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Vegas: Lessons Learned

As the nation grapples with another mass shooting, we are hearing more about military trauma care and best practices. Specifically, the integration of military trauma teams or individual trauma providers into the nation’s trauma systems and centers.

For example, a bill in Congress known as The MISSION Zero Act (HR 880), introduced in February, would provide funding for this effort. The bill’s sponsors are U.S. Reps. Michael C. Burgess, MD, (R-TX), Gene Green (D-TX), Richard Hudson (R-NC) and Kathy Castor (D-FL). The legislation comes after a 2016 report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, which examined this gap in care.

Partnerships like this would give military trauma care providers opportunities to use their expertise without leaving the military, and would equip trauma centers and systems to address the kind of mass casualties usually seen on the battlefield.

And as part of the conversation about military best practices, there’s also increased interest in training bystanders to give first aid. The NASEM report estimates that up to 30,000 lives could be saved each year if victims had immediate prehospital care. Yet the average American has little to no training in basic trauma response and bleeding control. Bleeding, as we know, is the number one cause of death in the minutes after a gunshot injury, bombing, or other trauma. Every moment counts.

To that end, the Chicago Medical Society is working to implement a “Stop the Bleed” program in the City Council. “Stop the Bleed” educates and prepares communities to save lives before the arrival of first-responders. Bystanders learn to apply hand pressure, tourniquets and to use hemostatic pressure gauze dressing bandages. It’s similar in concept to CPR.

We are asking you, as individual physicians, to reinforce “Stop the Bleed” by advocating with us for public education. The CMS “Stop the Bleed” measure was supported by the Illinois State Medical Society and the American Medical Association, and we look forward to its implementation statewide and nationally.

Still more proposals to address the nation’s gun violence epidemic include funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to gather data on firearm injury and death, including research into the financial burden as well as the public health impact. However, Congress adopted legislation years ago stipulating that no CDC funds be used to “advocate or promote gun control.”

The Chicago Medical Society voted last year to join with all major national medical societies to achieve increased public and private funding for the development, evaluation, and implementation of evidence-based programs and policies to reduce firearm-related injury and death.

We also renewed our support for criminal background checks on all gun sales, public, private and Internet-based. CMS also approved restrictions on the sale of military-style assault weapons and large-capacity magazines for civilian use.

The tragedy of Las Vegas is sure to happen again; we just don’t know when and where. But we physicians can promote measures like “Stop the Bleed” and we canadvocate for reasonable legislation.

Vemuri S. Murthy, MD

President, Chicago Medical Society

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