Spotlight

Spring 2024 Newsletter

Our Green Efforts have multiple objectives:

  1. Environmental Impact: We aim to align with growing global awareness of the environmental impact of healthcare waste. As society becomes more conscious of sustainability, there is a pressing need to address the substantial waste generated by healthcare facilities.
  2. Cost Savings: We aim to reduce healthcare costs by reusing and repurposing medical supplies, making it an attractive option for healthcare organizations looking to optimize their budgets, especially given the significant wastage of supplies.
  3. Global Health Equity: By donating unused medical supplies to hospitals and nonprofit organizations, we aim to directly addresses unequal access to healthcare resources, aligning with the organization's commitment to improving global health equity.
  4. Climate Change Mitigation: We aim to focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from medical waste disposal and align with broader efforts to combat climate change, a critical global issue.
  5. Organizational Vision: We aim to align with the organization's vision by demonstrating a commitment to sustainable and resource-efficient healthcare practices, a responsibility that healthcare organizations are increasingly expected to uphold.

Locally, AWISH program at Stanford’s Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital (LPCH) aims to address the problem of single-use medical waste in healthcare facilities, specifically by diverting these items from landfills for repurposing, towards recycling streams, or donating them to hospitals and nonprofit organizations.

Karthik Balakrishnan, MD, MPH, Kara Meister, MD, and Nasim Zadeh, NP are key team members of the AWISH– Sustainability in Healthcare Project.

One item of the AWISH project’s focus is the reprocessing of surgical LigaSure devices, which are now nearly 100% in the collection at LPCH. This parallels ongoing efforts on the adult side of Stanford Medicine, where Stanford Health Care's annual reprocessing of 660 LigaSure devices has enhanced its commitment to sustainability and yielded financial rebates of $46,000. Santa Clara Hospital System, where our affiliated faculty practice, reports higher savings of up to $77,822.  

AWISH is now expanding into other medical device candidates for reprocessing, recycling, and repurposing, and other areas of high resources, such as the ICUs or Emergency rooms. The AWISH project is aspirational in that it addresses pressing environmental, financial, and global health equity concerns within the healthcare sector and aligns with the organization's broader vision of promoting sustainable and responsible healthcare practices. The urgency is driven by the growing recognition of these societal issues and the need for healthcare organizations to adapt to changing expectations and environmental responsibilities.

Nationally, Lauren Lalakea, MD has been appointed as an inaugural member of the newly formed AAOHNS Environmental Sustainability Task Force.

Clinical Professor (Affiliated) of Otolaryngology — Head & Neck Surgery, affiliated via Santa Clara Valley Medical Center

The task force is brainstorming ways to increase awareness of the effects of climate change on health and healthcare delivery, the environmental impact of surgical care delivery, and opportunities for improving environmental sustainability in OHNS. She continues to serve as Physician Champion for Climate Action for Santa Clara Valley Healthcare, the 1077-bed safety-net hospital system comprised of Valley Medical Center, O’Connor Hospital, and St. Louise Regional Hospital, and to act as co-lead for the Stanford OHNS Green group.  She was an invited Grand Rounds speaker at Weill Cornell Dept. of Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery in March 2024, speaking on sustainability in OHNS.  Please reach out to Dr. Lalakea at lalamd@stanford.edu for more information or if you would like to get involved in climate and sustainability work at Stanford or elsewhere!  She and other AAOHNS task force members are available for educational presentations and questions.

Internationally, Robson Capasso, MD and a team of Stanford Computer Science students travelled to Brazil to assist in the Upluxo project at the Hospital Albert Einstein in São Paulo.

Funded by the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment at the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability, this endeavor and the trip allowed the team to gain firsthand experience and a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities surrounding textile waste management in the healthcare facilities, and to work with the local non-profits and other teams “Upcycling” the textiles. The interactions with various stakeholders, including hospital staff, waste management professionals, and local communities, proved invaluable.

During the trip, a big win was improving a new interactive digital tool that helps people see and map  how upcycling benefits the ecosystem, combining sustainable waste interventions and economic welfare for vulnerable communities. The tool aims to measure significant social and environmental metrics, and connect a community of “Upcyclers”.  Moving forward, the team is committed to perfecting this digital tool by refining the modeling algorithms, incorporating feedback from stakeholders, and ensuring that the tool is user-friendly.