Environmental Medicine - A first at Complutense University of Madrid

This month, Universidad Complutense de Madrid (UCM), in collaboration with HCWH Europe member Fundación Alborada, offered an optional course on environmental medicine for the first time to medical students. 

UCM is one of Spain’s largest universities with the highest number of students and is considered (by some rankings) the best national university for quality of studies and research. The course, “Change your behaviour or move to another planet” had an excellent response with 80 students signing up - mostly medical students - but also those from degree courses on Nursing, Human Nutrition, and Dietetics.

Topics covered in the session included:

  • Environmental pollutants and alternatives
  • Chronic exposure to low doses of chemicals
  • New environmental diseases
  • The role of civil society
  • The perspective of patients and doctors

Dr. Adela Pelayo - Director of the Department of Pathological Anatomy at UCM - is the coordinator of this course, alongside Dr. Pilar Muñoz-Calero - an expert in Environmental Medicine in Spain. During the course, clinical cases of patients suffering from consequences of exposure to harmful chemicals were presented and valued highly by students, who showed surprise at the relationship between some diseases and the environment, previously unknown to them. 

“Environmental medicine is important in realising that many illnesses afflicting us today have been partly caused by humankind’s irresponsible behaviour towards the environment.” - Mr. José Esquinas

Students also learned from other specialists such as Dr. Ceferino Maestu - Director of the Bioelectromagnetism Laboratory at the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid’s Biomedical Technology Center, and Mrs. Ruth Echeverría – Lead Biophysicist of the Endocrine Disruptors project at Fundación Alborada.  

 Another speaker was Mr. José Esquinas, who has previously worked for the U.N. for over 30 years and who was awarded a 2012 FAO-Spain award for his fight against hunger. Mr. Esquinas closed with a lecture on food in the world today, highlighting how important it is that future doctors are aware of environmental pollution’s worrisome effects on human health. 


The course was received positively by participants:

Dr. Adela Pelayo, coordinator - “Future health professionals are totally committed to the environment - these students have participated actively and valued the session very positively: 75% rated the course as ‘excellent’.”

Dr. Pilar Muñoz-Calero, Professor - “Training new generations in environmental medicine is a privilege and a necessity. The health of our children and grandchildren is in the hands of these students. We have sown in them the seeds of the critical spirit and the search of the causes of the disease.” 

Gemma Belén, Student - “A wonderful course, which has conveyed how important it is to raise people’s awareness of fighting environmental toxic chemicals surrounding us to achieve a quality of life we all deserve!”


The original version of this article (in Spanish) can be found on Fundación Alborada's website. All photographs courtesy of Fundación Alborada.

Fundación Alborada is a member of HCWH Europe; if you would like to find out more about HCWH Europe membership, including the benefits for organisations, please read more here.

If you have other stories/information regarding environmental sustainability courses or events for medical students in Europe, please let us know! Contact maja.milkowska[at]hcwh.org