Gun violence epidemic in parts of B’ham: View from UAB Trauma Center

Dr. Jeffrey Kerby, Director of the Division of Acute Care Surgery and Chief of the Trauma Service at UAB Hospital
Dr. Jeffrey Kerby, Director Division of Acute Care Surgery and Chief of Trauma Service at UAB Hospital

Today’s guest blogger is Dr. Jeffrey Kerby.

If you’d like to be a guest blogger, please click here.

Something needs to be done for the communities in or around Birmingham experiencing a dramatic increase in gun violence.

In 2018, there were 107 homicides in Birmingham, the majority of which were the result of firearms.

More than 700 gunshot wound victims were treated at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Trauma Center in 2018,  more than double the 331 gunshot wounds the hospital saw just eight years ago.

I have witnessed the effects of gun violence firsthand. As UAB’s chief trauma surgeon, I lead the shock trauma teams that work to save victims of gun violence cared for at UAB Hospital.

While we save about 95 percent of patients who make it alive to our door, we are experiencing increases every year in the number of patients being treated. This is a public health crisis.

Gun violence affects community

In addition to the tragedy of lives lost and families devastated by this epidemic, the impact of gun violence affects the community. Just one example is that gun violence has a negative impact on our ability to attract companies and professionals to relocate here.

A low crime rate is the third most important factor for millennials and those in Generation Z when considering where to move. It ranks above employment options, commute time, climate, and proximity to family and friends, according to a survey by DCI International.

Air Force Special Operations Surgical Teams train at UAB

I served as an active duty U.S. Air Force trauma surgeon from 1999 to 2003, and UAB is the proud home of three active duty Air Force Special Operations Surgical Teams, who work and train at UAB to prepare for deployment to a war zone. Why Birmingham? Because we see the kinds of gunshot wounds and other trauma that far too closely mimic what those teams will see in a combat situation.

My trauma surgery teams work side by side with our Air Force colleagues. We use the lessons they have learned from their military combat experience to care for gun violence victims here in Birmingham. And they learn from us as we are kept far too busy treating wounds that would not be unexpected on a battlefield.

We do our best, and our best is pretty good; but we cannot save every victim. Too often, we have to sit with families impacted by gun violence and give them heartbreaking news.

Birmingham & UAB taking action

Our leaders and institutions are taking action. Mayor Randall Woodfin has openly declared that gun violence in Birmingham is a public health crisis. He just launched his #IncreasePeace initiative, which includes several programs aimed at reducing the impact of gun violence. Please visit www.birminghamal.gov/peace or text PEACE at 888-777 to learn more.

UAB has increased the number of trauma surgeons on call in the hospital 24 hours a day, so that we can be prepared to treat multiple victims when needed. We are working with local EMS providers to provide advanced bleeding control, resuscitation and possibly even surgical capability while en route to the hospital.

I feel safe in Birmingham

To be clear, I feel perfectly safe living in Birmingham and working downtown at UAB, which compares favorably to urban and non-urban universities across the Southeast and beyond in safety statistics. However, there are communities in Birmingham that are deeply affected by the impact of gun violence.

Therefore, we should all do what we can to address this issue. If even one community in our region is in crisis, it is a crisis for us all.

We must rally to find ways to reduce gun violence and make our region a better place to live. As a trauma surgeon, veteran and father, I am personally working to educate the community about what each of us can do as individuals to reduce gun fatalities and injuries.

Here are three things you can do to help us reduce the effects of gun violence in Birmingham:

Participate in Stop the Bleed

Stop the Bleed is a national education campaign to equip bystanders to have the skills and knowledge to respond when someone has been seriously injured and is bleeding. No matter how rapid the arrival of EMS, bystanders will always be first on the scene. A person who is bleeding can die from blood loss within five minutes, so it is important to quickly stop the blood loss.

The Stop the Bleed curriculum prepares individuals to provide specific emergency care measures, much like getting trained in CPR. UAB provides this training to any person or group who wishes to receive it. Schedule a training or find a class by calling 205-975-3034.

 Practice responsible gun ownership:

All gun owners need to take important steps to safeguard themselves, and I would encourage everyone to take advantage of available information and resources. Too many children are injured by guns that have been left unsecured around the house. Research tells us that, when a child finds a gun, the majority of the time they pull the trigger. Make sure guns are locked up and unloaded, with ammunition stored in a separate location.

Ask parents if there are any unlocked guns in their house before sending your child over to play with their children. To learn more, please visit Asking Saves Kids.

If you are new to gun use, please sign yourself, and anyone else who may be handling the firearm, up for a gun safety class. In addition, do not leave a gun unsecured where it could be stolen.

In 2016, 1,182 guns were stolen or lost in Alabama, one of the highest rates in the country.

Learn more about consensus-based recommendations to reduce firearm injury and death

I, along with many others in my profession, strongly support the civil liberties protected by the Second Amendment. At the same time, gun violence is unquestionably a major public health problem in the United States and is an issue that many in the medical community are actively engaged in addressing.

The American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma convened a group of trauma surgeons, the majority of whom are gun owners, to find consensus around a common-sense strategy to limit the impact of gun violence.

They developed a total of 10 recommendations to reduce the impact of gun violence, including support for emerging technologies that would prevent someone other than the registered owner from using the gun, background checks for all gun purchases and transfers, and federal funding for research on firearm injury and injury prevention.

Learn more via American College of Surgeons information and resources.

Birmingham: A city of great promise

We want Birmingham to be known as a city full of great promise, exciting innovations and exceptional quality of life for all its citizens – not as a city with a gun violence problem. I hope we can all come together and find common ground as a community to support initiatives aimed at addressing the public health crisis of gun violence

Jeff Kerby is Director of the Division of Acute Care Surgery and Chief of the Trauma Service at UAB Hospital, the only American College of Surgeons verified Level 1 Trauma Center in the state of Alabama. Dr. Kerby and his trauma colleagues treat approximately 5,000 injured patients each year and maintain active collaborations with U.S. military combat medical personnel who work and train at UAB.

Let’s turn Birmingham around.  Click here to sign up for our newsletter. There’s power in numbers. (Opt out at any time)

David Sher is Co-Founder of AmSher Compassionate Collections.  He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).

Invite David to speak to your group about how we can have a more prosperous metro Birmingham. dsher@amsher.com.

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2 thoughts on “Gun violence epidemic in parts of B’ham: View from UAB Trauma Center”

  1. Thank you for your service, fighting the good fight and making a difference. “We Live In a Culture of Violence, By the age of 18, a child will have seen 16,000 assasinations on television. That’s how our children are numbed to all the violence and accept it as a means to solve problems. They imitate what they see on television and identifying with the victims or the victimized”.- Psychology Today https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/family-secrets/201801/we-live-in-culture-violence

    Gas taxes go to fix roads and tobacco taxes to healthcare and education. “How taxing sugary drinks affects a community’s health and economy” Now, a set of new studies is solidifying consensus that a so-called “sin tax” does in fact lead to changes in behavior, including reduced consumption of sugary drinks.
    https://www.pbs.org/newshour/economy/making-sense/how-taxing-sugary-drinks-affects-a-communitys-health-and-economy

    I think comedian Chris Rock is onto something, “You don’t need no gun control, you know what you need? We need some bullet control. We need to control the bullets, that’s right. I think all bullets should cost five thousand dollars… five thousand dollars per bullet”.

    It’s not a bad idea.

  2. This is an excellent discussion.

    Solving this problem, realizing that the guns shoot nothing without a person using it, would put Birmingham in focus by the many cities that are suffering the same issue. Do nothing about it allowing things to get worse will surely put more poeple off coming here to visit or to live.

    I recall when an early step toward bringing downtown business back was being made. It was really at the point of understanding that just having police cars driving around occasionally did little to help anything. Once there were actual feet on the actual ground good things began to happen. The sense of safety followed and increased. That worked.

    Mayor Woodfin’s approach might help some. Quite often there is serious anger behind the gun shots. That needs help too, anger management. Poverty/envy are there, exploded arguments of any kind are too. So jobs and learning how to be more ‘professionally’ earning money and a decent life would help too.

    I we ignore this probably no jobs to help will be added!

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