Medical student honored for efforts to keep unused hospital supplies out of landfill

National environmental award is for ‘Second Breath’ program


A fourth-year medical student who co-leads an organization committed to reducing waste in hospitals has earned national recognition for his dedication to sustainable health care. 

Medical students Carter White and Aida Nasirishargh display an orthopedic boot and other surplus items they collect and donate
Carter White and Aida Nasirishargh run Second Breath, which finds a home for unused or discarded medical supplies

Carter White, who helps run Second Breath at the UC Davis School of Medicine, recently won an Emerging Physician Leader Award from Health Care Without Harm. The group seeks to transform health care worldwide and reduce its environmental footprint. 

In addition to the leadership award, he also received a second recognition: He was named an inaugural fellow for the new Blair and Georgia Sadler Fellowship at Health Care Without Harm, which includes a $1,000 grant.

White plans to use the grant to expand the student-run program. 

White and Aida Nasirishargh are co-leaders of Second Breath, a program that saves unused and discarded medical equipment from going to the landfill and provides it to individuals and organizations that need them. 

“We’re really excited about these two awards,” White said. “We’d be doing this work regardless, but it’s nice to have some recognition and financial support.” 

Wound care supplies have been shipped to Africa. Much needed gauze, sterile gloves and antiseptic to treat wounds and infections are now in Ukraine. Durable medical equipment, such as wheelchairs and walkers, have found a home in underserved communities. 

Some of the supplies, such as expired sutures, end up at the School of Medicine, where students and residents use them in training. Other beneficiaries include student run clinics, the Sacramento Zoo and research labs at UC Davis. 

The majority of the supplies are used for educational purposes. 

White and Nasirishargh are thrilled that Second Breath has received national attention through the Emerging Physician Leader recognition and Sadler Fellowship. 

They hope the recognition means more departments at UC Davis Medical Center, and elsewhere, learn about the program. 

Second Breath, run by student volunteers, relies on word-of-mouth and email to match donors with people who can use the supplies. 

Its leaders say they are fortunate that UC Davis Health has provided space to store equipment, free of charge, at a warehouse on 14th Avenue. That site also functions as an “open house” drop off and pick-up point, but hours are very limited. 

White and Nasirishargh said the fellowship’s $1,000 grant will result in added convenience. 

“This award will give us the opportunity to seek out storage options that give us access on weekends and after hours,” Nasirishargh said. “That will be very helpful.” 

Second Breath was co-founded at UCLA by resident physician Andrew Li, who then brought the idea to UC Davis where he is a faculty member with the UC Davis Health Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

Li set up the UC Davis program in 2019 with School of Medicine student Joshua Hwang, who is now a resident.

Back then, Li stored equipment in his garage, so he is excited about the program’s expansion in Sacramento.

“It’s such an honor and a pleasure to work with Josh, Aida and Carter,” Li said. “It’s a privilege to see Second Breath grow tremendously in the hands of these students who have taken it to another level.” 

For additional information on Second Breath, visit its website. People who wish to donate medical supplies can use this form.

This article was updated Sept. 2 to reflect that the award and fellowship were presented solely to Carter White.