Academic Research

“We want to create a healthcare system that is high-value, affordable, available to all who need it, and one that does not adversely impact environmental and public health.”

-Dr. Cassandra L. Thiel

In the NYU Langone Health-based research lab, Dr. Thiel utilizes life cycle assessment and principles of industrial ecology to analyze and improve the environmental performance of medical systems, hospital design, healthcare practice, medical supply chains, and medical technologies. We use these data to develop and test interventions that can reduce waste and improve the value of clinical care. The lab also conducts surveys of clinicians to measure their receptivity to sustainability, and we are developing technologies that improve measurement of waste and carbon emissions from care pathways.

Implementing Sustainability in Ophthalmology

Despite all the research showing what types of interventions will lead to greater sustainability in cataract care, it remains hard to implement these changes.

-Dr. Cassandra L. Thiel

The Thiel Lab’s current work assesses barriers and facilitators to implementing sustainability practices at NYU Eye Center, and is funded by the Donaghue Foundation’s Greater Value Portfolio and the NIH National Eye Institute. This work complements initiatives by, a working group composed of the major US ophthalmic societies who have been systematically addressing perceived barriers to change.

Waste in Surgery

Hospital ORs may waste millions [of dollars] a year in disposable medical supplies.

The Thiel Lab conducts numerous waste audits to quantify emissions and look for clues on reducing waste and resource use in healthcare services. The lab has studied cataract surgeries, hysterectomies, and orthopedic surgeries, as well as emergency departments. The Thiel Lab continues to innovate on more modern methods of auditing waste, building technologies that can assist us in this vital data collection process.

Creating a more Resilient Medical Supply Chain

Because many medical supplies are single-use and disposable, manufactured and shipped from around the world, the resilience of medical supply chains is crucial to maintaining functional health care in times of need.

-Dr.s Cassandra L. Thiel & Kimia Ghobadi

With a RAPID grant from the National Science Foundation, the Thiel lab is assessing US hospitals’ use of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) during the COVID-19 pandemic. We hope to identify policies and procedures that enable a more sustainable and resilient medical supply chain.

Composting in Hospital Kitchens

Though the Thiel Lab usually focuses on clinical areas, other parts of medical services are shown to have a large environmental footprint as well. What better connection is there to health, than the food we eat? The Thiel Lab is currently conducting audits of the NYU Langone Health kitchen to understand opportunities for increased recycling and adoption of composting.

Emissions from
Inpatient Stays

Hospital inpatient care constitutes almost one-third of all health care expenditures in the United States.

Through support from the Sustainable Healthcare Coalition and in partnership with Mr. Michael Collins of ERM, the Thiel Lab quantified the resource consumption and environmental footprint of inpatient stays in a high- and low-intensity unit. Though surgeries usually represent greater spending and waste generation in a hospital, inpatient stays are very common – small changes to layout and practice could result in reduced waste and significant environmental savings.

© Cassandra Thiel, 2022

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