Medical schools can play a role in preventing gun violence

TheLike many Americans, we have watched in horror by news reports about the mass shootings in Buffalo and Ovaldi, and the heartbreaking effects of families grieving their losses.

As medical students, we are trained to one day deal with the consequences of gun violence: people die when they reach the emergency department or those who are badly injured and there is not much that can be done; The bodies were torn apart by bullets and shrapnel that would never be the same again; persistent pain or post-traumatic stress disorder; and more. What we don’t learn is most important: how to prevent gun violence in the first place.

Gun violence is a ruthless epidemic. every year, about 120,000 People are being shot in the United States. In 2020, last year with full stats, More than 45,000 people He died of gun-related injuries, including suicide and murder. Today, gun violence is The main cause of death Among young people, the number of deaths from car accidents exceeded. People all over the world mourn the lives lost in such a tragedy while loved ones and survivors endure unbearable physical and mental stress.


As Americans wait for Congress to pass meaningful gun legislation, we must do everything we can to prevent future loss of life from gun violence. Millions of children and adults living with a gun in their homes, and Research has shown Suicides and child deaths due to the use of weapons decrease dramatically with safe storage of weapons. Physicians, who act as public health advocates and authoritative voices in their communities, are in a good position to speak with their patients about the medical problems and factors outside of clinical medicine that directly shape their patients’ health. those factors Must include gun safety.

Over the past several years, medical schools – the training ground for all physicians – have reformed their curricula to include topics such as the social drivers of health and health policy that affect a person’s well-being. For example, medical students learn not only how to recognize and treat alcohol withdrawal, but also how to discuss the safe use of alcohol with their patients. They are then tested on this content, both through written patient interviews and examination questions. Some students decide to become experts in these topics along with their clinical major.


The same could happen with gun violence — a pressing public health issue — if medical schools incorporate gun safety into their curricula. In our own experience, we had no education in medical school about how to discuss or even counsel patients about safe gun ownership, unlike the education we received about counseling patients about drug use and even safe driving practices. Nationally only about 15% of medical schools include weapons-related content in their curricula.

Medical schools that have responded to our call to ramp up gun safety education need not start from scratch. Student-led efforts to include gun control in the curriculum are found in Warren Albert Medical School Brown University and UCSF College of Medicine. organizations like Medical students for gun safety And the Academic research By medical students also pave the way forward.

There are many ways medical schools can practically incorporate gun safety into their curriculum. At our medical schools (Harvard and University of Michigan), clinicians often invite their patients to discuss the ups and downs of their clinical journeys, usually those related to dealing with a rare disease, during the first two years of the study. Listening to patients who have experienced gun violence, so that students have a better understanding of their physical and emotional burdens, would be a natural extension of that. Learning about such personal experiences can help build the foundation for providing compassionate care. Medical schools can teach students the basics about gun ownership and safety in the classroom.

Then, while students prepare for their clinical courses (usually the last two years of medical school), teachers can help students learn how to discuss gun safety with patients. UCSF did this via a small discussion-based group Curriculum For medical students. Medical schools can also assess students’ proficiency by incorporating gun safety-related exam questions and by writing patient interviews that include the topic.

More specific content can be offered once students enter the clinical rotation years – teaching child-related gun safety in children’s courses, for example – to create a longitudinal curriculum like what Brown did. In addition to curriculum changes, medical schools could consider taking public positions rooted in public health about gun safety.

At the end of the day, transformative policy reform will be needed to prevent the loss of life due to armed violence. This includes establishing cautionary laws that prevent individuals who show signs of a threat to themselves or others from purchasing a gun, government buy-back programs for automatic weapons, raising the minimum age for gun purchases, and more. But reform is slow and uncertain, and clinicians directly manage the fallout from gun violence, making the practice of prevention all the more necessary. The shootings in Buffalo and Ovaldi should prompt everyone with a chance to make gun violence a thing of the past—small businesses, large corporations, nonprofits, government agencies, health care groups, and more—to act quickly and boldly. Medical schools can help by making sure that the doctors of tomorrow are ready for one of today’s most pressing challenges.

David Velasquez is a fourth-year student at Harvard Medical School. Jesper Ke is a third-year medical student at the University of Michigan Medical School.