Meet our Director Jonathan Patz

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Jonathan Patz (Photo by Sarah Rose Smiley.)

Jonathan Patz (Photo by Sarah Rose Smiley.)

“Unprecedented levels of engagement by a world-class university are required to discover solutions that will improve and sustain global health.” It’s this belief that brought Jonathan Patz to the University of Wisconsin-Madison from Johns Hopkins University 12 years ago. A campus that encourages collaboration across departments paves the way for breakthrough discoveries and innovations.

Patz, who is committed to connecting colleagues from across campus and communities around the world to improve health for all, is continually striving to integrate his research into teaching for students and communication to policy makers and the general public.

Patz brings this collaborative spirit to his role as the inaugural director of the Global Health Institute (GHI). Patz’ vision for UW-Madison—a view shared by his GHI colleagues—is to utilize the full breadth and depth of the university to confront today’s most pressing global health problems and, in so doing, educate and inspire the next generation of global health leaders.

Join the conversation with @jonathanpatz on Twitter.

About Jonathan Patz

Jonathan Patz, MD, MPH, the John P. Holton Chair in Health and the Environment, is committed to connecting colleagues from across campus and communities around the world to improve health for all. Under Patz’ leadership, GHI has grown from its human-and-veterinary health roots to encompass the whole campus, from engineering, public health and environmental studies to agriculture, business, law and the humanities.

“Too many of our global health interventions are narrowly focused, and, as we try to solve one problem, we inadvertently can create two or three more,” says Patz, who also holds appointments in the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies and the Department of Population Health Sciences. A professor, pioneer, and recognized international authority on the connections between health and the global environment, Patz’ interdisciplinary work inspires students, faculty, and staff to see and address the complex causes of disease through multiple lenses.

GHI Director leads a session on climate change and health for the Ethiopian Academy of Sciences.

GHI Director leads a session on climate change and health for the Ethiopian Academy of Sciences.

In keeping with the Wisconsin Idea, Patz encourages boundary-spanning partnerships in Wisconsin and across the world that will improve health today without compromising resources for a healthy tomorrow. “This responsibility takes a concentrated effort,” Patz says. “So we are bringing together faculty, staff and students from across campus to address the health implications of climate change, urban design, air quality, water safety, food security, gender inequality, access to care and more. We want our approach to disease prevention to be as comprehensive as possible.

National Stage

In November 2015, Patz lead a Massive Open Online Course, “Climate Change Policy and Public Health,” to help policy makers, practitioners and the general public understand these vital links. His 2015 book, “Climate Change and Public Health,” co-edited with Barry Levy, former president of the American Public Health Association, draws from diverse experts to expand understanding of the climate crisis and the opportunities it presents through action on climate change.

In recognition of his pioneering work in climate change, Patz received the American Public Health Association’s highest award in Environmental Health leadership in November 2015.

A History of Collaboration, Innovation

Patz brings to his leadership role a global perspective and 20 years of pushing policy makers and health leaders to understand the implications of climate change on health.

  • For 15 years, Patz served as a lead author for the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—the organization that shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore.
  • He co­chaired the health expert panel of the first U.S. National Assessment on Climate Change, a report mandated by the U.S. Congress.
  • Patz’ 1996 Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) paper, “Global Climate Change and Emerging Infectious Disease” is a landmark report and one of the most cited works in this field of public health.
  • In 1997, before climate change was considered a health issue, Patz organized the first Environmental Protection Agency briefing on the subject for then EPA Administrator Carol Browner.
  • In light of his 2007, widely-cited assessment comparing carbon dioxide-emitting countries with countries burdened most by climate-sensitive diseases, Patz briefed the Dalai Lama on how climate change especially affects resource-poor countries.
  • Patz again brought international attention to the immediate health dangers of climate change and the opportunities presented in climate mitigation again as lead author of “Climate Change Challenges and Opportunities for Global Health,” published September 2014 in JAMA.

Patz is a catalyst, convener and respected expert in global health. He helped bring together government officials and policy makers from around the world, including then Acting Surgeon General Boris Lushniak and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, for a 2014 Civil Society Event on Action in Climate Change and Health in New York City. The Chinese Academy of Science, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the University of Geneva and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have called on Patz during his 2014-2015 sabbatical to lend his experience to their discussions. A Fulbright Award funded his sabbatical work on climate and health in Ethiopia.

Patz’ ongoing research includes the application of best practices around the globe for climate mitigation strategies and showing how they will also benefit health. He also practices what he preaches, from installing solar panels on his home roof to commuting by bicycle. He leads by example, both on and off campus, trying to make the world a better place at every opportunity.

For more information:

GHI Director Jonathan Patz biked with members of the only bicycle racing team in the Bahir Dar, Ethiopia, area. The team, above, listens to their coach's pep talk on a hill overlooking the Blue Nile River.

GHI Director Jonathan Patz biked with members of the only bicycle racing team in the Bahir Dar, Ethiopia, area. The team, above, listens to their coach’s pep talk on a hill overlooking the Blue Nile River.

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