At noon on March 14, the Bulfinch patio and steps were filled with hundreds of MGH staff who joined together calling attention to gun violence as a major public health crisis. Standing in stark contrast to the 18 inches of freshly fallen snow, the group posed for a photo clad in orange shirts, scarves, blazers and hats – the color adopted around the country to honor victims of gun violence – to bring awareness to gun violence prevention efforts.
“The turnout of hundreds of people from across the MGH community was so moving – a very powerful statement that we are engaged and invested,” says Chana Sacks, MD, Department of Medicine and co-founder of the MGH Gun Violence Prevention Coalition (GVP). “We as a medical community are stating very loudly that we have a role to play in ending this public health crisis, and we are going to step up in support of students, our patients and communities across the country.”
Sacks – along with Paul Currier, MD, Pulmonary and Critical Care Unit; Peter Masiakos, MD, director of Pediatric Surgical Services; and Kim Sheppard Smith, RN, White 12 Translational and Clinical Research Center, – began informal discussions in 2014 about what could be done to make a difference and raise awareness about gun violence in and around the MGH community. Last year, they formed the GVP, a group that has since grown substantially thanks to the addition of staff from all areas of the hospital including nurses, attendings, trainees and physical and occupational therapists. The group’s mission is to reduce injuries and deaths from firearm-related violence and promote safety in the homes and communities of patients through education, community engagement and research.
“We hope to arm clinicians with tools to discuss firearm safety with patients, to advocate for research funding to better understand intervention points and to be advocates for our patients and communities in the policy debate at state and national levels,” says Sacks. “One of the most critical things we need to do is reframe this issue – which is too often seen as a partisan wedge – as the public health and medical problem that it is. Clinicians and all staff who work in health care can help be part of that conversation.”
Sacks says another step in addressing this public health crisis is the March 24 March for Our Lives. Staff are invited to meet on the Harvard Medical School quad at 9:30 am to walk together to the start of the march at Madison Park Vocational High School. Joining with hospitals from around the city, the group hopes to have a strong showing from the medical community to support the student organizers.
“As health care providers, we are charged with more than caring for the sick and injured. We must stand front and center to address the gun violence epidemic that is indiscriminate of race, age, creed, gender and sexual identity. I was so proud to see the great demonstration of MGH support for the brave students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School as they work toward creating a safer society.” – Masiakos
“We are used to tackling big problems, threats and causes of death that face our patients and figuring out how to take actionable steps to try to reduce morbidity and mortality,” says Sacks. “This issue should be no different.”
The GVP meets the first Friday of every month and welcomes anyone in the MGH community. The group’s next meeting is April 6 at 1 pm in Bulfinch 225. Learn more about the GVP at apollo.massgeneral.org/mghgvp.
This article was originally published in the 03/23/18 Hotline issue.