Climate Advocacy (AAP/Climate Reality/ClimateHealthNOW) – Page 3 – Dr. Plastic Picker

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

Getting ready with my new political friends for our photo-up. One is city government and the other running for congress. I’m just a pediatrician getting my climate anger at the world OUT.

August 22, 2021

by drplasticpicker

Everything about yesterday was just great and fun. It was also one of the most impactful things I’ve done. Will it end up in the closure of this methane-spewing peaker power plant in the Environmental Justice community of El Cajon which is surrounded by black/brown children who happeend to be born into poor families and kids from refugee families? I don’t know. Will it make a dent in the fight against this existential crisis of climate change? I don’t know. But I tried. I tried so much with my whole heart. I did it with joy. I brought my friend Dr. Dear Friend along and re-inspired her into activism along the way (she had protested as a child along with Ceasar Chavez). We had a great morning and day together.


My tribe. Beautiful people.

August 12, 2021

by drplasticpicker

I did it. I am living my truth. I applied for a regional position in Physicial Leadership Development. I have no idea if I will be considered and what that would mean for our lives if I get it, but I’m proud that I took that risk and spoke my truth and applied for it. It was the night before the deadline and I had been thinking about that position for several months, and frustrations and then successes in middle-management made me realize that it was time. I need to grow. I’m well now, and my roots are firmly planted and healthy and I’m ready to sprout. I don’t know where. I don’t know if I’ll go left or right, but I need to grow in my climate leadership and my work-work leadership. I need to move on in my career. It’s best for me and best for my department. I’ll still be part of our department and Assistant Boss for now, but it’s time to make a lot of other people grow up too.


Those are wild fires in the back ground.

Augsut 10, 2021

by drplasticpicker

I had a semi-bad day yesterday because of an HMO issue. It was a misunderstanding but my passionate mouth got me in trouble again. The way the HMO machinery works is that I can’t just apologize for the misunderstanding. It will just sit there, not affecting my career as it’s a miniscule little blip. But for me, it does fester. The idea that I would retaliate is so ludicrous as I’ve never retaliated and the idea that Dr. Plastic Picker retaliates is antithesis to the core of who I am. I was instructed to not retaliate because that is what the HMO script tells us as managers to tell people. I’ve uttered to same thing to colleagues. I believe we are all connected and if I hurt someone’s feelings because they misunderstood what I said, makes my heart hurt as well. But with the stress of the entire world with the ramifications of climate change and COVID-19, the same thing that happend to me is happening across our organization and I’m sure in your life. No one is listening. People are on edge. Everyone is misunderstanding everyone.

I was talking to Dr. Dear Friend and she was very understanding. We planted another big succulent on the HMO parking garage. But the condtions on said parking garage are hot and harsh, and it’s hard to survive up there. I feel that is the same way about myself in middle-management. It’s hot and harsh, and having worked so hard to heal myself and heal the earth – I’m not willing to sacrifice my well being for a title that I no longer care about. I’m rather take my sunshine elsewhere. I know I garnered this stain on my record because I was just out there. Out there teaching residents. Out there trying to work on fundamental wellness for the world. And if I had just sat in my office and not ventured out, I wouldn’t have that stain but then the world would be sicker. So I won’t stay in my office. I’ll venture out. I’ll avoid that person because that is my right. I won’t retaliate, because that is not who I am. But I can have my feelings hurt. I can be sad. And I dealt with that frustration yesterday and again found how unfair things are, because I 100% know if I was a man – I’d never have to deal with this cr@p. Women are sometimes our worst enemeies, but also our allies. So here I am, still Dr. Plastic Picker – keeping on keeping on.

I did channel my frustration with the absolute inertia of big organizations, by moving things in my small corner of the world. I’ve been talking and writing about the Air Keepers program for San Diego. It’s a program I heard about from Dr. Lori Byron up at AAP Montana, and I wanted to replicate it here. So I sent her an email and cc’ed the two other pediatricians who want to get involved, and cc’ed our famous academic friend Dr. Perry Sheffield. I also emailed a student that potentially could work on this and gave him the details. There is funding possibly from the Air Pollution Control District, maybe our own HMO Community Benefits and Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Community and I can try to find other funding. I don’t think this type of program cost that much, and I’m hopeful we can get it done.

So that’s what I did today. Send three emails to get the ball rolling on AirKeepers. Because someone misunderstood a comment I was making and the world is not listening, I’ve decided to do something to make myself feel better. And cleaning the air and bringing people together makes me feel better. Air Keepers San Diego version was probably deployed after a frustrating day at work. Just like San Diego Pediatricians for Clean Air was created after a mean comment from a politician that said we were a “publicity stunt.” Sometimes hurt and humiliation is good if you can channel it. But the one petty thing I will promise you, that person will never be invited to my house again. I can’t believe they were in our house, and ate our food and we welcomed them as a guest. I will 100% be civil and cheerful at work, but in my own home – it’s only those that I love that are welcome here. So the foxes are welcome, the butterflies are welcome, the climate activists are welcome – but those that think I’m unkind and that I would ever say anything like that. You absolutely don’t know me and you aren’t welcome. And I won’t impose myself upon you in your home either. Let’s mutually agree to be professional. And so Air Keepers was born from this misunderstanding.

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.