MIT students receive sustainability award from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

MIT senior Anna Kwon and sophomore Nicole Doering have received recognition from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) for their work as interns during the previous summer. Both students have been awarded the Jane Matlaw Environmental Champion Awards, which acknowledge leaders and innovators who have initiated changes that support BIDMC’s sustainability objectives and contribute to a healthier future for staff and patients.

For the past 25 years, these awards were exclusively presented to individuals and teams within BIDMC. However, this year, the Sustainability Award Review Committee at BIDMC decided to introduce a new category for students, including high school students and undergraduates, due to the remarkable leadership and alignment with public commitments demonstrated by Nicole and Anna over the summer, as stated by Avery Palardy, BIDMC’s climate and sustainability director.

Kwon and Doering were a part of BIDMC’s Social Impact Internship Program, which is one of several experiential learning opportunities provided by MIT’s Priscilla King Gray Center for Public Service. This program offers funded internships to students who are interested in working with government agencies, nonprofits, and social ventures.

Both students conducted work that will assist BIDMC in fulfilling two commitments outlined in the Department of Health and Human Services Health Sector Climate Pledge. These commitments involve developing a climate resilience plan for continuous operations by the end of 2023, and conducting an inventory of supply chain emissions by the end of 2024.

“It was an enjoyable experience and a new challenge for me,” says Kwon, who is majoring in electrical engineering and computer science. “I had never conducted research in sustainability before. It allowed me to delve into the field of healthcare from a fresh perspective, deepening my understanding of the complexities surrounding environmental issues in healthcare.” Her internship involved analyzing data related to carbon emissions and providing actionable recommendations for conducting a comprehensive supply chain inventory.

“Throughout her work in providing a greenhouse gas inventory of our supply chain, Anna demonstrated unwavering diligence and attention to detail,” says Palardy. “She showcased exceptional skills in market research as she explored best practices and emerging technologies to ensure that we remain at the forefront of sustainable practices. Her keen insights and forward-thinking approach have provided us with valuable information to shape our sustainability goals for the future.”

Doering, a chemical engineering major, guided several departments in conducting an internal evaluation of best practices, vulnerabilities, and future strategies to integrate climate resilience into the operations of the medical center. She has continued to work in the fall to finalize the climate resilience plan and has also been analyzing food procurement data to identify ways to reduce BIDMC’s Scope 3 emissions.

Climate resilience wasn’t an area of sustainability that Doering had previously considered, but her internship experience has inspired her to explore other sustainability roles in the future. “I’m incredibly grateful for everything I’ve learned from BIDMC, and I’m glad that my work was beneficial to them. It’s an honor that they trusted me to collaborate on something that will have such a positive impact on our community,” she says.

“The impact of Nicole’s contributions cannot be overstated,” notes Palardy. “From organizing and planning essential focus groups to shaping our climate resilience plan, she played a crucial role in defining our strategies for climate resilience. I’m incredibly grateful for her collaborative spirit, passion, and leadership, which have fostered innovation in healthcare climate resilience, ensuring that it remains a top priority for us.”

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