Selected Speeches

President's Symposium and White Paper Project: Gun Violence

Sept. 6, 2018
SMC Campus Center

Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you for coming out. This is the 8th year of the President’s Symposium and White Paper Project. Every year, our Fellows explore a topic of urgency to the UMB community—interprofessional education, cultural competency, community engagement, global literacy, etc.

The Fellows’ recommendations help shape our work in these vital areas. They help shape how we educate students, how we prepare them for their professional lives, how we amplify our impact on those we serve.

But the topic we’ve chosen this year is a little different. This year, we’ve chosen to explore gun violence. I’ll be the first to admit that we have little control over the gun violence that occurs routinely in our city, in our country.

But it’s not wholly out of our sphere of influence. As health professionals, as lawyers, as social workers, we are acutely aware of the carnage wrought by guns. We’re intimately familiar with the trauma they inflict on families and communities. We have legal scholars here who know the case law behind the 2nd Amendment, inside and out. We have physicians and nurses who have put back together bodies blown apart by bullets. We have social workers whose jobs take them, every day, into the homes of mothers and fathers who have lost their children, of babies who will never know their parents.

And all of us learn and work in a city that last year had 300 gun deaths. I’d venture there’s not a day that goes by that we don’t see the anguish—the devastation—of gun violence. And so we do have a role in this. Let me be clear: Gun violence is a public health crisis. If we absolve ourselves from studying it, then who can we expect to take it up?

And I’ll admit, this is personal to me. As a pediatrician, as a father and a grandfather, as a Baltimorean, as an American citizen I know we have to find an answer. I know we have to start somewhere.

You might recall that after 17 people were killed at Stoneman Douglas High School earlier this year—14 of them teenage students—I wrote to the UMB community. I suggested that those who felt similarly angry by lawmakers’ refusal to confront the issue of gun violence might join me in boycotting states with lax gun laws, just as many corporations had boycotted North Carolina after it passed legislation discriminating against the transgender community.

In my frustration, I thought this was one thing I could do immediately simply to end the stalemate of inaction. But I closed that letter with something more. I said that I wanted to hear your ideas—the community’s ideas—about how we might focus our scholarship, research, and teaching on taking up the fight against gun violence.

And so—as we often do here at UMB—we look to our students to guide us. I’m grateful to our seven President’s Fellows who have joined this fight. I’m grateful that they, too, are moved not only to concern but to action.

The Fellows will explore UMB’s role in addressing gun violence through education, research, clinical care, and service. They’ll study the root causes of gun violence and use an interdisciplinary lens to examine its traumatic impact on communities.

I’d like to introduce our Fellows now. When I say your name, could you please stand? Nicole Campion Dialo is in the School of Medicine, pursuing a dual degree: the MD/Master of Public Health. Zachary Lee is in the Maryland Carey School of Law pursuing a JD. Vibha Rao is in the Graduate School pursuing an MS in Clinical Research. Jenny Afkinich is also in the Graduate School, pursuing a PhD in Social Work. Lauren Highsmith is pursuing a Master of Social Work in the School of Social Work. Jessica Egan, in our School of Nursing, is pursuing a DNP in the Adult–Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner program. Our final fellow, Basant Motawi, is out of the country and couldn’t be here today. She’s in our Graduate School pursuing a PhD in epidemiology.

Could we have a round of applause for our 2018–19 President’s Fellows? And now to introduce this afternoon’s esteemed keynote speaker, I’ll ask Nicole Campion Dialo to come to the podium.


Thank you.

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