Ex Stanford Doc Active In Gun Violence Research Fundraising Group
GILROY, CA — To say Dr. Nikita Joshi is fed up and fired up in respect to gun violence in American society is an understatement when considering the number of headlines blanketing the nation involving these mass casualty events.
One hit home on July 28 when a disgruntled 19-year-old local gunman fired upon the Gilroy Garlic Festival, the quintessential celebration of the South Bay agricultural town’s roots. Garlic is practically everything in the southern Santa Clara town, so to have its premier event to honor the crop mired by blood in which three young people were killed is too much to bear for most.
“What we’re seeing in the community in my interactions is a profound sense of sadness and shock,” said Peter Leroe Munoz, a Gilroy councilman and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group vice president of technology and innovation in San Jose.
Now like so many other small towns with citizens that find it difficult to believe it really happened in their haven, the donations are piling in to help the loved ones of Stephen Romero, 6; Keyla Salazar, 13 — both of San Jose; and Trevor Irby, 25, of Santa Cruz. Plus, candlelight vigils mark a city rocked to the core as it deals with its loss of innocence.
And to think two more mass shootings occurred a week later in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.
Joshi, who lives in the East Bay and works as an ER doctor at Highland Hospital in Oakland before moving over to Alameda next month, has joined two-thirds of the about 1 million doctors in U.S. medical organizations ready to say enough is enough. Combined with about 50 others in a supervisory role, the former Stanford Medical ER doctor for five years has pledged involvement as the education director of AFFIRM, which stands for the American Foundation for Firearm Reduction in Medicine. The doctors and other medical staffers who have signed on have declared the nation’s 40,000 gun deaths each year are “the epidemic of our lifetime.”
“Everybody talks about it in hypothetical terms. Gun violence has been looked at from a legal and legislative standpoint. We don’t have enough knowledge to address gun violence as a medical issue,” Joshi, 36, told Patch. “We don’t have to look at gun violence as a political issue.
Like many emergency room physicians tasked with patching up victims ripped apart by assault weapons in particular, Joshi mentioned how heartbreaking it’s been seeing the bloodshed time and time again.
Through the efforts of 40-plus organizers out of 1,200 health care workers heavily involved thus far, Affirm Across America will host a series of events including one planned in San Jose that will be staged in cities across the country throughout the month of November, which represents the anniversary of #ThisIsOurLane movement.
“We want to work with the (National Rifle Association) and military professionals. Our No. 1 message is we’re not interested in taking anybody’s gun away. We need to get away from the emotional argument and get to the facts. What we want is data,” the mother of three children said.
About 2,000 clinicians out of the 40,000 who have pledged support have donated. The goal is $2.5 million to fund various grant research projects, including:
– Firearm Injuries and Recidivism at St. Louis Level I Trauma Hospitals through Dr. Kristen Mueller of Washington University in St Louis, Mo.
– Rural Emergency Department Firearm Assessment, Screening, and Treatment (FAST) Trial through Henry Schwimmer, a medical student at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Ga.
– An endowment in memory of Dr. Tamara O’Neal who was an emergency medicine doctor and victim of domestic violence. Her ex-fiance shot her outside of her hospital in Chicago at the start of her work day.
AFFIRM Co-founder Dr. Megan Ranney, who’s also an associate professor at Brown University, launched Affirm in 2017, after the Las Vegas mass shooting — with the Parkland, Fla. school shooting representing a tipping point. The hashtag associated with the anti gun violence advocacy group stems from a response to a National Rifle Association tweet in November 2018 telling “self-important, anti-gun doctors to stay in their lane” when it comes to gun regulation.
Doctors responded by flooding social media with examples of why gun violence should be considered a public health issue, including images of blood-stained scrubs and hospital rooms where families are informed that they’ve lost a loved one.
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The American Medical Association, the American College of Physicians and the American College of Emergency Physicians have firmly labeled gun violence a public health issue that deserves the same research treatment as seat belt safety, tobacco, obesity and HIV.
The challenge has been paying for that kind of research, AFFIRM claims. Federal funding has been lacking due to a 1996 rider to an omnibus spending bill known as the Dickey Amendment. It prohibited use of U.S. Centers For Disease Control funds for “advocacy” or “promotion” of gun control. The so-called funding ban began in 1996, when U.S. Rep. Jay Dickey, a junior Republican from Arkansas, inserted a rider into the federal spending bill, with support and lobbying from the NRA.
In January 2013, in response to the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, President Obama released a plan to reduce gun violence. This plan included a presidential memorandum clarifying the meaning of the Dickey amendment and directing the CDC and other scientific agencies within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services including the National Institutes of Health to conduct or sponsor research into the causes of gun violence and the ways to prevent it.
Although the amendment didn’t explicitly ban federal funding for firearm research, Congress still has not allocated any money to the CDC to study gun violence. In 2018, as part of yet another omnibus spending resolution, the two arms of U.S. government included language from U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar clarifying the CDC can conduct research on gun violence, but it can’t use government funds specifically to advocate for gun control.
Repeated attempts for comments on the record from the NRA were unanswered, but the legislative Executive Director Chris Cox has responded with a call to arms in articles including the firearm advocacy group’s own publication that blows the lid off whether research will have any effect on gun violence according to a Rand Corporation study.
And in Politico, citing: “Let’s be clear, the (NRA) is not opposed to research that would encourage the safe and responsible use of firearms and reduce the numbers of firearm-related deaths,” he said.
And there lies common ground.
Affirm’s goal is to support work that gets to the root cause of gun violence, aka “stop the shooters before they shoot.” A major effort will be to create guidelines for physicians on how to identify and counsel those patients who pose a risk to themselves or others.
In 2016 — the latest year available for research from the CDC, there were 63,979 intentional injury deaths. This is an average of 175 deaths every day. Of these, 70 percent were intentional as in suicides, with the 30 percent remaining deemed homicides.