Death by Shooting: A Public Health Perspective

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As an emergency room physician and health policy advisor working in inner city safety net hospitals for the last twenty years, it has often fallen to me to break the news to family & loved ones that their son, daughter, husband wife or friend died because, despite all our efforts a bullet did too much damage for us to save them. Many of us have advocated for and helped develop programs to reduce the prevalence of this blight, especially in our communities of color for decades.

From a Public Health Perspective, our experience proves we need more than the introduction of federal laws that are not passed, we need health and hospital policy changes from experienced clinicians that combine building alliances with victims points of contact. We need to be present at forums like this with community leaders that include all sectors “inclusivo de todos los miembros de nuestra comunidad” not just the ones usually invited to the table because they have “more public health experience.”

Many of us have spent twenty plus year careers in medicine working in the interest of public health with practical approaches to gun violence mitigation. That’s also why emergency doctors, trauma surgeons, nurses, advanced practitioners, paramedics, and researchers, active duty military, and veterans, Republicans and Democrats formed AFFIRM: ”The American Foundation for Firearm Injury Reduction in Medicine, standing together as caregivers, united in our calling to serve the people by finding solutions to this ever growing problem.”

It is why THIS IS OUR LANE and we know as well as any health professionals what we are up against in this public health crisis. We know suicide attempts have far lesser success rate when NOT due to guns. We know completed suicides continue to go up because injury from guns are more often not reversible. We know we have high success rates treating attempted suicide or OD or attempted murder by stabbing by comparison. We have to be a part of practical solutions to gun violence mitigation because we have lived this public health epidemic and know it is critical all stakeholders be invited into the conversation. We know the research and understand real solutions to this population health problem. We know what it means to lift the research ban created by the gun lobby. We know the NRA endorsed Donald Trump to the tune of $30mil and the CDC has been blocked from studying effect of gun violence. We know the value of universal background checks in gun violence mitigation.

Gun safety measures and mandatory barriers like mental health screening prior to all sales of weapons as well as improved support from our courts through the granting protective custody to help prevent tragedies such as that of Tyrique Hudson is critical and are not mysteries to us. It is gratifying to be invited as one of many activists working on this issue for decades behind the scenes and it speaks volumes about Mayor Buckley that he has helped gather such a diverse array of voices into this conversation.

Dr. Gomez is an advocate for the ethical practice of medicine which he believes will one day lead to the elimination of health disparities and improved healthcare states for all patients. He chairs the Diversity & Inclusion Committee for the American Academy of Emergency Medicine where he also serves on the Government & National Affairs Committee. He supports the underrepresented patient population on the Maryland American College of Emergency Physicians Public Policy Committee and through the lobbying efforts of the NMA.

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