Our Mission

 

Clinician leaders advocating for climate change solutions that protect the health of our patients and communities.

Our Vision

 

Clinicians have the knowledge and mission to play a vital role in protecting the health and prosperity of Virginia’s families and communities from climate change. VCCA aims to bring this critical perspective into climate-related policymaking in our state.

Our Values
 

Climate Change and Health - Climate change is real and a threat to the health of all Virginians.   VCCA focuses on protecting the health of our patients and communities through education, community outreach, and advocacy around climate policy solutions.

Clinician Voice - Health professionals from a demographically, geographically, and clinically diverse range of all medical disciplines, as trusted messengers in society, have a stake and a voice in the subject of climate change and health. 

Nonpartisan - VCCA is not a partisan body.  We focus on climate and health. We support laws and initiatives that promote the health of our patients and communities through climate friendly policies.

Justice - Climate policies should consider factors related to social justice sensitive to the needs of underserved communities who too often bear a disproportionate burden of negative health impacts due to climate change.

Health Focus – Though a healthy environment is fundamental to health,  VCCA’s expertise and focus lies in the policies and programs that explicitly address the human health impact of environmental policies.

Evidence – As members of the scientific community, VCCA contributes to climate change research and critically evaluates climate literature to promote evidence-based recommendations on health policies.  

Our Work

Advocacy

Climate policy is health policy. VCCA clinicians provide credible, health-based perspectives on climate policy solutions to ensure that policies are made with the health of our citizens and communities as a top priority. During our annual Health and Climate Lobby Day, dozens of clinicians and health students from across the state gather in Richmond to advocate on behalf of their patients for clean energy solutions.  We also provide opportunities throughout the year for our members to engage in advocacy around climate policy solutions. 

Education/Research

VCCA brings educational events on climate and health to medical centers across Virginia.  In collaboration with partners, we coordinate conferences that convene experts from Virginia’s academic centers and beyond. Through these events we educate practicing clinicians on what changes in the climate mean for the health of their patients and their practice.

 

Our clinician leaders provide lectures at hospitals and clinics across the state. We have delivered presentations at Inova Fairfax and Alexandria Hospitals, University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, Carilion Clinic and others. 

 

VCCA is proud to participate in the newly formed Virginia Department of Health Climate Change Committee, launched in 2019.  We applaud Virginia Department of Health for this initiative and look forward to supporting this critical work in the future.

 

Community Outreach

VCCA collaborates with community leaders to educate and empower the public around local and state climate-related policies that impact our health and welfare. We testify at public hearings, participate in review groups on energy and environmental policy and publish letters and opinion pieces that support climate policy solutions. We also deliver presentations to community organizations, helping the public understand what a changing climate means for the health of families and communities.

Our Team (click on pictures for full bio)
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Samantha Ahdoot, MD, FAAP
Founder, Chairperson of Steering Committee
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Muge Akpinar-Elci, MD, MPH
 Steering Committee Member
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Gail Bush, BS, RRT-NPS
Secretary
 Steering Committee Member
Robert Kitchen, MD, FAAFP
Vice-Chair of Advocacy
 Steering Committee Member
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Tim O'Mara, MD
Vice-Chair of
Community Outreach
 Steering Committee Member
Kathleen Price, MD
 Steering Committee Member
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Nila Rafiq, MD
 Steering Committee Member
Krupal Shah, MD, MPP
Vice-Chair of
Community Outreach
 Steering Committee Member
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Nicholas Snow, MD
Treasurer
 Steering Committee Member
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Sarah Spengeman, Ph.D
Vice-Chair of
Education and Research
 Steering Committee Member
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​ Homan Wai, MD, FACP
Vice-Chair of
Operations and Recruitment
 Steering Committee Member
Casey Washington, PharmD, BCPS
Vice-Chair of
Education and Research
 Steering Committee Member
John Bagwell, BA
Staff: Director of Operations
Mona Sarfaty, MD, MPH, FAAFP
 Advisor
Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health
Jerome A. Paulson, MD, FAAP
 Advisor
Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health

Full Biography

 Get to know our steering committee members a bit more

Samantha Ahdoot, MD, FAAP
Chairperson of the Steering Committee

Dr. Samantha Ahdoot is a practicing pediatrician at Pediatric Associates of Alexandria and an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, Inova Campus. She graduated from Wesleyan University with a B.A. in English and earned her medical degree from Georgetown University School of Medicine. She completed her residency in Pediatrics at Tufts Floating Hospital for Children. Sam serves as the Chair of Pediatrics at Inova Alexandria Hospital, and on the Board of the Virginia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) as Environmental Champion. She is a member of the AAP Council on Environmental Health Executive Committee, and served as lead author on their Global Climate Change and Children’s Health Policy Statement and Technical Report, published in Pediatrics in November 2015. She is Chair and Founder of Virginia Clinicians for Climate Action.

 
Muge Akpinar-Elci, MD, MPH
Steering Committee Member

Dr. Muge Akpinar-Elci has more than 20 years of experience in clinical and field research working in pulmonary medicine, public and global health. After medical school, Muge completed her residency training in Pulmonology and fellowship in Occupational Medicine in Turkey. Muge received a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree from Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in New Orleans, LA. During her career Muge worked for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). In her last position, she was an Environmental and Occupational Health Track Director at St George’s University School of Medicine. She was also a director of World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Center for Environmental and Occupational Health in Grenada which one of the main focus areas was the impact of climate change in the Caribbean. Muge joined Old Dominion University, Norfolk VA in 2013 as a director of the Center for Global Health and became a Chair of School of Community and Environmental Health in 2016.

Gail Bush, BS, RRT-NPS
Secretary
Steering Committee Member

Mrs. Gail Bush brings 25 years of clinical and management expertise in adult, pediatric, and neonatal respiratory care. She is currently a Clinical Manager of Respiratory Care Services at INOVA Health System for the Heart and Vascular Institute and Intermediate Care Unit areas. Gail has worked with the American Lung Association on their Leadership Board for over 12 years. In this capacity, she has facilitated asthma education institutes, smoking cessation training, and numerous Lung Force Expo’s. Gail has a BS focused in Respiratory Care Therapy/Therapist from Shenandoah University. She was nominated to the Virginia State

Air Pollution Control Board in 2018

 
 
Robert Kitchen, MD, FAAFP
Vice-Chair of Advocacy
Steering Committee Member

Dr. Robert Kitchen is a board certified family physician who retired in April 2018 after thirty-nine years of practice. He most recently practiced with the MidAtlantic Permanente Medical Group providing care for members of Kaiser Permanente in Northern Virginia. During his twenty-four years with MAPMG he cared for a panel of patients and also held administrative and leadership positions. Prior to this practice he served twenty years in the Air Force with both stateside and overseas assignments with the last six years being on the faculty of the Family Practice Residency at Andrews Air Force Base. Bob received his MD degree from Tulane University School of Medicine and his BS from the US Air Force Academy.

 
Tim O'Mara, MD
Vice-Chair of Community Outreach Steering Committee Member

Dr. Timothy O’Mara is a graduate of Georgetown University Medical School.   He completed his pediatric residency at Inova Fairfax Hospital where he also served as chief resident.  Tim has been practicing general pediatrics in Northern Virginia for 15 years.   Tim joined VCCA in 2017.  He has spoken to legislators in Richmond and Washington about clean energy and the health effects of climate change.  Tim has offered public comment at utility hearings and presented at community events focusing on clean energy.

 
Kathleen Price, MD
Steering Committee Member

Dr. Kathleen Price received her MD from the University of Michigan and completed her rheumatology fellowship at George Washington University.  She retired from rheumatology practice after more than 30 years in private practice in Northern Virginia.  She volunteered for over 20 years with the Arlington Free Clinic.  Kathy has been a member of the Virginia Clinicians for Climate Action sine 2018 and of the Citizens Climate Lobby for several years.  She has lobbied the Virginia Legislature on energy bills.  She has also given public comment to the Legislature’s Energy Subcommittee and to the Fairfax County Department of Environmental Quality.  She has educated and lobbied Congress in Washington about climate and health.

 
Nila Rafiq, MD
Steering Committee Member

Dr. Nila Rafiq received her MD from Ross University School of Medicine and completed her internal medicine fellowship at Lutheran Medical Center. She has 14 years of experience and has practiced in the Inova system for over 10 years. Nila is an assistant professor at George Washington University and Georgetown University and a member of Virginia Clinicians for Climate Action.

Krupal Shah, MD, MPP
Vice-Chair of Community Outreach
 Steering Committee Member

Dr. Krupal Shah completed his medical school at Duke University in
2009 and his residency in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics at the
University of Michigan in 2013. He has a bachelors degree from Yale
University in Biomedical Engineering and a Masters in Public Policy
from the University of Chicago. He has been a member of the Internal
Medicine clinical faculty at Inova Fairfax Hospital since 2016 and
practices as an inpatient  physician (Hospitalist) with additional
responsibilities in Pediatrics. He also serves co-medical director of
the CTU-North ward in the Inova Heart and Vascular Institute. Krupal
has a strong personal interest in wellness, holistic medicine and
sustainability, which he brings into his daily patient care practice.
With VCCA, he has met with national and VA state legislators to
educate and advocate for policy changes to mitigate the effects of
climate change. He has also partnered with local community
organizations to speak to the health impacts of climate change. He has
been involved with Virginia Clinicians for Climate Action since 2017
and currently serves as a Steering Committee Member and Vice-Chair of
the Community Outreach Committee.

 
 
Nick Snow, MD
Treasurer
 Steering Committee Member

Dr. Nick Snow is a practicing gastroenterologist in Winchester.  He earned his Chemistry degree from Yale, and his MD from Ohio State.   He did residency and fellowship at Duke before joining the Internal Medicine faculty there. He left Duke in 1995 when he moved with his family to the Shenandoah Valley.   He has been active in writing letters to the local paper, and speaking to community groups and medical groups on climate change and health for a decade.  Nick has been a member of VCCA since 2018, and has lobbied on climate issues on multiple occasions.  He is on the board American Conservation Film Festival based in Shepherdstown, a Climate Reality Leader, and a member of Citizens Climate Lobby.

 
Sarah Spengeman, Ph.D
Vice-Chair of Education and Research
Steering Committee Member

Dr. Sarah Spengeman is passionate about working with health care leaders to advance climate solutions in every community. She brings more than 15 years of experience advocating for social change, and studied social change theory and public policy while earning her Ph.D. at the University of Notre Dame. Sarah is the Associate Director of the Climate and Health Program for Health Care Without Harm.  She loves spending time with her husband and daughter, who provides her with fresh motivation every day for her work, and is always on the lookout for a new vegan recipe.

 
Pamela Tinker, B.S. Physical Therapy., MAIS
Steering Committee Member

Mrs. Pam Tinker is President and Founder of Frog Pond Early Learning Center, a non-profit school with a nature-based curriculum. 

 

Pam is a graduate of MCV/VCU in Physical Therapy (PT) and worked for 15 years in the INOVA health system.  She was instrumental in planning and directing the Mount Vernon Hospital Rehabilitation program which included Physical Therapists, Occupational Therapists, Speech-Language Pathologists, Recreation Therapists, Neuropsychologists and Physiatrists. Other PT experience includes hospital and outpatient neurological rehabilitation; school based physical therapy in Fairfax County and Falls Church Public Schools; home health physical therapy; and geriatric care. 

 

Pam is a tribal citizen of the Cherokee Nation and founding member of the Capital City Cherokee Community, a newly formed satellite community of the Cherokee Nation. 

 

Pam is a native Northern Virginian. She has been married 40 years to retired Cardiologist, Bruce Tinker, and they have two adult children. She has hosted children and adults over the past thirty years at their mountain retreat, where she introduces groups to the natural environment and hosts a variety of workshops.  

 
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​ Homan Wai, MD, FACP
Vice-Chair of Operations and Recruitment
 Steering Committee Member

Dr. Homan Wai obtained his undergraduate and medical degrees at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) and completed his Internal Medicine residency at George Washington University Hospital in 2009. He has been a faculty at Inova Fairfax Hospital since 2009 and practices as an inpatient Internal Medicine physician (Hospitalist). He also serves as the Clerkship Director of the Internal Medicine Clerkship at the VCU School of Medicine regional campus at Inova. Homan was a member of the Sustainability Committee at the Inova Fairfax Campus from 2009-2015 and served as co-chair and chair for the committee from 2011-2015. He was an inaugural member of Virginia Clinicians for Climate Action since its inception in 2017.

 
Casey Washington, PharmD, BCPS
Vice-Chair of Education and Research
 Steering Committee Member

Dr. Casey Washington obtained her pharmacy degree at the University of Cincinnati in 2004 and completed a PGY-1 Pharmacy Practice Residency in 2005 and a PGY-2 Adult Internal Medicine Specialized Residency in 2006 at Virginia Commonwealth University Health System. She became faculty at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Pharmacy, Inova Fairfax Medical Campus in 2007 and practices as an acute care adult internal medicine clinical pharmacist. Casey became involved with Virginia Clinicians for Climate Action in 2018 and serves as a co-chair for the Research and Education Committee. Casey’s interest in climate, health, and sustainability stems from recycling projects in elementary school in south west Ohio. She believes that we can all take steps to improve health in our communities by improving the health of our planet.

 
John Bagwell, BA
Staff: Director of Operations

A part-time consultant, John has been working with VCCA since its founding. John is an independent nonprofit consultant and has worked with a wide range of clients including others in the public health and climate spaces. John holds a BA from Wofford College and is based in Richmond, Virginia.

 
Mona Sarfaty, MD, MPH, FAAFP
VCCA Advisor
Executive Director, Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health

Dr. Mona Sarfaty is the Director of the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health comprised of 21 medical societies representing over 550,000 physicians, more than half the physicians in the U.S. She is a family medicine physician and public health doctor who has engaged in teaching, research, and advocacy for over 30 years. As an academic faculty member with expertise in primary care, preventive services, and health policy, she lectured at national & regional venues including medical societies, health plans, health departments, professional organizations, & government conferences. In the middle of her career she worked as a Senior Health Policy Advisor for the U.S. Senate Health Committee for 7 years where she planned hearings, wrote legislation, negotiated policy, and met with constituents. She is the author of widely circulated guides and publications, including many peer reviewed articles and two book chapters on climate change and health. She founded the Consortium in 2016 after assessing physician experience with the health effects of climate change in cooperation with the George Mason University Center for Climate Communication.

 
Jerome A. Paulson, MD, FAAP
VCCA Advisor
Medical Society Consortium
on Climate and Health

Dr. Jerome A. Paulson is the medical director of the Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit-East Program and of the Climate Change Initiative for the American Academy of Pediatrics. He is Professor Emeritus of Pediatrics at the George Washington University School of Medicine & Health Sciences and Professor Emeritus of Environmental & Occupational Health at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at GW.

 

For over a decade, Jerry served as the director of the Mid-Atlantic Center for Children’s Environmental Health, the Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit (PEHSU) that serves Federal Region 3 – DC, VA, WV, MD, DE and PA. Currently, he is the pediatric consultant to MACCHE.

 

Jerry is a past chairperson of the executive committee of the Council on Environmental Health of the American Academy of Pediatrics. He is a founding member of Virginia Clinicians for Climate Action. He is a member of the steering committee for the Medical Society Consortium for Climate and Health and serves as a consultant to the Consortium.

 

Jerry has received numerous honors and awards, including: 2017 - the Carol Strobel Memorial Award for Children’s Environmental Health Advocacy; 2017 – the John Rosen Memorial Lecture, Montefiore Medical Center; 2014 – Elected a Fellow of the Collegium Ramazzini, an international environmental and occupational health honorary society; 2014 – received the National Healthy Schools Hero Award from the Healthy Schools Network, 2013 – selected for the 11th Annual George J. Ginandes, M.D. Visiting Lectureship in Pediatrics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY; 2011 – Elected to the American Pediatric Society, a national pediatric honorary society. He served on the Children’s Health Protection Advisory Committee for the US Environmental Protection Agency from 2007-2013. In October 2004 he was a Dozor Visiting Professor at Ben Gurion University in Beer Sheva, Israel. He was a recipient of a Soros Advocacy Fellowship for Physicians from the Open Society Institute and worked with the Children’s Environmental Health Network. He has also served as a special assistant to the director of the National Center on Environmental Health of the CDC working on children’s environmental health issues. He has served on numerous boards and committees related to children’s environmental health, has chaired or been on the steering committee of many meetings about children’s environmental health. Jerry has published 29 papers, 8 book chapters and 3 journals on the topic.  He currently has no research support. He occasionally consults with lawyers on environmental litigation.

 

Jerry holds a B.S. in Biochemistry with Honors and with General Honors from the University of Maryland, and an M.D. from Duke University. He did his residency training in pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins Hospitals and Sinai Hospital, both in Baltimore, as well as a fellowship in ambulatory pediatrics at Sinai Hospital.

 
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