florida-massacre-aap

A Message from AAP CEO/Executive Director Karen Remley, MD, MBA, MPH, FAAP

Dear AAP Members:

I write to you with the mass shooting that took place on Sunday in Orlando, Florida, at the forefront of my mind. Each of us is saddened, shocked and horrified at the loss of life; the loss of so many futures, and the families those loved ones left behind who will never completely heal from this.

As pediatric professionals, we often take the difficult situations we encounter in our daily work and use them to fuel solutions for children. We observe firsthand from the cities to the suburbs the toll that poverty takes on children in this country, and we resolve to make combating childhood poverty a strategic priority. We intubate a child who accidentally ingests toxic liquid nicotine, and we resolve to get child-resistant packaging around those products. We witness children struggling with hunger, and we resolve to screen all children for food insecurity and connect them to nutrition assistance programs.

Earlier this week, more than 35 members of the U.S. Senate filibustered for 15 hours and resolved to push their colleagues to vote on gun violence prevention policies. AAP President Benard P. Dreyer, MD, FAAP, and I issued a press release commending these efforts and calling on Congress to do even more.

It’s still not enough. But it’s a start.

I remember the first victim of gun violence I cared for when I ran an emergency department at a hospital in St. Louis. An older brother, finding his father’s revolver in a bedside table, pointed it at his younger 3-year-old brother and fired. Paramedics, who had seen the horrors of the Vietnam War, brought him in, visibly stricken by what they had seen. I can still see the angelic face of that toddler in my mind, and I can also still picture the very little that was left of his chest when I looked down to try and save him. The paramedics and I tried valiantly, but we knew there was nothing we could do. Our tears, prayers and sadness were overwhelming. We simply could not comprehend what had happened.  Imagine the impact on this little boy’s family, the parents and brother, forever changed. I have heard similar stories from far too many of you, whether you practice in a community ravaged by a mass shooting, treated a young child who was killed simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or had an adolescent patient use a gun to commit suicide.

Gun violence is an epidemic in our country. It has punctured the sanctity of places of worship, made once safe spaces unsafe, and targeted individuals just for being who they are.  

I join many of you who want to push our elected officials to be bolder, to pass comprehensive reforms like assault weapons bans and expanded background checks and to overturn restrictions on gun safety research funding. We will continue to fight for all of these things for as long as it takes. Until then, we will work with members of Congress to take the steps we need to get there.

One step is to support two amendments up for a vote in the Senate early next week: one that would expand requirements for background checks on all gun purchases and another that would make it more difficult for individuals being monitored for terrorism activity to purchase firearms.

If you’re a #tweetiatrician like me, you can also speak up online: click here to find your senator’s Twitter handle and consider sending your own message or one of these:

  • [insert Sen handle]: I’m a pediatrician and constituent, and I support taking action on #GunViolence. 
  • [insert Sen handle]: #GunViolence is a public health crisis and a threat to children’s health. I’m a pediatrician and I say #enough
  • [insert Sen handle]: As a pediatrician, I urge you to support common-sense proposals to protect children from #GunViolence. #enough

Yesterday, I met with pediatric professionals who are on the Make-a-Wish Foundation Physician Advisory Board. They are heroes. But the children who were killed in their classroom at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012, the teens who are gunned down every day in pervasive urban violence, the young adults who were killed while dancing with their friends at a nightclub last weekend in Orlando, they never even had a chance to make a wish. So my wish for the friends and family they left behind is this: that in their memory, we can make the world a little bit safer, make it a little bit harder for these kinds of crimes to happen. It will take a long time and it will take a lot of effort, but we as pediatricians are uniquely suited to lead the charge.

If I’ve learned one thing in my 11 months as CEO of the AAP, it’s not to underestimate the power of the pediatrician to fight for what children need. Though it might take longer than we’d like it to, I resolve to join you in fighting for children’s need to be safe where they live, learn and play.

Thank you for all you do.

Sincerely,

Karen Remley, MD, MBA, MPH, FAAP
CEO/Executive Director
@KarenRemleyAAP