We talked with Payam Dadvand, coordinator of Global Environmental Health course and Associate Research Professor at ISGlobal. He is a physician by training and has a PhD in environmental epidemiology. For the last decade he has conducted pioneering studies on the impacts of both environmental stressors (e.g. air pollution) and environmental mitigation measures (e.g. green spaces) on human health, mainly maternal and child health in both high-income and low and middle-income countries. He is currently a Ramón y Cajal fellow and an editor for the journal Environmental Pollution, a D1 journal in the field of environmental sciences.
If you had a superpower, what would it be?
I wish I had the superpower to stop and reverse the climate change through convincing people on how real, important, and urgent this issue is.
If you could have dinner tomorrow with anyone in the world, who would it be? And where would you go for dinner?
Well, that's a tough question and I can think about quite a few names, which, of course, somehow depends on my state of mind. Right now, that I am missing taking photos (which I used to do before this pandemic and its resulting confinement measures made our lives upside down), I might say it could be Sebastião Salgado. Ideally, we can go to a hut in remote Amazonian rainforests where they serve eco-friendly indigius cuisine. Of course, I wouldn't mind to see that, by just pure accident, Steve McCurry and James Nachtwey are also dining there and are happy to have us joining their table.
What is your vocation and how did you find it?
In a world where job satisfaction is not that commonplace, I am really privileged that I have a job which I really love: research. I was trained as a medical doctor and I could continue to stay in clinical practice, which is apparently entitled to higher income and more job security compared to the academic career. However, being a black sheep, I decided to change to research because I thought by doing so I could have a larger impact and also, I can avoid routine work, which, to me, is a nightmare.
In a world where job satisfaction is not that commonplace, I am really privileged that I have a job which I really love: research
From the research you are doing currently, what is that you enjoy most? and why?
As I mentioned in my previous answer, that is the impact that I can have to make the world a better place to live, not just for Homo sapiens, but also for other species. For instance, it is really delighting to see that my works on the health effects of natural environments and green spaces have been used to compile evidence base for policymaking and implementing interventions.
Has climate change any impact on pandemics?
This is a complex issue. Consumerism, invasion of natural habitats and adverse changes of ecosystems by humans, overuse of natural resources, and globalized economy that has effectively removed the borders contribute to both global changes (including climate change) and also the generation and spread of pandemics. At the same time, climatic factors such as humidity and temperature have also been suggested to have a potential impact on the spread of some epidemics, including COVID-19. This complex web of interrelated causes and effects is one of the core concepts of the "planetary health", an emerging paradigm in health, which I cherish.
The pandemic and its resulting confinement measures demonstrated, for example, how unprepared our cities and infrastructures are to handle the pandemics
Do you think that the COVID-19 pandemic can bring opportunities to make our cities healthier?
It can, depending on how people and policymakers look at this issue. The pandemic and its resulting confinement measures demonstrated, for example, how unprepared our cities and infrastructures are to handle the pandemics. At the same time, they show how active mobility, better air quality, and access to green spaces could potentially reduce the risk of transmission or mitigate some of the consequences of the confinement measures such as mental health effects.
What would you say today to people who want to study in your field?
Let's have a dinner in a hut in remote Amazonian rainforests where they serve eco-friendly indigius cuisine.