By Dr. Jennifer Weiss
The sound of metal-on-metal isn’t unfamiliar to doctors who have spent a career treating bullet wounds. Even modern basins made from plastic make a particular noise once a bullet has been deposited. Those sounds aren’t easy to forget because they are sensory memories of the destruction that gun violence leave in its wake.
Earlier this month, the National Rifle Association (NRA) posted a tweet telling doctors to “stay in their lane” after a report was published by the American College of Physicians urging medical professionals to speak out against gun violence. “Someone should tell self-important anti-gun doctors to stay in their lane,” the NRA tweet read.
This tweet was sent out hours before 12 people were randomly shot at a California bar; one month after 11 people attending temple on a Saturday morning were killed by an armed terrorist; and just a couple of weeks before Dr. Tamara O’Neil was shot alongside colleagues at a Chicago hospital by a gunman.
These shootings are the most recent but they are far from isolated. 8,300 children are sent to emergency rooms with gunshot wounds in the United States annually. I am one of the doctors that treats those wounds. I can’t imagine what it might look like if I were to truly “stay in my lane.”
Staying in my lane would mean not answering a call from an emergency room doctor asking me to help treat a 12-year-old girl suffering from a gunshot wound to her shoulder or a 36-year-old man with a deep gunshot wound to his knee. It would mean saying, “sorry, gunshot wounds are not in my lane.”
Really, the whole concept of lanes is absurd in the medical field (as it is in almost any field). Doctors have no lane. We don’t swim in straight lines. We help each other and cross the ropes frequently. This time, that rope has to be crossed by physicians en masse for our patients, ourselves, our partners, and our society. We will not stay in our lane. We cannot as no such lane exists.
Jennifer Weiss, M.D. is an orthopaedic surgeon specializing in pediatric orthopaedic surgery and sports medicine. She actively writes and speaks on the topic of women in medicine. Read her full bio here.