When Thunder Strikes: Climate Change and Natural Disasters


Thunderstorm asthma; a phrase never used before the events of November 2016, and now a household term. What are the implications of this climate change-related event for us as future doctors, and do we have a responsibility to take action or educate our patients? How would we manage a mass casualty emergency? Today we will hear how the Royal Melbourne Hospital Emergency Department responded to this major crisis from the department’s director, learn about the health consequences of climate change and the Doctor’s for Environment Australia perspective on how we can respond to the challenge.


Associate Professor Katherine Barraclough

Katherine Barraclough is a consultant nephrologist at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. Her nephrology training was varied and included six months at The Alfred Hospital, 12 months at Vancouver General Hospital, six months at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (New Delhi) and 12 months at the Princess Alexandra Hospital. She subsequently completed a PhD through the University of Queensland (2012) undertaking clinical research examining pharmacogenetic, pharmaocokinetic and pharmaocdynamic monitoring of immunosuppressive therapy in adult kidney transplant recipients. Since then, her primary research interests have included individualization of immunosuppression in kidney transplantation, Indigenous Australian renal health and disease and environmental sustainability within the healthcare system. She is Chair of the Australia New Zealand Society of Nephrology Green Nephrology Special Interest Group. She is also a member of Doctors for the Environment Australia, sitting on both the Victorian State and National Biodiversity Committees. She joined DEA because of a strong belief in the notion of “healthy planet, healthy people” and because she feels health professionals need to more than simply care for those who are ill – they also have a central role to play in ensuring that healthy, stable environments exist for current and future generations.

Professor George Braitberg

Professor Braitberg has been a practicing emergency physician and toxicologist for 35 years. He is the Executive Director of Strategy, Quality and Improvement at Melbourne Health and the Head of the Emergency Medicine Stream for the Centre for Critical Care Medicine at the University of Melbourne. He is a Fellow of the American College of Medical Toxicology, the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine and the Royal Australasian College of Medical Administrators. He holds Masters in Bioethics and Health Services Management. He is a member of the Victorian Clinical Council, a board member of St Johns Ambulance (Victoria) and medical advisor to Ambulance Victoria. His research interests include toxicology, pre-hospital care, clinical governance and health system redesign. He has published over 50 peer reviewed papers and 20 book chapters. He was awarded an Order of Australia (AM) in 2018.