Gun violence initiative launches with standing-room-only event

A panel gathered April 21 to begin discussing the public health implications of gun violence in America. Those on the panel were (from left) James Clark, Becky Morgan, Nancy L. Staudt, JD, PhD, Robert “Bo” Kennedy, MD, and keynote speaker Alan Leshner, PhD.
(Credit: James Byard/WUSTL Photos)

“Gun Violence: A Public Health Crisis,” a yearlong initiative at Washington University in St. Louis, was launched during an April 21 program that attracted a standing-room-only crowd in the Eric P. Newman Education Center at the School of Medicine.

Those who were unable to attend the event can view a video of the discussion through the Institute for Public Health’s website.

Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton opened the program with a stark video that displayed sobering statistics about the impact of death and injury as a result of the use of firearms.

In his opening remarks, he noted a 2013 report
from the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council of The
National Academies in Washington, D.C., that identified the lack of data
about the public health aspects of gun violence as a serious national

The report’s authors called upon researchers at public health organizations and universities to dedicate resources to studying the problem and contributing to a fuller base of information.

Wrighton also noted a February 2015 national call-to-action jointly issued by the nation’s leading health organizations and the American Bar Association for a public health approach to firearm-related violence and prevention of firearm injuries and death.

Those organizations also recommended the need for more research and data that would help decision makers address policy concerns.

“As one of the world’s leading research universities – with top-ranked schools of medicine and social work and a multidisciplinary Institute of Public Health – Washington University clearly has a role to play in this important effort,” Wrighton said.

“Bringing together our academic strengths to address major societal challenges is a part of our mission. Our goal, by engaging in the conversation, is to help develop real solutions that have a real chance of making a real difference and, in the process, help to reduce death and injury from firearms,” Wrighton said.

In addition to Wrighton, others who made remarks were St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and William G. Powderly, MD, the J. William Campbell Professor of Medicine, co-director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the School of Medicine, and director of the Institute for Public Health.

Alan Leshner, PhD, CEO emeritus of the American
Association for the Advancement of Science and chair of the Institute of
Medicine and National Research Council study committee, gave the keynote address, “The Gun Violence Public Health Crisis: What It Means And What We Need To Do.”

Others who spoke and participated in a panel discussion were James Clark, vice president of community outreach for Better Family Life; Robert “Bo” Kennedy, MD, professor of pediatrics in the Department of Pediatrics Emergency Medicine at the School of Medicine; Becky Morgan, Missouri chapter lead for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America; and Nancy L. Staudt, JD, PhD, dean of the School of Law and the Howard and Caroline Cayne Professor of Law.

Edward F. Lawlor, PhD, dean of the Brown School and the William E. Gordon Distinguished Professor, served as panel moderator.

The initiative will bring together scholars, medical professionals, community leaders and citizens to take a hard look at the serious, tragic public health consequences of gun violence in America.

The panel was the first in a series of events and discussions designed to explore three key themes regarding gun violence: What we know, what we need to know and what to do about this critical issue.

“I believe and many others believe that we can bring the full power of science to bear on this issue so that we approach the problem in a far more sophisticated and comprehensive way than we ever have before,” Leshner said in his address. “Washington University has got the approach exactly right and I applaud you for doing this and I applaud you for taking it on.”