The National Rifle Association sent out a tweet November 7th with a link to an article from their website titled – “Surprise: Physician Group Rehashes Same Tired Gun Control Policies”. The tweet said that “someone” should tell the doctors to “stay in their lane”. The article itself takes issue with a position paper publication by the American College of Physicians (ACP) on reducing firearm injuries and deaths in the United States. The number 1 position in that paper is:
“The American College of Physicians recommends a public health approach to firearms-related violence and the prevention of firearm injuries and deaths.”
It is clear that the NRA does not see gun violence and firearm injury as a public health issue. In fact, talking about the public health crisis that is firearm injury research is precisely a public health issue, and definitely within the lane of doctors.
It has occurred to many that the NRA, and perhaps the greater public does not realize what it is that doctors, nurses, and other medical providers do when it comes to the medical, surgical, and social treatment of gun violence. And because of this lack of awareness, they do not realize what exactly falls within our lane.
They do not see the doctors and nurses gowning and gloving head to toe, mentally preparing for the arrival of a person. They are not witness to our life saving interventions of chest tubes placed, releasing liters of blood onto the floors or chests cracked open and pericardial sacs explored hoping to find the source of catastrophic bleeding — just to give the person a chance to go to the operating room, to face hours of surgery to repair organs and sew up holes, all which were damaged within seconds from bullets. Similarly, they do not feel their bodies go numb as their lips move to reveal the news of the death of people to families, who crumple in agony and shock. Finally, they do not see the medical staff cry alone, after the patients have long departed for the operating room or the morgue, that time when finally the role of doctor and nurse can be put to the side, and the humanity in all of us can mourn the senseless tragedy that came upon the person.
I believe that it is important to be a part of the solution and to contribute positively within my lane as an Emergency Medicine doctor. That is why I have joined the important work of AFFIRM (American Foundation for Firearm Injury Reduction in Medicine). This is a nonpartisan, medical organization that seeks innovative solutions to firearm injury – as a public health crisis. This organization seeks to fund high quality research, so that we have better evidence by which to treat our patients with firearm injuries. And this concept is something all Americans can get behind, as often our lack of high quality research has indeed prevented effective medical treatment and public health solutions from being enacted. And even the NRA agrees with that, as seen in their tweet.
The second goal of AFFIRM is to educate the public on what firearm injuries look like. Medical providers are aware of sequelae of these injuries, however not everyone in the public realizes that sometimes when you are shot in the abdomen, you end up with a colostomy, or sometimes there is spinal cord injury leaving the person paraplegic with chronic urinary tract infections. AFFIRM hopes to make the public aware of all facets of firearm injuries. Lastly, the goal is to share the perspectives of everyone involved in this public health crisis beyond doctors and nurses, including school administrators, social workers, and medical students — everyone who has skin in this game, and are working hard, well within their lane.
AFFIRM hopes that through all of this, we can find innovative solutions to fund high quality research to gain knowledge on how to treat and prevent firearm injuries. We also hope that we can educate the greater community and make them aware that it is within our lane to care about our patients health and wellbeing, and that includes working towards solutions to prevent firearm injuries.