2023 Charlotte Brody Award winner: Susan Wilburn

Photo of Susan Wilburn

Susan Wilburn

Health Care Without Harm and the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments presented the 2023 Charlotte Brody award to Susan Wilburn, who is a driving force in the global environmental health space and a powerful advocate for nurses everywhere.

Each year, Health Care Without Harm and the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments present the Charlotte Brody Award to a nurse who promotes and protects environmental health.

The 2023 honoree, Susan Wilburn, BScNursing, MPH, is a driving force in the global environmental health space and a powerful advocate for nurses everywhere.

Her dedication to environmental health started at an early age after she discovered the dangerous impact mercury toxins had on a local fish population in Lake Erie. Wilburn has since become an environmental health changemaker with her efforts to reduce nurse exposure to occupational toxins such as latex, glutaraldehyde, and ethylene oxide, and enhance indoor air quality.

Wilburn’s passion for advocacy was first sparked at the Ohio Nurses Association Convention during nursing school. "I flunked one of my nursing clinicals when I skipped a session and went to the convention," Wilburn shared.

Environmental nursing advocates everywhere can rejoice in Wilburn’s decision to strengthen her advocacy skills and miss that nursing school clinical. During her early career, she served as a nurse negotiator and labor representative, leveraging her nursing voice to advocate for a safe and equitable workplace for all.

Wilburn’s earliest days in advocacy planted seeds for a career in transformational leadership, serving in institutions such as the American Nurses Association and the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety.

Her international resume is even more impressive, from serving as a nursing policy consultant for the International Council of Nurses to serving as a technical officer for public health and the environment at the World Health Organization to representing Health Care Civil Society in the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) through her work with Health Care Without Harm.

Throughout the last few decades, Wilburn has championed environmental health advocacy and nursing leadership in a way few can compete with. Due in part to Wilburn's efforts, the world's air, water, and soil are healthier – and as a result, humans are healthier, too.

As for what’s next for Wilburn, she plans to continue her environmental endeavors – and perhaps eventually fully retire.

"Think global, act local," Wilburn says, as she spoke of her current work with SAICM. With this organization, Wilburn is striving to regulate the sound management of chemicals globally and apply learnings to her home state of Washington.

"I’m not working full-time anymore," shares Wilburn. "I have more time to do environmental health advocacy better than ever before."

Wilburn is an inspiration for her constant drive to better the environmental health sphere. When asked how others can get involved, she references a fellow Charlotte Brody Award winner, Barbara Sattler, in the following sentiment: "Pick one thing that you want to dig deep in and learn about. Learn as much as you can, so you can feel confident and can speak up in any setting."

Wilburn currently lives on a houseboat in Olympia, Washington, where she enjoys the outdoors, kayaking, sailing, hiking, traveling, and playing guitar, piano, and ukulele. Looking for book recommendations? Wilburn suggests “The Edge of the Sea” by Rachel Carson and “Braiding Sweetgrass” by Robin Wall Kimmerer.

It’s easy to get started:


  1. Register to become a Nurse Climate Champion.
  2. Access our comprehensive set of resources.
  3. Start educating your colleagues and report your progress.

Learn more - or - Become a Nurse Climate Champion