Picking up the morning paper these days is almost guaranteed to deepen a pervasive and chronic sense of hopelessness and dismay on scanning the issues that crowd just the front page. The October 8th issue of the New York Times’ lead article by Chris Mooney and Brady Dennis reported the latest data on what is arguably the most important threat to the survival of the human family: climate warming. The end of our ability to survive on the planet is virtually at hand: almost 100 scientists that made up a United Nations panel on climate change have issued a “dire” warning that efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions had to be put in place immediately to prevent lethal warming of the earth. Even more concerning was the observation that those efforts would have to put emissions on an “extremely steep downward curve before 2030.” The panel commented that the changes that need to be made require herculean – not to mention a universally collaborative – effort. Ominously, they predicted that we might not be able to scale up measures to reduce the global temperature in the brief time left to us.
Auden Schendler and Andrew Jones sounded a note of encouragement in their op-ed piece on the subject in the same issue of the Times in spite of their agreeing that the task was profoundly daunting: “Solving climate is going to be harder and more improbable, than winning World War II, achieving civil rights, defeating bacterial infection and sending a man to the moon all together.” They urged each one of us to contribute our individual effort to meeting the threat, including “voting, running for office, marching in protest, writing letters.” The work must be habitual, consistent and transform our personal contribution to solving the problem that will, unchecked, consume the human family.
The Nobel Committee chose the same day that the UN panel released its report to announce that one of the winners of the peace prize was Mr. William D. Nordhaus of Yale for his analysis of the impact of climate change on economies and advocated taxation of those who didn’t comply with best practices to contain carbon emissions. The award underscored the Nobel’s efforts to highlight the most important problems that beset not just one country, but the whole planet. Each one of us must become informed about the causes for this calamity and assume personal responsibility for joining with the groups addressing it most effectively.
We have so many catastrophes to face, it is hard to choose the most important. But the most compelling of all is this one. Climate warming, unchecked, will extinguish all the life on earth, probably for centuries to come — if it will be reversible at all. We have to make a consistent effort to modify the only environment over which we have absolute control: our own personal awareness of the reasons for and the nature of the lethal danger we face. One of the best sources of information and recommendations to reverse our current situation can be found by accessing https://climate.nasa.gov/. The site summarizes practical facts and suggestions about what individual and group efforts can achieve to save the planet. Access it today.
Marianne J. Legato, MD, Ph. D. (hon. c.), FACP is an internationally renowned academic, physician, author, lecturer, and pioneer in the field of gender-specific medicine. She is a Professor Emerita of Clinical Medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons and an Adjunct Professor of Medicine at Johns Hopkins Medical School. Dr. Legato is also the Director of the Foundation for Gender-Specific Medicine, which she founded in 2006 as a continuation of her work with The Partnership for Gender-Specific Medicine at Columbia University. She received an honorary PhD from the University of Panama in 2015 for her work on the differences between men and women.
At its core, gender-specific medicine is the science of how normal human biology differs between men and women and how the diagnosis and treatment of disease differs as a function of gender. Dr. Legato’s discoveries and those of her colleagues have led to a personalization of medicine that assists doctors worldwide in understanding the difference in normal function of men and women and in their sex-specific experiences of the same diseases.
She began her work in gender-specific medicine by authoring the first book on women and heart disease, The Female Heart: The Truth About Women and Coronary Artery Disease, which won the Blakeslee Award of the American Heart Association in 1992. Because of this research, the cardiovascular community began to include women in clinical trials affirming the fact that the risk factors, symptoms, and treatment of the same disease can be significantly different between the sexes. Convinced that the sex-specific differences in coronary artery disease were not unique, Dr. Legato began a wide-ranging survey of all medical specialties and in 2004, published the first textbook on gender-specific medicine, The Principles of Gender-Specific Medicine. The second edition appeared in 2010 and the third edition, dedicated to explaining how gender impacts biomedical investigation in the genomic era, won the PROSE Award in Clinical Medicine from the Association of American Publishers in 2018. A fourth edition is forthcoming.
She also founded the first scientific journals publishing new studies in the field, The Journal of Gender-Specific Medicine, and a newer version, Gender Medicine, both listed in the Index Medicus of the National Library of Medicine. She has founded a third peer-reviewed, open access journal, Gender and the Genome, which focuses on the impact of biological sex on technology and its effects on human life.
Dr. Legato is the author of multiple works, including: What Women Need to Know (Simon & Schuster, 1997), Eve’s Rib (Harmony Books, 2002), Why Men Never Remember and Women Never Forget (Rodale, 2005), Why Men Die First (Palgrave, 2008), The International Society for Gender Medicine: History and Highlights (Academic Press, 2017), and most recently, The Plasticity of Sex (Academic Press, 2020). Her books have been translated into 28 languages to date.
As an internationally respected authority on gender medicine, Dr. Legato has chaired symposia and made keynote addresses to world congresses in gender-specific medicine in Berlin, Israel, Italy, Japan, Panama, South Korea, Stockholm, and Vienna. In collaboration with the Menarini Foundation, she is co-chairing a symposium on epigenetics, Sex, Gender and Epigenetics: From Molecule to Bedside, to be held in Spring 2021 in Italy. She maintains one of the only gender-specific private practice in New York City, and she has earned recognition as one of the “Top Doctors in New York.”