Last night’s shooting at the Natalie Medical Building, on the campus of Saint Francis Hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma, comes only eight days after a gunman shot and killed 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, and just weeks after a shooting at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, and at a Southern California church. Countless acts of gun violence happen every day. Most go tragically unnoticed. There are too many to report on, too many to grieve.
While all these tragedies move us as concerned citizens, neighbors and friends, yesterday’s violence in Tulsa also touched us as osteopathic medical educators, students and healers. The shooting occurred on the campus of a hospital that is associated with one of our member schools, the Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences College of Osteopathic Medicine (OSU-COM). One of the four victims was also a member of our osteopathic family, an OSU-COM graduate and practicing DO. Medical centers are places we go to heal, whether we are seeking or giving care, but yesterday that wasn’t what happened. Instead, we were reminded that hospitals are simply now part of the long list of places where gun violence and mass shootings occur. Everyone and anyone in our nation at any given moment is at risk.
Can anyone truly say they are able to leave the house and not wonder, what if I never come home? Who among us doesn’t have a moment when they recognize the risk of sending their children to school, their loved ones to a grocery store, traveling by bus, train or plane, or going with their friends to a restaurant, movie theater, church, nail salon, concert or hospital?
Are we not better than this? Isn’t it time to agree on the fact that gun violence in this country is a national public health crisis, one that is cutting short the lives of tens of thousands of Americans every year? Two years ago, we rallied to fight another public health crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic. This one may look and act different, but our response must be just as determined. The issue is complex and there are no simple answers. There is wide division about almost every action that might be proposed, but we must find a way forward that bridges the division and outlines life-saving solutions.
As doctors we can and should be part of the journey toward identifying solutions. We intend to use our voice and influence as physicians and healers to help make change. Our hearts are with those in Tulsa, our colleagues and their patients. Our resolve for change is with them too.
Robert A. Cain, DO, FACOI, FAODME, is president and CEO of the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine.