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Addressing gun violence

OHSU President Joe E. Robertson, M.D., M.B.A. (OHSU)

OHSU is a community of people dedicated to healing others and advancing the frontiers of scientific knowledge. Many of us choose to work at OHSU because it offers the opportunity to protect the most vulnerable in our society and improve the world around us. Those values often impel us to take on challenges that might seem impossible.

Today, our country is in the middle of an epidemic of gun violence. For those of us committed to service, each incident is mind numbing, leaving us weary from the cumulative weight of our grief. It is worth remembering that a community of people dedicated to healing must sometimes turn its attention to healing each other. Let’s take the time to support and care for one another when tragedy strikes.

Part of the healing process must involve taking positive action. This is not an issue that OHSU can solve alone, but there are things we can do to contribute to broader solutions. I’m proud to report that OHSU has joined with a number of peer organizations to call on Congress to lift the ban on CDC funding of research into gun violence. OHSU is uniquely positioned, particularly within Oregon, as a research university and public health leader, to evaluate the type of data necessary to inform a public policy discussion on gun violence.

Even more important, we can work in our own community. All of us at OHSU are torchbearers. We take on the biggest threats to human health, casting light into the darkest parts of our universe, inspiring hope. One of the ways we do this is by becoming a more inclusive community that can respond to violence and racism with compassion, humility and intelligence. This means not only acknowledging that violence is a preventable public health issue. It means understanding that violence can be a reflection of greater structural problems in society — and that the threat of trauma from violence affects all of us — students, faculty, staff, and patients. We cannot fulfill our mission unless we understand this. It must be a part of our culture of integrity as much as data protection is.

Earlier this year, we welcomed Dr. Brian Gibbs into our community as our vice president for equity and inclusion. He is also a faculty member in the OHSU-PSU School of Public Health and has a deep research background in violence prevention among adolescents and young adults in urban settings. I am asking him to lead all of us in a series of institutional conversations to help us ensure that our OHSU community can bring together diverse perspectives to address violence as a public health issue — and that OHSU can act as a convener to bring together others in the communities we serve. We will let you know how to participate in the near future.

In the meantime, thanks for everything you do for OHSU.

Joe Robertson, Jr., M.D., M.B.A., is president of Oregon Health & Science University. His clinical focus is on vitreous surgery, with special emphasis on surgery for macular diseases. He received his medical degree from the Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, in 1978.

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