Growing Together: More Than 30 Thousand Trees to Be Planted in Honor of All MedStar Health Associates

Trees will reforest parts of the world that need it most to improve ecosystems worldwide

May 10, 2021

Stephen Peterson, MD

COLUMBIA, Md. – MedStar Health has received a philanthropic donation from a longtime physician and an additional anonymous donor which will lead to the planting of one tree for each of its more than 30,000 associates. The contribution is uniquely designed to both permanently honor the selfless care associates provided throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and promote environmental sustainability, which is an issue important to MedStar Health.

Through a partnership with the Washington D.C.-based ForestPlanet, the trees will be strategically planted in countries like Madagascar and Tanzania, where deforested ecosystems are in need of revitalization. According to ForestPlanet, most of the planted trees will be of the Mangrove species, a type of tree that pulls more carbon from the air than any other.

Mangrove seedlings

One of the donors, Stephen Peterson, MD, is a psychiatrist at MedStar Washington Hospital Center and also an environmental activist. He developed the idea after watching his colleagues respond to the pandemic.

“Through this donation, we’re thanking the associates who were so brave coming into work over the past year. Every member of the team has been courageous. Everyone honored the MedStar Health name in that way,” Peterson said. “We healed people in our hospitals and clinics. Now we’re healing the Earth. I’ve always been environmentally conscious, but it never really hit me how important it was until our grandchild came along four years go. If we don’t start taking action now, will future generations have a wonderful sustainable Earth?”

The plan received support from MedStar Health’s award-winning Environmental Health and Safety team and Corporate Environmental Leadership Committee, which work to implement environmental strategies across the health system all year long. Those projects include reducing and recycling solid waste, cutting down on regulated and chemical waste, lowering energy and water consumption, sourcing food and projects sustainably, and establishing green purchasing policies.

“When we’re planting trees, we’re literally helping the air that all of us breathe,” says Monica Barnett, director of Environmental Health and Safety at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. “That helps our patients, our prospective patients, and our community. It all just fits together with what we’re trying to do. We are the stewards of Earth. The more that we appreciate the gift of stewardship, the more we’ll help the Earth and each other.”

“ForestPlanet is very grateful for this donation. We applaud Dr. Peterson and his 30,000 colleagues for their work over the past year,” say Hank Dearden III, Executive Director of ForestPlanet. “Trees are sentinels of healing. Healthy trees and soils result in healthy communities and ecosystems. These trees will also provide acres of habitat for local species, which will ultimately reduce the risk of future pandemics.”

Eventually, Peterson hopes that his seed of an idea will blossom into a worldwide trend, as other organizations consider gifting trees to honor the contributions of their own employees and associates in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I have a lot of strong feelings about their wonderful strength,” he said. “It was scary in the beginning, but nevertheless they came in and took care of people. They were very brave.”

A prior reforestation project in Tanzania


About MedStar Health
At MedStar Health, we use the best of our minds and the best of our hearts to serve our patients, those who care for them, and our communities. Our 30,000 associates and 4,700 affiliated physicians are committed to living this promise through our core SPIRIT values—Service, Patient first, Integrity, Respect, Innovation, and Teamwork—across our more than 300 locations including 10 hospitals, ambulatory, and urgent care centers. As the medical education and clinical partner of Georgetown University, MedStar Health is training future physician leaders to care for the whole person and is advancing care through the MedStar Health Research Institute. From our telemedicine and urgent care services to the region’s largest home health agency, we’re committed to providing high-quality health care that’s also easy and convenient for our patients. At MedStar Health—It’s how we treat people. Learn more at MedStarHealth.org.

About ForestPlanet
ForestPlanet is an organization that supports large scale, low cost-per-tree reforestation efforts all over the world. We help plant trees where they bring the most benefit to the region’s soil, habitat, the global environment, and local communities. Please direct further inquiries to [email protected], or call 1-202-792-8060.

Media Contacts

Marianne Worley
410-772-6661
202-531-1508 (cell)
[email protected]

Brendan McNamara
410-772-6557
571-314-2942 (cell)
[email protected]

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