October 06, 2017
Our nation is in shock in the days following yet another senseless act of mass violence in America. We are horrified and saddened by the loss of life, the injuries, and the profound impact on individuals, families, and communities. Our hearts go out to the families of the victims and to the people whose lives are forever changed.
Below are a few editorials I’ve read this week that I found particularly compelling:
477 Days. 521 Mass Shootings. Zero Action From Congress
Now Is the Time to Talk About Guns
Preventing Mass Shootings Like the Vegas Strip Attack
What Bullets Do to Bodies
The calendar documenting mass shootings in America by month is a stark reminder that gun violence in America is not only a personal tragedy, but also a public health emergency— an emergency that needs a response now.
As a society, when will we say ENOUGH and resolve to do more to prevent such senseless violence and loss of life? How many stories of beautiful lives lost—children, husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, co-workers, friends— will be enough to force changes that save lives?
In a statement released this week, the American Academy of Pediatrics called for “strong state and federal gun laws that protect children in every state of the nation.” Other professional organizations have published similar calls to action. Above all, we need effective prevention strategies. At the same time, we need personal, professional, and public preparedness and rapid response.
Recently, Dr. Sasha Adams, assistant professor of surgery, told us about the national Stop the Bleed campaign and her efforts to prepare our students and others to help stop bleeding in trauma patients. Bystanders are often the first to help trauma victims before trained first responders arrive on the scene.
Together with Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, we run the largest Level I Trauma Center in the country. Our trauma teams work with precision and skill to save lives, resulting in a trauma center with the lowest risk adjusted mortality in the country. The rising hospital costs associated with gun violence were recently reported by Johns Hopkins in this article from The Guardian. The thought-provoking perspective of a trauma surgeon (also wife and mother) is also attached.
Our faculty prepare for mass casualty events in collaboration with the SouthEast Texas Regional Advisory Council (SETRAC), the group tasked with ensuring our region’s preparedness. SETRAC hosts multiple exercises with mass casualty scenarios, and several of our faculty not only participate in these drills, but chair committees and boards of this important preparedness organization.
The UT Police Department works day in and out to help keep us safe. They offer advice and training on how to be observant for suspect behavior and how to respond to an active shooter. Attached is a thoughtful letter from Chief William Adcox. He commented to me, “Preventing acts of violence must be our collective goal. It is a public health concern of the highest order, requiring a multifaceted approach. For our part, UTP-H works with the Behavior Intervention Team (BIT) and others to identify individuals exhibiting behaviors of concern for the purpose of intervention. We also offer training and resources to our students, faculty, and staff to educate them on how to prevent and respond to campus violence. Together, we can find a path forward to prevent these senseless acts of violence.” You can reach the UTP community outreach team at 713-563-7794 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In preparation for the last Super Bowl, Dr. Michelle McNutt, associate professor of surgery, led a team that developed a document clarifying the physician’s role in a mass casualty incident. Faculty from the departments of Surgery, Emergency Medicine, Anesthesia, Diagnostic and Interventional Imaging, Neurosurgery, and Orthopedic Surgery collaborated to create this detailed document. The plan includes redundant methods of communication to ensure physician availability, triage of patients outside and inside the emergency department, utilization of blood products, operating room availability, plans to evacuate hospital patients utilizing the transfer center, and many other pertinent details. The document’s scope reaches beyond Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center for triage purposes, and it is important to note that MH-TMC is the only trauma hospital with a helipad in the Texas Medical Center. “We want to get the right patient to the right hospital at the right time,” Dr. McNutt said.
I echo the sentiments of Dr. Lillian Kao, director of the Division of Acute Care Surgery in the Department of Surgery, “I feel blessed to work at a school, hospital, and medical community that bands together to care for those who need it, sometimes regardless of personal losses.” While we have a robust regional and hospital-level plan for mass casualty incidents, we hope to have little occasion to implement it.
Please take a moment to reflect on the events in Las Vegas. As Nicholas Kristof wrote in the NY Times, “So let’s mourn. But even more important, let’s act.”