Gun violence: A public health issue

hands; photo credit: OHSU/Kristyna Wentz-Graff

OHSU is a community of people dedicated to healing others and advancing scientific knowledge. With our country in the midst of a gun violence crisis, OHSU, along with Portland State University, the OHSU-PSU School of Public Health and a broad array of community stakeholders joined together to address gun violence as a public health issue.

In an all-campus message, President Joe Robertson writes, "All of us at OHSU are torchbearers. We take on the biggest threats to human health, casting light into the darkest parts of our universe, inspiring hope. One of the ways we do this is by becoming a more inclusive community that can respond to violence and racism with compassion, humility and intelligence. This means not only acknowledging that violence is a preventable public health issue. It means understanding that violence can be a reflection of greater structural problems in society - and that the threat of trauma from violence affects all of us - students, faculty, staff and patients. We cannot fulfill our mission unless we understand this."

Leading the conversation

In 2016, OHSU joined with a number of peer organizations to call on Congress to lift the ban on Center for Disease Control funding of research into gun violence. OHSU is uniquely positioned, particularly within Oregon, as a research university and public health leader, to evaluate the type of data necessary to inform a public policy discussion on gun violence.

In October 2016, OHSU took another step by making a commitment to addressing gun violence as a public health issue. The institution lead a series of community-wide conversations to bring together diverse perspectives to identify how OHSU – across its clinical, research and education missions – can best address gun violence as a public health issue and work with community partners to reduce gun deaths.

An advisory committee was formed comprising of representatives from OHSU, PSU, OHSU-PSU School of Public Health, county, state and city governments, mental health groups, advocacy groups and nonprofit and volunteer outreach programs. As part of its ongoing efforts in addressing gun violence as a public health issue, the committee developed three forums: a campus community forum, a Portland metro community forum and a business forum.

A summary report of the forums is available to download. It includes details of the three forums, as well as lessons learned and recommended next steps.

download report

Student-led initiatives

physicans against gun violence, photo credit: OHSU/Kristyna Wentz-Graff

OHSU students have joined in solidarity with people and communities impacted by gun violence. As future health professionals, they believe they have a duty to minimize factors of human illness and injury, including gun violence. Students from across medical training and graduate programs have organized a campus initiative and participated in national campaigns.

The OHSU Students Against Gun Violence committee encourages the OHSU community to share their views regarding the importance of federal funding for gun violence prevention research. They are organizing a letter-writing campaign that includes a sign-on letter to members of U.S. Congress and a template letter for individuals to send to local lawmakers.