DES PLAINES, IL -- Leading firearm injury and prevention experts, Drs. Rebecca Cunningham, and Garen Wintemute, will open SAEM19 -- the annual meeting of the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine on Wednesday, May 15 with a timely and compelling keynote address titled "with a timely presentation titled "Firearm Injury: Facts, Myths, and a Public Health Path Forward."
Firearm violence is a major public health and public safety problem, associated with nearly 40,000 deaths and nearly 100,000 emergency department visits in 2017. Mass public shootings are changing the character of American public life, and more than 40 percent of Americans are concerned that they might become victims of firearm violence. Rates of firearm homicide, firearm suicide, nonfatal firearm injury, and mass shootings are all increasing. Emergency physicians are uniquely positioned to study firearm violence and act to prevent it.
In their SAEM19 keynote address on Wednesday, May 15 at 9:30 a.m., Dr. Rebecca Cunningham and Dr. Garen Wintemute will illustrate why it is appropriate to view firearm violence as a health problem and then provide an overview of the basic epidemiology of firearm violence (including mass shootings, homicide, and suicide) for adults and children.
Their presentation will emphasize differences between risk- and population-based epidemiologic approaches and points on which common understandings are incorrect. It will include an overview of data on how firearm injuries stack up to other common causes of death, trends over the past 20 years, global comparisons, and health disparities. They will also discuss what is known about the effectiveness of common risk- and population-based policy interventions, including those directed at firearm violence specifically and those with broader impact. Their presentation will address the relative lack of knowledge about firearm violence, as compared with other comparable health and social problems, and will detail the reasons why little research has been done. They will briefly review opportunities for research, in clinical settings and otherwise.
The keynote address will close by reviewing opportunities for risk screening and direct preventive action in clinical settings, based on the "What You Can Do" initiative for physicians for adults developed by emergency physicians at UC Davis, as well as the Firearm-Safety Among Children and Teens Consortium (FACTS) video trainings developed for pediatric patients. Throughout, reference will be made to particularly salient events in recent years that have shaped our understanding of firearm violence or our ability to conduct research and intervene effectively.
Dr. Cunningham is director of the CDC-funded University of Michigan Injury Prevention Center, associate vice president for Health Sciences Research for the University of Michigan's Office of Research, professor for the University of Michigan's Department of Emergency Medicine, and professor in Health Behavior & Health Education, U-M School of Public Health. She has a distinguished career in researching injury prevention, particularly of youth and young adult populations, and has been continuously funded by NIH and CDC for over 20 years to reduce the burden of injury with a focus on emergency department as a key location of contact. Dr. Cunningham is director of the 2017 NICHD funded Firearm-Safety Among Children and Teens Consortium (FACTS).
Dr. Wintemute, MD, MPH, is the founding director of the Violence Prevention Research Program (VPRP) and holds the Baker-Teret Chair in Violence Prevention at the University of California, Davis. He also directs the new University of California Firearm Violence Research Center. He was among the first to study firearm violence as a public health problem, and firearm violence remains the primary focus of his research and policy work. Dr. Wintemute practices and teaches emergency medicine at UC Davis Medical Center and is a professor of emergency medicine at the UC Davis School of Medicine. His current research focuses on violence risk factors and interventions to prevent violence.
In the May-June issue of SAEM Pulse, the Society's bimonthly magazine, Dr. Cunningham, in an interview said:
"Firearm injuries are the second leading cause of death among children one to 18 years old and the leading cause of death among high-school age kids ages 14-17. These injuries are preventable and well within our scope of practice in emergency medicine to be addressing. Firearm violence is not too complex to study or solve. It is not more complicated then reducing strokes or HIV. We just have not applied our scientific knowledge and resources to solve it. Also, great reductions can be made while preserving Second Amendment rights. This is an injury prevention issue, not a 'control' issue. We can accomplish massive injury prevention goals while respecting Second Amendment rights."
In the same interview, Dr. Wintemute added:
"Firearm violence is a health problem, and it can be studied and intervened with on that basis. There is an epidemiology of firearm violence, and interventions can be targeted to produce the greatest effect while minimizing unintended consequences. We still do not understand the importance of suicide, which is substantially more common than homicide and has a very different risk profile. We significantly overestimate our risk of involvement in a mass shooting. This is very sad; those events are reshaping the character of American public life, and not for the better.
"We need to believe that violence is not acceptable and is everyone's problem. We need to believe that, individually and collectively, we can make a difference. As a scientist, I will add that knowledge is power; we need more and better evidence on which to base our actions. As a clinician, I will say that we already know enough to make a difference for the better."
SAEM's annual meeting--the largest forum for the presentation of original education and research in academic emergency medicine-- will be held will be held May 14-17, 2019 at The Mirage Las Vegas, 3400 S. Las Vegas Blvd. Reporters and others may follow key developments on the SAEM19 website, on the SAEM Facebook page, or @SAEMonline, #SAEM19. To obtain press credentials to attend the plenary presentations, contact Stacey Roseen, SAEM Director of Communications and Publications, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Society for Academic Emergency Medicine (SAEM) is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization dedicated to the improvement of care of the acutely ill and injured patient by leading the advancement of academic emergency medicine through education and research, advocacy, and professional development. To learn more, visit saem.org.