Northwell Health President and CEO Michael Dowling. (Northwell Health photo)

Northwell Health President and CEO Michael Dowling is challenging fellow leaders of major health care corporations to match the $1 million he pledged to help combat gun violence.

Dowling made the remarks Thursday before more than 170 attendees at Northwell’s Gun Violence Prevention Forum in Manhattan, where he argued that gun violence is a national public health crisis that requires the industry step up.

“I have been frustrated by the inability of many health system CEOs to stand up and talk about the issue of gun violence,” Dowling said. “CEOs can’t be silent anymore, not on an issue this big. If you have the courage and strength to run a big health system, you should have the courage to stand up and talk about this. My goal is to get all major health systems in the United States to pledge their support.”

Northwell organized the conference to increase awareness of gun violence as a public health issue and leverage the power of a $3.5 trillion industry with a workforce of more than 18 million to find ways of stopping the bloodshed. The movement now has its own hashtag #ThisIsOurLane. The conference included physicians, trauma surgeons, researchers, policy experts and some of the nation’s leading health care executives.

Speakers included Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting survivor Marisol Martinez, the parents of a victim killed in the Aurora, Colo. theater shooting, and Dr. Robert McLean, president of the American College of Physicians.

“The sound of screaming babies wounded or killed by gunshots in my trauma center continues to haunt me,” said Dr. Sheldon Teperman,  director of trauma and critical care services at New York city Health + Hospitals’ Jacobi Medical Center. “My voice was not loud enough to bring about change, but the health care community as a whole has broad shoulders.”

Northwell officials said they will be reaching back out to attendees to organize work groups on education, prevention, advocacy, research and other areas, with the goal of reporting progress on their efforts at a follow-up conference next year.

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