During a news conference on Thursday, June 2, at the College’s Washington, DC, office, ACS leaders called for bipartisan solutions to reduce the rising number of deaths and serious injuries seen in trauma centers daily as the result of firearm violence—including the recent massacre of children in Uvalde, TX, and two surgeons in Tulsa, OK.
“This is a public health crisis, not a political debate. The American College of Surgeons is committed to crafting solutions that save lives and minimize preventable death,” said ACS Executive Director Patricia L. Turner, MD, MBA, FACS. “We are unwilling to wait for another tragedy to befall another community when we believe we have a series of actions that will have an impact.”
She explained that trauma surgeons are practical problem solvers who see and live through this crisis every day, treating patients who are victims of attempted suicides, homicides, and who suffer other grievous injuries from firearms. “We must be an integral part of the solution to reduce the rising number of deaths we see every year.”
The ACS Committee on Trauma Firearms Strategy Team (FAST) is urging adoption of consensus-driven recommendations created in 2018 that would reduce firearm violence. The FAST recommendations cover 13 areas, including background checks, registration, licensure, firearm education and training, safe storage practices, red flag laws, mental health issues, and more research to better inform an approach going forward and address the root causes of violence.
“These comprehensive recommendations provide a road map to a solution and can have an immediate impact on saving lives,” said Eileen M, Bulger, MD, FACS, Medical Director of ACS Trauma Programs.
Trauma surgeon and Immediate-Past Director of ACS Trauma Programs Ronald M. Stewart, MD, FACS, provided a compelling frontline perspective on the crisis. Dr. Stewart, who chairs the department of surgery at University Hospital in San Antonio, TX, explained that he has been in the unfortunate position of caring for victims from two of the largest mass shootings in modern US history—the Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church and Uvalde school shootings—and described the “horrific” injuries inflicted by high-velocity weapons.
“These tragedies are preventable. We can prevent these atrocities,” he said.
Patrick V. Bailey, MD, MLS, FACS, a pediatric surgeon who currently serves as a Medical Director in the ACS Division of Advocacy and Health Policy, observed that the FAST recommendations were developed through “a very deliberative process that included the participation and perspective of other surgeons who, like me, were also gun owners but who seek to reduce the impact of gun violence on our country.”
Other ACS COT initiatives highlighted at the news conference included the STOP THE BLEED® program, which helps to educate and train people on how to control serious bleeding, and efforts of the Improving Social Determinants to Attenuate Violence (ISAVE) workgroup, which presents strategies for trauma centers to address the root causes of violence. The COT’s 2019 Medical Summit on Firearm Injury Prevention also was highlighted.
The important work started at the inaugural Medical Summit on Firearm Injury Prevention will continue when the conference reconvenes this fall, announced COT Chair Jeffrey Kerby, MD, PhD, FACS. “We must continue building our collective will and work creatively to address the root causes that have led to this epidemic.”