Gun violence is an ongoing public health issue across the United States and in our West Michigan community. Both gun crimes and unintentional shootings are on the rise.
Every 16 hours, someone in the US is killed by an unintentional shooting.Gun Violence Archive
Providing care for gun violence patients
Several years ago, I was called to the operating room to assistant in the surgical care of a gun violence victim. The patient had an injured liver and an injured ureter. After a successful surgery, I walked into a waiting room full of family members. No one, however, seemed visibly upset.
When I gave the patient’s mother an update on his condition, she thanked me but didn’t have any questions. She didn’t shed any tears. Many of the other family members didn’t even bother to look up from the floor.
Only later would I discover that this was not the first, but the third, visit to the hospital with a gun violence injury for her son. Unfortunately, this incident would be the first of many for me. My eyes are now wide open to the continuing gun violence taking place in my community.
As incidents rise, I continue to take care of patients with a wide variety of gunshot injuries—both inside and outside of the hospital. I find that gun violence not only traumatizes individuals, it traumatizes entire communities.
A community healthcare issue
We needed a better understanding of the impact gun violence had on Muskegon County, Michigan. Consequently, Dr. Chris Mattson, Dr. Ryan Kaylor, and I conducted a retrospective study of gun violence victims treated at our local Level II Trauma Center.
Gathering gun violence data is critical to understanding its impacts on a community.
Our study found that the majority of gun violence victims receiving care in our community are young, African American men. In addition, most of this care is paid for by Medicaid and results in an overall financial loss for our local healthcare system.
Research builds interest in the community
Our research paper attracted the interest of Mercy Health Muskegon’s Injury Prevention Coordinator Holly Allaway and Trauma Coordinator Michelle Kucera. Additional interest came from the Muskegon Social Justice Commission and a Subcommittee on Gun Violence Prevention was formed.
The Subcommittee is comprised of local community leaders, law enforcement officials, healthcare administrators, and physicians. Muskegon County Prosecutor D.J. Hilson serves as Subcommittee Chair.
New funding targets prevention
As a result of the community support for our study, we became aware of a grant proposal by Dr. Patrick Carter and Dr. Marc Zimmerman from the University of Michigan’s Youth Violence Prevention Center. These physicians were seeking funding from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to study gun violence prevention programs at the community level. I am pleased to report the Youth Violence Prevention Center recently received funding to study two separate prevention efforts in Muskegon, Michigan.
Multiple stakeholders stand to benefit from funding and supporting community- and hospital-based prevention programs.
Now that funding has been secured, we are excited to see the impact these prevention projects will have in our community over the next several years. I also look forward to sharing more stories with you about the relationships we build and the lessons we learn along the way. How is your community dealing with gun violence?
Acknowledgement: I would like to thank the University of Michigan Department of Urology for the time and support they have given me to engage in community-level gun violence research and prevention. To read more, see: “Gun Violence and Firearm Injuries in West Michigan: Targeting Prevention.”