Yale Explores brings a bit of New Haven, and a lot of interdisciplinary collaboration, to Philadelphia

“Planetary Health: Safeguarding Human Health and the Natural Systems on Which It Depends” was the theme of the first Yale Explores event of the 2018-2019 year.
An American flag hanging at a Yale Explores event in Philadelphia

(Photo credit: Ann Marie Casey, AMC Photography Studios)

Yale Explores made its first stop of the 2018-2019 academic year on Oct. 3 at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. The evening’s program focused on a new topic, planetary health, while also touching on the same themes as in the earlier programs in Washington, D.C., and Boston, highlighting the benefits and necessity of interdisciplinary study — all while bringing a piece of Yale to cities, and alumni, around the country.

Nearly 200 members of the Yale community gathered for the event, which included two receptions bookending a panel discussion among noted Yale faculty. Attendees were surrounded by images of Yale’s campus being played on video boards throughout the reception space, which included a photo booth featuring a variety of campus backdrops.

Following the initial reception, the intellectual program took center stage. Welcome remarks from Yale Club of Philadelphia President Mark Curchack ’69 served as prelude to the evening’s highlight: a panel discussion moderated by Margaret Warner ’71, former chief global affairs correspondent for PBS NewsHour and current senior fellow at the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, and featuring panelists Daniel Esty ’86 J.D., the Hillhouse Professor of Environmental Law and Policy; Ann Kurth ’90 M.S.N., dean and the Linda Koch Lorimer Professor of Nursing; and Paul Turner, acting dean of science, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

Margaret Warner, Daniel Esty, Ann Kurth, and Paul Turner on stage at Yale Explores in Philly.
Left to right: Margaret Warner, Daniel Esty, Ann Kurth, and Paul Turner. (Photo credit: Ann Marie Casey, AMC Photography Studios)

The discussion was wide ranging, moving from the current state of the earth and the effects of climate change, both immediate and far-reaching, to energy conservation, global water and food consumption, and the struggle to create the same sense of urgency around climate change that currently exists in public health. There was one prevailing theme in the discussion: These are big, broad problems that cannot be solved by a single area of study. As Warner noted, “Human health cannot be separated from the planet’s health.”

This is global health 2.0, to think about planetary health,” said Kurth, emphasizing the need for input from all fields. “We need scientists to work with global health experts and policymakers and economists to tackle these challenges.”

President Peter Salovey ’86 Ph.D. followed the panel discussion with a talk framing the event’s themes through the prism of his field of study, social psychology. He reinforced the power of cross-disciplinary collaboration and cited the night’s panelists as one of many illustrations that Yale is well-positioned to undertake such work.

We had three professors speaking tonight, and they exemplify Yale’s excellence across disciplines, how they can all work together to tackle one of our world’s great challenges,” he said. “The collective knowledge of experts is what is needed to solve complicated problems such as overpopulation, climate change, and planetary health.”

Salovey and the panelists noted that this type of interdisciplinary work is not yet ingrained in academia — but that the future of study and research is most certainly heading in that direction, to the betterment of the institutions and, in terms of planetary health, for the good of the world.

We have to overcome centuries of focusing on a single-area study and digging deeper and deeper [into that area],” said Esty. “But if anyone can do it, Yale can, and we’re seeing advancement in that arena.”

The next stop for Yale Explores is Lincoln Center in New York City on Oct. 11. The program then heads west to San Francisco and Los Angeles for the spring semester. To learn more, and to register for future Yale Explores events, visit the Yale Explores website.


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Media Contact

E.J. Crawford: ej.crawford@yale.edu, 203-436-3632