First patient, first day of residency: gunshot wound to the head. Tried saving him as his mother cried into my shoulder pleading for us to save him. He didn’t make it. He wasn’t the last one either. #ThisISMyLane #ThisISOurLane #NRA pic.twitter.com/n820f6LvQq
— Brent McCaleb, MD (@brentmccaleb) November 12, 2018
The medical community has no intention of letting up in its pushback against the National Rifle Association (NRA), which earlier this month took to Twitter to admonish doctors to “stay in their lane” when it comes to issues regarding guns and gun violence.
On Monday, the editors of the Annals of Internal Medicine — the medical journal that has been particularly diligent in publishing research on firearm-related injuries in recent years — released an editorial that made its position quite clear.
“The NRA does not believe firearm-related injury and its prevention is within the purview of physicians,” the editorial states. “We could not disagree more.”
“Doctors have a responsibility as health care professionals and scientists to seek the answers to questions related to health and safety. And we won’t be silenced in using what we learn to better care for our patients,” the editorial adds. “Those who seek to silence progress toward finding solutions to the crisis of firearm-related injury are traveling a lane that leads, literally, to a dead end. We’re going to stay in our lane and keep moving forward.”
The start of a Twitter storm
It was the Annals’ November 8 online publication of a position paper from the American College of Physicians on reducing firearm injuries and deaths that appears to have raised the NRA’s ire — and subsequently launched the Tweet storm that followed.
“Someone should tell self-important anti-gun doctors to stay in their lane,” the NRA tweeted after the position paper appeared online. “Half of the articles in Annals of Internal Medicine are pushing for gun control. Most upsetting, however, the medical community seems to have consulted NO ONE but themselves.”
That message appeared on Twitter just hours before a gunman killed 12 people at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, California.
Emergency department physicians, trauma surgeons and other doctors responded quickly and angrily to the NRA’s mocking tweet. Using the hashtags #ThisIsMyLane and #ThisIsOurLane, they began posting their graphic personal accounts, sometimes accompanied by blood-spattered photos, of what it’s like to treat the victims of gun-related violence.
Here are some examples:
- “You have never had to wipe the blood off your shoes before you tell the mother of a 17 yo boy that she will never hug her son again. THAT is my lane. Come to work with me for one day and see the impact gun violence has on our country,” wrote Boston emergency physician Ellie Wallace.
- “Do you have any idea how many bullets I pull out of corpses weekly? This isn’t just my lane. It’s my f****** highway,” tweeted California forensic pathologist Judy Melinek.
- “First patient, first day of residency: gunshot wound to the head. Tried saving him as his mother cried into my shoulder pleading for us to save him. He didn’t make it. He wasn’t the last one either,” posted Florida physician Brent McCaleb.
- Dave Morris, a trauma surgeon in Utah, tweeted a photo of his blue scrubs covered in blood. “Can’t post a patient photo,” he wrote, “so this is a selfie. This is what it looks like to #stayinmylane.”
‘This needs to be fixed’
Monday’s editorial in the Annals of Internal Medicine was written by the journal’s executive editor, Dr. Darren Taichman; its editor-in-chief, Christine Laine; and Dr. Sue Bornstein, chair of the American College of Physicians’ Health and Policy Committee.
They point out in the editorial that they — and thousands of doctors like them — have no intention of “staying in their lane.” Indeed, both the journal and the American College of Physicians will now be collaborating with the nonprofit American Foundation for Firearm Injury Reduction in Medicine to promote more research related to gun violence.
“Firearm-related injury in the United States is a public health crisis,” the editorial writers stress. “In addition to caring for the clinical sequelae of gun-related injury, we need rigorous research to better understand the crisis, test solutions, and learn how best to implement and sustain those that work.”
“To date, the ability to study important questions that might help reduce firearm-related injury has been hampered by a lack of funding and a worry among researchers that studying anything related to guns could put their research careers at risk,” they add. “This needs to be fixed.”
Yep. Definitely their lane.
FMI: You can read the editorial on the Annals of Internal Medicine website.