News Story

September 17, 2020
HUCE Communications

Student Spotlight: Researching the Relationship Between Healthcare and the Environment


By Jillian Murphy, Harvard University Center for the Environment

The Harvard University Center for the Environment (HUCE) successfully hosted 92 students as part of its Summer Undergraduate Research Fund (SURF). SURF provides financial support for student research projects related to the environment. In the context of this program, 'environment' refers to understanding the relationships and balances of the natural and constructed world around us, with a particular emphasis on understanding how anthropogenic activities and policies affect the environment, including the intimate relationships between energy use and demand, environmental integrity and quality, human health, and climate change.

The restructured 2020 summer program, designed for students to work remotely, supported a variety of remote research situations. With each of the grant recipients having finished their projects and begun the Fall term, we heard from two students, Joyce Zhou and Madelyn Mauro, about the results of their research.

Zhou and Mauro were paired with Dr. Tina Duhaime, Nicholas T. Zervas Professor of Neurosurgery (HMS Neurosurgery-MGH) at Harvard Medical School (HMS). The two students worked alongside Dr. Duhaime as part of the Green Children’s Hospital Team, a group of Harvard University students tasked with projects that explore and document the compelling relationship between healthcare and the environment.

Their first project, “The History of LEED-Certified Children’s Hospitals,” was focused on creating an interactive demonstration of where and when LEED-certified children’s hospitals have been built across the US between 2009 and 2019. The goal in synthesizing this data and creating this map was not only to show these LEED-certified children’s hospitals in one place, but also to track the progress of pediatric healthcare’s sustainability. As you scroll through their findings, the interactive map reveals more and more dots showing the evolution of sustainable children’s hospitals in the US. The students note that “to help you build a better understanding of this visualization, you are able to zoom in and move the map around to examine the data with much more detail. Clicking on the dots will reveal more information about specific hospitals, such as name, GPS coordinates, bed count, and LEED certification status.”

Their second project, “Visualizing the Children’s Hospitals Association (CHA),” explores the geographic locations of US-based CHA member hospitals in relation to social and environmental conditions. The map associated with these findings examines the locations of pediatric hospitals in relation to the communities they serve and aims to raise awareness of the number of inequities surrounding the lack of access to pediatric healthcare. The map works similarly to that of their first project; its interactive nature allows you to move around within it to parse through their data findings. There are 12 layers to their map, all revealing the relationship between nation-wide demographic factors and pediatric hospital locations with their associated classifications. The 12 layers are as follows: Freestanding Pediatric Hospitals, Separate Pediatric Hospitals, Co-Localized Pediatric Hospitals, Scattered Units Pediatric Hospitals, Other Pediatric Hospitals, Population Density, Pediatric Population Percentage, Median Household Income, Health Insurance Coverage, Particulate Matter, LEED-Certified CHA Member Hospitals, and Health Insurance Coverage.

Zhou ‘23, a Neuroscience concentrator, and Mauro ‘23, a concentrator in Human Developmental and Regenerative Biology with a Secondary in Classics, benefitted greatly from working with Dr. Duhaime. The two students jointly stated their appreciation for the HUCE-sponsored experience and shared that, “we were able to deeply engage with sustainable healthcare, and this experience inspires us to continue to pursue these meaningful intersections.”

Research Areas: 

Harvard University
Center for the Environment

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