Northwell Health on Tuesday reaffirmed its focus on finding solutions to gun violence in New York, which the healthcare provider, the largest in the state, has called a public health crisis.
According to Northwell’s Center for Gun Violence Prevention, more than 45,000 Americans die from gunshot wounds annually. The center held a news conference and panel discussion that brought together advocates, survivors, and family members of victims with the goal of building a coalition, raising awareness, and ultimately curbing gun violence.
“We cannot give up,” Northwell CEO Michael Dowling told advocates. “And because they see the impact of gun violence every day, health care organizations have a special responsibility to step up and say, ‘Enough is enough.’”
Within the past two decades, Shirley resident Shenee Johnson lost three of her loved ones to gun violence while living in Springfield Gardens, Queens, she said: her fiancé, her cousin, and her 17-year-old son Kedrick Morrow.
“Our stories did not make national news,” Johnson said. “But as a Black woman in America, I’ve had to bury three people – all killed by illegal guns. I’ve dedicated my life to be their voices.”
Dr. Chethan Sathya, a pediatric trauma surgeon who also serves as director of Northwell’s Center for Gun Violence Prevention, noted that since Jan. 1, Northwell hospitals have already treated more patients with gunshot wounds than in any other year.
“The most likely reason that your kid will die in this country is at the hands of a firearm – and that is absolutely unacceptable,” he said.
Sathya added that since November 2021, clinicians at three Northwell hospitals have been screening patients for risk of firearm injury, similar to how doctors ask about whether patients drink alcohol, use drugs, or smoke. Patients are asked whether they own a firearm, how it is stored, whether they hear gunshots in their neighborhoods, and whether anybody has ever pulled a gun on them.
Advocates expressed urgency for the federal government to pass legislation that goes far enough to significantly reduce gun violence deaths.
Since its formation in 2020, Northwell’s Center for Gun Violence has been working with hospitals and healthcare systems nationwide to help implement violence intervention programs and education and awareness campaigns that strengthen gun safety to avoid accidental shootings and suicides, which account for about half of all gun-related deaths in the U.S.
For more information, visit northwell.edu/center-for-gun-violence-prevention.