Surgeons Play a Key Role in Addressing US Firearm Violence

The ACS has played an important role in addressing the growing public health challenge of firearm violence. A Panel Session yesterday, PS342. Surgeons on the Frontlines of Gun Violence, provided an overview of past efforts by the ACS and other organizations, the current state of the shared response, and the work to come.

Rochelle A. Dicker, MD, FACS
Peter T. Masiakos, MD, MS, FACS

Brendan T. Campbell, MD, MPH, FACS, Chair of the ACS Committee on Trauma (COT) Injury and Prevention Control Committee, reviewed the ACS’s actions in the last decade and shared firearm violence data, while Bindi Naik-Mathuria, MD, MPH, FACS, chief of pediatric surgery, The University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, spoke on the role of the clinic in providing an answer. 

“Clinical settings offer several opportunities to provide interventions and education related to firearm violence, especially in relation to children,” Dr. Naik-Mathuria said. In addition, she noted the importance of using culturally sensitive language and encouraging secure firearm storage. Another panelist, Peter T. Masiakos, MD, MS, FACS, co-director of the Gun Violence Prevention Center at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, provided thoughts on how to incorporate firearm violence prevention into surgical residency.

The most notable gains in addressing firearm violence will not come from treatment after an injury, but instead may come from addressing a community’s social determinants of health, according to Rochelle Dicker, MD, FACS, professor of surgery and anesthesia at the University of California, Los Angeles. She discussed her work as leader of the COT’s Improving Social Determinants to Attenuate Violence (ISAVE) group, including developing and piloting trauma informed care programs, integrating social care into medical systems, and more. 

Deepika Nehra, MD FACS
Deepika Nehra, MD, FACS
Ronald M. Stewart, MD, FACS

The nature of these solutions requires a long-term commitment. “We need to crawl upstream with our communities, and in the midst of doing that, we need to celebrate little wins and recognize our communities are with us,” she said.

Underpinning all current and future efforts, though, is the continued need for surgeon advocacy. And while effective solutions to firearm violence can seem like an intractable political issue, surgeons can build on a common narrative that doesn’t require compromise, explained Ronald M. Stewart, MD, FACS, Past-COT Chair and Past-Medical Director of ACS Trauma Programs. 

Firearm ownership is a protected right, violence is a major cause of preventable death, and we can reduce violence, Dr. Stewart said, suggesting that bipartisan action can spring from there. Importantly, Deepika Nehra, MD, FACS, a trauma and critical care surgeon at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, WA, added that even though legislative solutions, especially at the federal level, may require long negotiations, regional firearm violence prevention groups can work together to make a difference on a smaller scale.

Watch the Panel Session on-demand. 

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Virtual registration is still an option for Clinical Congress 2022. An on-demand library of recorded sessions from San Diego is available until May 1, 2023.