BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Since the beginning of 2018, more than 800 people have been shot in Baltimore — averaging almost three each day — making it one of America’s most dangerous cities.
Many of those victims end up in hospitals and in the care of trauma surgeons like Dr. Joseph Sakran at Johns Hopkins.
Dr. Sakran has a unique perspective: He’s also a victim of gun violence. He was shot in the throat at age 17.
“It really has allowed me to relate to the patients that I’m seeing, and it’s tough because I tell people that the worst part of my job is having to go out to those waiting rooms. I often go out there and I spend a few moments looking at the families and realizing what I’m about to do is going to completely change their world,“ Sakran said.
He still bears the scars on his neck and has the bullet from his shooting. Sakran was an innocent bystander when someone opened fire at a fight after a football game in 1994.
“I was inspired to go into medicine and then inspired to become a trauma surgeon. I kept asking myself, how do I work at the intersection of medicine, public health, and public policy?,“ he added.
Recently, Sakran has gotten worldwide attention after he responded to the National Rifle Association’s Tweet telling “self-important, anti-gun doctors to stay in their lane” after the American College of Physicians called for more research into restrictions on guns.
“This is our Lane,” Sakran told WJZ.
He launched @ThisIsOurLane on Twitter, which grew to more than twelve thousand followers within days.
Doctors from around the country have posted pictures and stories on social media of their experiences dealing with gun violence.
“Gun violence in this country really is a public health crisis,“ Dr. Sakran said. “I think it is important for our voices to be heard because we are part of the solution.“
He believes the federal government “grossly underfunds” research into the problem and lawmakers should approach it “similarly to how we’ve approached motor vehicle crashes and tobacco.”
Sakran is pushing for universal background checks and safer storage of firearms.
“We have to have the moral courage to ensure that those who are in elected office do the right thing.”
Doctor Sakran has also treated victims from high-profile mass shootings including at the Rite Aid distribution center in Aberdeen. “I think it was a great team response at the trauma center at Bayview,” he recalled of the workplace shooting last September.
“People are behind the medical community because they realize we are front and center in taking care of these patients. For us not to be included in the conversation is unacceptable. We all understand that any complex health issue requires not just one single person or organization. The fact is when you talk to gun owners—responsible gun owners—we have a lot in common. We have a lot more in common than we do that divides us,” Sakran said. “This is not about taking away guns. This is about ensuring we have responsible gun ownership.”
The NRA had this to say about the American College of Physicians position paper on guns: “This position paper leaves one wondering if the authors reviewed the evidence, or just found works that suited their needs. For all of the bluster about their own important role in the anti-gun movement and all of the misuse of research findings, the ACP makes one thing clear: They respect their own rights and opinions far more than they do those of law-abiding gun owners.”
Sakran says he won’t be silenced.
“Not having my voice heard is like a patient coming to the hospital and we won’t provide them care. We’re on the front lines.”
From January 1st through November 10th, 819 people have been shot in Baltimore City. 270 of them have died.
WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren also recently reported on local doctors training people to stop victims from bleeding to death—a skill many see as essential in today’s world.