David Pencheon (MSc Community Medicine, 1988) has been awarded The BMJ Outstanding Contribution to Health Award. He is the founder and director of the Sustainable Development Unit (SDU) for NHS England and Public Health England. He has been a world leader of efforts to tackle the climate emergency from within healthcare.
David led the establishment of the NHS SDU in 2007 when not many individuals were making sustainability and climate their top priority. He became a major contributor of combining health and climate action, all around the world which led to it becoming a normal and now essential responsibility for all healthcare professionals.
The SDU devised a way of measuring the carbon footprint of every aspect of healthcare in England, along with supporting organisations to reduce their emissions by redesigning how care is delivered. David led the SDU from 2007 until his retirement. However, this work continues and has meant that the UK is able to take on the challenge to work towards a target of net-zero carbon emissions.
We spoke to David about his achievements and his time at LSHTM. “I feel very fortunate to be in an area where it’s rapidly developing both in terms of science, politics and public engagement. LSHTM was essential in forming a strong peer network of like-minded health professionals in population health. The relationships I formed at LSHTM were absolutely useful, both from tutors and mentors but equally from peers too. I remember Nick Black, Martin McKee and Paul Fine (and now Andy Haines/Paul Wilkinson) being particularly inspiring. Since we all left, the internet and social media arrived, so it’s been great remaking relationships globally. My advice for students is to spend as much time as you can in the basement café as possible listening to people who are NOT on your course. You’ll learn a lot. “
“My hope for the future is that we have a safe, secure and sustainable world for all!”