monisha Basu, Rakshith Gangireddy, Naushin Halani, Yaanu Jeyakumar, and Christina Kim. The team presented The Gaia Cup Project, a hospital-based system for reusable cup return.
This is what they shared about the event:
“This was an incredible opportunity for us to break the monotony of school to consider an issue that has very real implications in our immediate futures. As medical students, it’s not often that we’re made to consider the environmental impacts of healthcare – we naturally focus on the clinical aspects. However, ELESH gave us the impetus to not only do so now, but to continue to do so going forward in our careers.” – Monisha, Rakshith, Naushin, Yaanu & Christina
The third prize, funded by the Canadian Association of Nurses for the Environment (CANE) went to Master of Public Health and Environmental Health students Denny Choi, Aju-Sue Francis, Marianne Lahaie Luna, and Holly Philbrick for their idea to green Toronto hospitals through a comprehensive rooftop garden project.
Other projects proposed included ways to tackle food and pharmacy waste, an app to support mental health, and therapeutic horticulture.
The event included an opening speech by Dr. Dorothy Goldin Rosenberg on the importance of student mobilization towards environmental sustainability and their role as multipliers towards greener healthcare practices. Toronto based artist Patricia Eve Martin provided graphic facilitation of the event and produced artwork to represent the top six teams’ presentations.
A panel of interdisciplinary judges evaluated the teams’ work. Showcase judges included Dr. Fiona Miller, professor of Health Policy in the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation at the University of Toronto and founding Director of the Centre for Sustainable Health Systems. Ed Rubinstein, the University Health Network’s Director of Environmental Compliance, Risk and Sustainability. Kady Cowan, lead of the Energy Business Partnerships team at the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) in Ontario. And Dr. Edward Xie, assistant professor and emergency physician at the University of Toronto.
The showcase was supported by the Centre for Sustainable Health Systems, the Student Initiative Fund, the University of Toronto Environmental Resource Network, University Health Network, the UofT Sustainability Office, CANE, the Alliance for Healthier Communities, CCHL, and the Dalla Lana School of Public Health.