Dr. Renee Salas is First to Receive Early Career Alumnus Award

Renee N. Salas, MD, MPH, MS (CCLCM‘09), emergency medicine physician and national expert on climate change and health, is the first recipient of the Alumni Association’s Early Career Alumnus Award.

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Giving keynote address at the Climate Crisis and Clinical Practice Symposium hosted by the New England Journal of Medicine in Boston, MA.

The award recognizes exceptional enduring achievements and leadership, as well as dedicated contributions of time, energy and resources to the community. Nominees must be within 10 years of completing a recognized training program and have distinguished themselves in clinical practice, education, research, community leadership and/or service.

“I am enormously honored to be receiving the Early Career Award,” Dr. Salas says. “My training at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine has truly been instrumental in creating a foundation of skills that I’ve used throughout my career. To be recognized as the inaugural recipient by this esteemed group, with the mentors and colleagues that I have there, is a dream.”

Since earning her medical degree at Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Salas has pursued a successful career in emergency medicine and also established herself as a leader in studying the effects of climate change on human health. She is Affiliated Faculty of theHarvard Global Health Institute; the Yerby Fellow, Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; an emergency medicine physician at Massachusetts General Hospital; and an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Harvard Medical School, going up for associate professor.

“There has been an accelerating recognition of the importance of the medical community in addressing climate change,” Dr. Salas says. Maintaining her clinical practice is beneficial to her environmental work. “It helps me to see the downstream individual impacts of climate change, which threatens our mission to improve health, prevent harm and advance equity.”

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Since 2018, Dr. Salas has been the lead author of a pivotal report that tracks the ways in which climate change is affecting the health of Americans: The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change Brief for the United States of America. Published every year with U.S.-specific data from the yearly global Lancet Countdown report, the Lancet Countdown emphasizes a critical need to respond to climate change to reduce and prevent its impact on Americans’ health and mortality. She collaborates with a group of more than 80 organizations.

In nominating Dr. Salas for the award, J. Harry “Bud” Isaacson, MD (Staff’93), Executive Dean of CCLCM, said, “Renee has become a national leader in the health effects of climate change in a remarkably short period of time.” He also noted that “she is a proud CCLCM alumnus, well-deserving of the Early Career Award.”

For the past few years, Dr. Salas has been building a platform for what she promises will be “an exciting forthcoming endeavor” related to her climate change work. She also plans to continue collaborating with Cleveland Clinic and the broader community on the health-related effects of climate change.

Helping to further these efforts, Dr. Salas recently was elected to the National Academy of Medicine and was on the planning committee for their Grand Challenge on Climate Change and Human Health Initiative.

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“Election to the National Academy of Medicine was a very unexpected honor,” she says. “It also reveals the Academy’s commitment to climate change as they prioritized that area for nomination.”

In May 2022, she was honored by the Lerner College of Medicine as the keynote speaker for Research Day, delivering the Iva Dostanic, MD, PhD Memorial Lecture for the 12th Annual Research Day. “It was very invigorating to meet and spend time with the students and to reconnect with faculty,” she says. Her presentation focused on how the Lerner College of Medicine helped prepare her for her current work.

“Part of my heart has always remained at Cleveland Clinic,” Dr. Salas say. “To receive this award following my recent experience of being back in the community is very special.”