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Standing against gun violence

Brian Gibbs
Brian K. Gibbs, Ph.D. 

That in the past week Terence Crutcher of Tulsa, Oklahoma and Keith Lamont Scott of Charlotte, North Carolina have joined the list of African Americans killed by police impels us all to step up, hold the torch and commit to navigating a pathway toward a more equitable healing community as our contribution to this nationwide challenge. 

Since my arrival at OHSU in April, I have met with individuals at all levels of the institution who have pointed out to me that they felt OHSU was risk-averse, ultra-conservative, and unwilling to take a position on social or political issues. Yet OHSU leadership’s recruitment of me, I believe, signifies a new era where our expressed institutional commitment to equity would also require a closer examination of how societal factors such as racism, economic inequalities and disparities in health and healthcare impact both our health system and university classrooms. 

In a short period of time, I have had several opportunities to test my belief. 

On June 12, 49 individuals were killed and many others wounded in a hate crime inside Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. I encouraged, and OHSU leadership responded, with a statement of condolence on behalf of the LGBTQIA community and to our workforce at large. When five police officers were fatally shot and others wounded in Dallas, Texas July 7 following a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest against police killings in Baton Rouge, Louisiana  and Falcon Heights, Minnesota, I was impressed by President Joe  Robertson’s DirectLine. “A community of people dedicated to healing must sometimes turn its attention to healing each other,” he wrote. He also boldly committed OHSU to a more effective action agenda against gun violence. 

In my work and in my personal life, I have seen how trauma from violence affects individuals, families, police, health care givers and our community at large. In these devastating life-altering moments, I have observed how we, as a society of individuals, are often at a loss for words and, lacking a guideline for how to discuss our grief, stifled by our inability to transform our silence into action. 

But I see OHSU breaking through. 

We have now assembled the Gun Violence as a Public Health Issue Advisory Committee comprised of students, faculty, and staff from the OHSU-PSU School of Public Health and a broad array of community stakeholders to plan a series of public forums starting in November. These forums are intended to enhance knowledge, disseminate information and help us identify the challenges and the opportunities to reduce gun violence as we chart the work ahead. 

Since coming to OHSU, I have also seen that within the caution is a deep-rooted desire as healers to be part of the solution to the strife and injustice we as a society are experiencing. I invite you to act on that desire and join me the first week in October when we will gather as a campus in an expression of our unity and commitment. Please look for details and timing in a message on Monday. 

I join our president, Dr. Joe Robertson, and the deans of all our schools in my hope and anticipation of all that we will do together. Have a peaceful weekend. 

Brian Gibbs, Ph.D., M.P.A., serves as Vice President for Equity and Inclusion at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU). In this position he serves as the chief diversity officer for the University, overseeing the Center for Diversity & Inclusion (CDI) and is responsible for diversity initiatives within the clinical, educational, and research missions. 


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