The winner of the Healthline Stronger Scholarship was helped by the survivors of Hurricane Odile.
Daniel Samano was on his way to the airport after helping survivors of Hurricane Odile. The driver lost control of the car.
Samano noticed that one of the other passengers needed care, but the hospital had been destroyed in the storm. The next best option was to get her to the airport with the help of local authorities and then fly her to the hospital in Mexico City, where she grew up.
She was released from the hospital a week later and left a lasting impact on Samano. The incident shined a harsh spotlight on how disasters can affect access to healthcare.
His research on extreme weather and healthcare access would be a result of this memory.
“He is currently studying for a master’s degree in climate and health at the University of Miami, which will help him get a medical doctor’s license.”
The best rewards in life are the ones that make a positive impact on the community, no matter how many titles or degrees someone has. My ultimate goal is to build a bridge between climate and health.
We asked Samano about his goals and obstacles. Here is what he had to say.
The interview has been edited for clarity and length.
“I’ve always had a genuine interest in helping people, from the individual level to the entire population, and that’s what got me into medicine and public health. There are a few experiences that have led me to where I am today.”
I served as a medical doctor for an Indigenous community of more than 5,000 people in an extremely rural area, which helped me understand the importance of public health work.
I provided relief after Hurricane Odile in Los Cabos, Mexico. I saw how extreme weather events affect survivors health and their access to care.
“I have noticed that people in South Florida don’t realize the worsening of the climate. They don’t understand how it is affecting their health.”
Combining my training as a doctor with studying climate and health gives me a chance to work on issues related to climate change and health.
I obtained my medical doctor degree at Anahuac University, where I was born and raised. I had the chance to see international healthcare systems in England, Germany, and Miami, Florida after graduation.
I decided to pursue a Master of Science in climate and health at the University of Miami after experiencing these experiences.
I have faced a number of personal and professional challenges while continuing my pursuit of my education, working in clinical research in the neuroscience intensive care unit, and getting involved in smoking cessation programs for vulnerable communities.
This work has given me new ideas and helped me discover a hidden passion for the field of climate and health.
When I began to explore the influence of climate on healthcare access, I received negative feedback from senior clinicians and researchers who did not believe in the influence of climate on health.
It encouraged me to think outside the box and not allow this to stop my research. I developed two research protocols.
The first study looked at 30 years of hourly weather data to see how it affected the use of HIV clinics in South Florida. I found that this population was more likely to miss their scheduled visits on days with extreme weather.
I developed and implemented two surveys to assess how extreme weather affects the knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors of five vulnerable communities in Miami, as well as public health professionals across the nation. 500 people have completed the surveys.
I have already presented the results of my efforts at international conferences, and I have more studies in the works.
This type of research helps us understand how extreme weather events affect how people access healthcare and push for changes that help people.
This guidance can help clinics rescheduling appointments when extreme weather is predicted. It could help reduce the strain on emergency healthcare systems.
Climate change and healthcare are related to these research efforts.
I was able to see the healthcare challenges that arise from extreme weather after I provided disaster relief.
I was on my way back to the airport after caring for survivors when my driver lost control of the car. We hit the curve at 70 miles per hour and our car fell into the desert.
“One of the passengers had a severe headaches and started vomiting. She needed care, but it wasn’t an option to go to the hospital. The city was destroyed by the storm.”
We were rushed to the airport by the local authorities to get the next flight. She was discharged from the hospital a week after we landed.
“We need to find ways to be resilient and ensure that survivors don’t face additional obstacles to getting care as the world gets more extreme.”
I am pursuing a Master of Science in Climate and Health because it will require a variety of approaches. This degree will complement my vision to become a pioneer in understanding the consequences of climate change on health and developing interventions that address health inequalities.
We have the capacity and knowledge to slow down the rise in temperatures. Collective efforts across disciplines are the way to make it change.
I have lived through hurricanes and extreme weather events that have affected my family and my work. I choose to help others and raise awareness.
If you have been affected by the issue directly, I would like to hear from you. Try to make a choice to become part of the solution in whatever field you work. We need to work together.