Tuesday Keynote to Address Physicians’ Role in Reducing Firearm Violence


The Keynote Series will conclude Tuesday, May 23, with a discussion on firearm violence and advocacy. Reducing Gun Violence through Advocacy and Action by Physicians and Policymakers will feature speakers Emmy Betz, MD, MPH; Fatimah L. Dreier, MSc, MBA; and Joseph V. Sakran, MD, MPA, MPH, from 8–8:45 a.m. ET in Hall E (Level 2) of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

Emmy Betz, MD, MPH
Emmy Betz, MD, MPH

“Gun violence can be a politically fraught topic, but we’re coming at this from a nonpartisan approach where medical professionals care about all people and they care about preventing deaths, but they also care about advocacy efforts,” said session Co-Chair Elizabeth Wilcox, MD, PhD, FRCPC, associate professor, University of Alberta, Canada.

This session will help health care professionals interested in becoming involved in advocacy efforts—whether for research funding, education programs, legislation, or policy.

“Our three speakers are experts who have been involved in a diverse range of advocacy activities,” Dr. Wilcox said. “They will speak from their individual perspectives in terms of how they became involved in advocacy and, more broadly, how people can become advocates in whatever they’re interested in doing.”

Dr. Betz is an emergency physician and nationally recognized leader in firearm injury prevention and suicide prevention. She is a professor of emergency medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, where she serves as director of the Firearm Injury Prevention Initiative. She is the principal investigator for multiple complex studies utilizing qualitative and quantitative methods, with funding from the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Defense, and numerous foundations. She also has a long record of accomplishment in community-focused firearm suicide prevention efforts, including co-founding and leading the Colorado Firearm Safety Coalition.

Fatimah L. Dreier, MSc, MBA
Fatimah L. Dreier, MSc, MBA

Ms. Dreier is the executive director of the Health Alliance for Violence Intervention and a Pozen-Commonwealth Fund Fellow in Health Equity Leadership at Yale School of Management. The HAVI is a national network of hospital-based violence intervention programs serving violently injured patients by addressing the social determinants of health. The HAVI strives to support a system that centers on racial equity, preventative public health strategies, and trauma-informed care delivery.

Prior to joining the HAVI, Ms. Dreier was the deputy executive director of Equal Justice USA, a national criminal justice reform organization in which she led an award-winning program on community trauma. She has received numerous honors and distinctions, including 2018 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of Health Leaders Fellowship.

An active leader in the medical and gun violence prevention communities, Dr. Sakran is the director of emergency general surgery, an associate professor of surgery, and the associate chief of the Division of Acute Care Surgery at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. Dr. Sakran also is a survivor of gun violence. His advocacy work includes launching a group of medical professionals dedicated to reducing firearm injuries and deaths called This is Our Lane. He has received honors from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and Academy Health. His research on physicians’ role in educating patients on safe gun storage earned the 2020 Johns Hopkins Catalyst Award. He was named a 2019 Presidential Leadership Scholar for this research. He also was named a National Academy of Medicine Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Fellow and served in the office of New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan from 2019–2020, working on health policy and regulatory issues. He serves on the governing council of the Young Fellows Association of the American College of Surgeons and is vice chair of the ACS’s International Subcommittee for Operation Giving Back. He served on the board of The Brady Campaign from 2018–2019. 

Joseph V. Sakran, MD, MPA, MPH
Joseph V. Sakran, MD, MPA, MPH

Advocacy in health care covers a broad spectrum of efforts to bring about change, such as protection of patients’ rights, increased research funding, or remediation of public health issues, said session Co-Chair Lauren E. Ferrante, MD, MHS, ATSF, assistant professor, Yale School of Medicine.

“This particular issue—gun violence—covers all three of those domains central to individual patients, while also being a clear public health issue,” Dr. Ferrante said. “There are also issues related to research funding. For many years, there were barriers to federal funding for gun violence research.”

Advocacy work happens at the bedside in addition to the halls of government.

“We frequently see patients in the intensive care unit who have attempted suicide, yet asking about guns is not standard,” Dr. Ferrante said. “In our health care training, we’re all taught to ask about suicidal ideation, but we rarely ask patients about access to firearms or safe gun storage—yet more than half of firearm deaths are due to suicide. So, bringing that awareness into our clinical practice is very important.”

Gun violence is a leading cause of premature death and disability across the globe.

“Gun violence is not a U.S. problem,” Dr. Wilcox said. “Gun violence is a major public health problem in every country I can think of. What makes the news doesn’t really capture the burden of gun violence-related injuries and deaths every day across many countries.”

The Keynote Series addresses timely topics of high relevance to the respiratory medicine community with special presentations before the start of the scientific sessions Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday at the International Conference. The featured lecturers are leaders who have made major contributions in the important themes highlighted by this year’s conference program. Earlier installments in the series included How Science Promotes Health Equity by Decreasing Disparities, presented by Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable, MD, director of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities at the National Institutes of Health, and The Air That I Breathe: Climate Change and Health: A Conversation with EPA Administrator Michael Regan.

Don’t Miss ATS 2024 Highlights: On Demand

Don’t forget that ATS 2024 Highlights: On Demand are available to all conference registrants! On Demand will give you access to the Opening Ceremony, Plenary Session, Keynote Series, Clinical Year in Review, Adult Clinical Core Curriculum, and so much more. The topics will cover ILD, asthma, health equity, and CF, to name just a few. On Demand content will be accessible to all ATS 2024 full conference and On Demand registrants until March 2025.