Climate Advocacy (AAP/Climate Reality/ClimateHealthNOW) – Dr. Plastic Picker

Category: Climate Advocacy (AAP/Climate Reality/ClimateHealthNOW)

She’s thinking about when Mr. Plastic Picker is going to take her on her next walk.

July 23, 2021

by drplasticpicker

I really need to knock out the bags this weekend. I’m at 12 bags I think, so hopefully will do solo beach cleanups Saturday and Sunday. Today is a full week coffee-free mornings! My wake-time has shifted later so I’m up at 530 rather than 4am. I think this is healthier. My sleep is deeper and I’m going to bed earlier. My muscles are achy at night though which was an unexpected withdrawal symptom. This makes sense because when I was running half marathons, I fueled myself on coffee. I would drink one before the races and on long-run days would need more. This is not sustainable nor healthy. I’ve heard of older runners former pediatricians who needed knee replacements early on because they kept on running more than they should have. After my myalgias resolve, I’ll restart running again but maybe just 2-3 times a week 3 miles or so. Right now I’m working on getting through the days without coffee, and that is it. Things feel a peaceful sort of good. Yesterday I ate tomatoes, argula salad (thank you Dr. Dear Friend!), vegetarian burrito, lots of plums (thank you dear patient family), and a banana. I think it was a plant-forward type of day!!! I did eat other foods but those were the plants I ate.


Beautiful shorebirds I saw yesterday.

July 6, 2021

by drplasticpicker

Two big things happened this weekend. I final submitted for our author group Durrwachter-Erno Et Al our paper titled “Informing Policy on Built Environments to Safeguard Children in Environmental Justice Communities: Case Study of Five American Academy of Pediatrics Climate Advocates” to the Journal of Applied Research on Children. This was the final edits after the copy-editor read through. It seemed like a simple process fixing the citations and doing the rewording, but it took all weekend and probably a combined 10 hours of actual work. Commas are important, and citations have to be formatted a certain way. It was a labour of love for all six of us. The round-table discussion from Children At Risk will be made available today as well, where they interviewed our author group along with two other climate and health related papers. During this process, I half fell in love with the copy editor (with my husband’s knowledge) as I felt his last read that he really understood what we were trying to impart. My hubsand was an editor of several highschool and college publications and an English major, and he understood.


Dreaming of this. Mr. Plastic Picker is on board.

July 2, 2021

by drplasticpicker

I’ve let middle-management worry me (it is 18.75% of my job description – literally) the last two days. It is a complex system and it’s easy to become a creature of said system. I’m definitely strong enough to manuever within it and still stay effective and impactful. But it is so annoying. That’s all I can say about it. So many committees, office politics, minutiae. In the end, it’s the children that get the better care at the end that make it worthwhile. It’s my colleagues and trying to improve their lives, which give me strength. I know I have been a transformational leader and have given the HMO monolith bang for their MD Middle Management buck. But I had an epiphany this morning, just sitting here at 4AM and typing away. I finished watching a NetFlix series which was really heart-warming and touching, and should have slept more – but I didn’t because I have to help a student with an abstract for the upcoming AAP meeting. My epiphany as I roused myself to do something that was important for a student and the earth, is that if I “fail” at this Middle Management or I chose to “opt out” it is 100% the system.


Mommy win

July 1, 2021

by drplasticpicker

Yesterday I felt literally and metaphorically “beat up.” I had a root canal and then I had to correctly address a middle-managment issue that required me to apologize. It was the right thing to do, but the circumstances that led up to that apology to a very wonderful person are so complex that it is mind-boggling. Sometimes I get so frustrated. If I was a man, I would not have to deal with many of the issues that make middle-management difficult. It’s still a man’s world, and as a technically part-time woman physician (supposedly 80%) leader – there is still so much unpaid work and responsibilities that I have to bear. It’s difficult for me because I’m the second income, and there is no financial or ego-motive for me. We are financially free, and it would be more cost-effective for me to return to clinic and just have the joy of seeing patients. I fundamentally love patient care. I since long got-over the ego-motives for being in physician leadership. We are glorified bean-counters and more like HOA-association heads. No real power, trying to get everyone to keep their front lawns up to made-up HOA specifications.

But I apologized and it was the right thing for the team, and my words were sincere. It wasn’t me, my actual person apologizing, it was Middle-Management Me apologizing. But in the back of the mind, I think of all the male leaders before me that never apologized. The Chief Boss a few chief bosses ago that made certain hiring decisions. The men that did untoward things to people that never fully had to own up to their moral transgressions. The men that sat there in the same position and essentially made a mess of the schedule that affected my life and the life of many working pediatrician mothers, and not many people said anything. The ones in leadership that formed a hiring system that is so stacked against BIPOC physicians, that it’s literally contributing to structural racism and health inequities. But it’s water under the bridge, and the current leadership team has no idea and they don’t need to know – because they weren’t even in our organization at that time. New team. It’s time to restart. It’s new relationships now. We have to build new connections and get to know eachother. But in my more vulnerable self, I feel hurt. I feel hurt not because of the actual situation that happened that required me to apolgize, but that I remember my journey to get to where I am. I see the accoloades that we are receiving for different metrics and how well run things are, and it was just assumed it was always like that. And I remember the past and how far it took us to get here, and no one remembers the steps and the efforts and the late nights trying to fix a system that seemed unfixable.


Tree that was so tall and straight, and many birds within it’s branches. The sun filtering through it’s leaves.

June 9, 2021

by drplasticpicker

I was going to write a normal hopeful Wednesday post. But I realize that I only need one reason to be hopeful today. Today, Dr. Rachel Abbot is going to give a Climate and Health Talk at our HMO Family Practice. And that is my biggest reason to hope today. I posted something on our medical group facebook group which I’ll post again.

“I used to be a voracious reader. Speed-reading throug the all the romantics Austen, Brontes, George Elliot. I read Middlemarch in 8th grade in one weekend and I think didn’t eat, and almost fainted from being dehydrated. I was so immersed in the fictional story being spin. But what I realized in my middle age is that the stories are right here all around us. And those stories if I take time to stop, and to notice – are as real and heart-warming and heart-wrenching as any I can find in the pages of a novel.


Thank you Troop 3936.
Thank you Chloe from Troop 3936.

June 7, 2021

by drplasticpicker

Finley is really neat. Finley is from the imagination of about eight third-graders from Girl Scout Troop 3936 based up in Carmel Valley. Finley tells the world and all who walk by “Lend A Hand, Clean The Sand.” Finley only exists because we all decided to take a risk, and become connected as a community.

Finley’s body is a found boogie-board on Pacific Beach that has been sitting in our house for a long time. Finley’s hair and most of the plastic that makes his happy face are recovered ocean plastic pollution from Mission Beach recovered by our local celebrity environmentalist Cathy. Finley’s arms and eyes are from one of my street litter picking walks in Pacific Beach and was a Michael Bloomberg election sign. That sign was so interesting that I didn’t just throw it away. I honestly find some plastic pollution fascinating. How wasteful our lives are. But the sign after sitting in my house for over 6 months, I realized is made out of plastic 5 and can be recycled. So I cut some parts to use, the two Os from Bloomberg’s name to make the eyes for the trash art piece and two longer pieces I thought for some signage. Troop 3936 decided to use them as arms instead. Those arms are inspired.

I think trash art is really fascinating. As I was telling the girls during the meeting I ran, that trash art is great because it’s trash and you can’t mess up. Also it tells you a lot about the minds and hearts of those that make it. I would say looking at this trash art piece, the minds and hearts of these third-grade Brownie Troop are open and loving. Finley has his arms open and he is trying to embrace the world. His environmental message is positive and upbeat and hopeful. He does not say STOP nor DON’T. He says LEND. He does not tell you to think about the abstract existential crisis. He is very present and reminds us to be in the present, jand he simply says look at the SAND and you will see what needs to be done.

So Finley is my friend now, but is part of Troop 3936. After stopping by virtually at one meeting and now meeting to do a litter pick, a round robin “trash reflections” together and making this trash art advocacy piece together – I told the girls “I’ll keep Finley at my house and he’ll come with me when I do group beach cleans. But if you need him back, just let me know. I’ll bring him in whatever shape he is in and I’ll fix him if something falls off.” And with that I made a committment to these young eco warriors that I would care for their art piece just like they cared for the earth yesterday by picking up plastic pollution. I told them that pediatricians from the American Academy of Pediatrics really care about them and the earth.

Yesterday was a really fun morning. I’m a pediatrician and I really do like kids. I’d rather spend time with children than adults sometimes. They just get it. They really do.

Lots of work to do.
Beautiful people. Pediatrcians.

June 3, 2021

by drplasticpicker

I’m still processing it all. Yesterday afternoon was a big day. It was a long-time dream by my environmental mentor Dr. Bruce Bekkar. He’s traveleled all over the world speaking and working on climate issues, but in our own home town of San Diego and our own medical group he finally brought it home. I’m sure yesterday was particularly meaningful for him. Eco-America arrived through Rebecca Rehr and other speakers, and 40 San Diego area mostly physicians were trained as Climate Health Ambassadors. I’ve been through multiple trainings before, and this one was very good and definitely worthwhile. And 40 pretty influential health care sector professinals are now inspired and now feel like they have the professional and moral license to go forth, and do some advocacy. It just takes one. One can make a difference. The 40 people yesterday were engaged, inspired, creative and the dialouge was powerful. And above is the picture of my four people including myself. Four of us from the American Academy of Pediatrics Climate Change and Health Chapter and San Diego Pediatricians for Clean Air. We were a part of it, and it made me so proud.

I’ve posted on social media , on multiple Facebook Groups and on Instagram. I’ll write a blogpost for the AAP-CA3 maybe this weekend. But for now, I’m just resting and still coming down from a pretty amazing climate work high (not that I’ve ever done drugs). I know I’ll emotionally crash later and I’m ready for it. But for now even after a good nights sleep and walking around the block last night working off some energy, I’m still sitting with a content sense of rightness and that I helped do something yesterday.

That is it. I realized pretty early in this blogging adventure that my role for now in the climate movement was to make some noise. I run around the blogsphere and Instagram making people notice me, the weird previously burnt out and now happy me – drplasticpicker. And then I try to inspire them. Yesterday was even easier though. They were already inspired, and I just connected them to a great training and a great group of activists where they were given tools to begin to enact change. I just showed them where the meeting was, and laughed and was happy and encouraged them. Isn’t that amazing? That’s all I helped to do and it was so huge. And seeing how content and happy my environmental mentor Dr. Bruce Bekkar was – was pretty amazing too. He’s been on this for many many years. And now we have more people. It’s going to be close folks to avert climatic disaster. But I think we can do it. Let me know if you want to join in. Trust me, there is enough work for everyone. But joyous and righteous and inspiring work.

Even compoting. That is powerful. Give me your nitrogens!!!
This one was kind of inspired. Growing on me.

June 2, 2021

by drplasticpicker

I’M STILL HERE!!! I’M STILL ASSISTANT BOSS!!! If that bothers you or you are wondering if I’m throwing in the towel and going back to clinic full time, then you are NOT MY FRIEND. If you encouraged me to step down when I was at a moment of weakness and frustrated, then you are NOT MY FRIEND. No you are not. And this art piece reflects how sometimes I feel. Battered by life, my eyes assymmetric and red due to blepharitis at 3pm every day but cleaned up and although clearly dented and not quite right – I HAVE MY KNIVES OUT and READY TO FIGHT! LOL. LOL. LOL.

Almost 500 bags of litter, and this is what I’ve become. Really strong. Really well. And with an entire new skillset I never knew I could possess! My right leg was very achy last night as I was trying to get to bed. I had spent the entire Tuesday very exhausted just emailing and trying to coordinate work projects and climate projects. But being fundamentally well and knowing that I’m not to blame for the world’s and department’s problems and we have to solve both together as collective communities had enabled me to google two simple “yoga for sleep” youtube videos. I did them both about 10 minutes total, and my leg felt better and I fell gloriously to sleep. What a wonderful and deep night’s sleep.

And so I will go to work today and I will think about the earth. Lots of amazing climate projects we are doing today. We have 30 MDs from healthcare organizations through San Diego meeting to do Eco-America training. Meeting scheduled with our Area Medical Director, the Area Assistant Medical Director for Physician Wellness and three impassioned climate activist ready to talk about what we as a healthcare organization need to do for climate change. Climate change and health rotation, and climate change and health /sustainability fellowship. It’s all kind of crazy.

Then in terms of fiscal health dovetailing with financial health, we are finishing our refinance of our primary home for a 15 year fixed at 2.75%. Finished the rental property finance already. In total saved about 400K in interest over the lifetime of both loans. At 58 I will reach pension and house is paid off, so I will at that point say good-bye to my workplace and I have decided that likely I’ll stay in pediatrics but probably volunteer to work in the Indian Health Services in Oregon or San Diego. That has been a longtime dream. Invested in two businesses, two commercial properties, and buying a farm in Oregon (home inspection due this week). It’s all kind of crazy and wonderful, and we have that money simply because I decided that due to the housing crisis, it seemed like I should sell one of the condos so that someone else could become a home-owner and I could buy with a family member this huge property as a vacation home and help be a steward for 90 acres of forest.

And that is my crazy life. Making funny trash art that made me laugh and put in context these minor work issues when someone supposedly didn’t come in for work but in actuality it was that people did not ask directly, and when it’s filtered by someone else’s preception of it – the entire situation gets completely garbled. It took me all day to figure it out, because I actually sent two text messages and talked to people. Most people want to do the right thing, and most people’s misunderstanding of other’s motives and words is due to their inability to listen to others. And this is Dr. Plastic Picker ready for a full day of clinic and climate work, and trying to be a better listener! I finally understand patello-femoral syndrome in adolescents too. Just took the time to fully read a consultants note. There is so much to learn in the world!

Someone gave my mother-in-law a hat. It will be perfect for our farm!
So excited! I’m hoping to go in June and July.

May 30, 2021

by drplasticpicker

There are school pictures of me from around the time I was going through a trauma. It’s of a little girl who had a smile that was not really a smile. Not comfortable with herself probably because of that trauma. It was brief and I have a loving family and loving set of parents who put a stop to it. I had forgotten completely about it, as young children are able to do. But I think it’s reflected in my smile from those school pictures. My mom has often mentioned my smile, how in that photo it’s a wonderful smile and in that photo it seems forced. In that I think the woman who created me in her womb and who tried the best that she could to protect and nurture me through my life, is right. I think if your mother is a true mother who loves and has tried to protect you, than that person is a good judge of whether that smile is a real smile.

I usually post a photo to go with each blog post. Indeed for me litter picking and trash art is a very visual process, and I’m often inspired by the photos. But today, I don’t need to show you the photo of the big smile I had. Maybe I should post it. I’m smiling from cheek to cheek. I’m proud of that photo because I took it with a friend I met for the first time who I’ve been working with for over a year. When you are in the company of good friends who know you and share a true and good purpose and are sharing good food, than that is when a smile of that magnitude comes out.