As I suspect is the case with many of you, I find it hard to keep up with all the medical journals that cross my desk. It is especially hard when the latest issue of Car and Driver also crosses my desk, but that is another story. So, generally speaking, the journals pile up. When the pile gets too high, I either skim them “in bulk” or just declare defeat, throw the pile out, and start over again. Despite the general pattern, there is one item in one journal that I read in “real-time”: the “On Being a Doctor” column in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Every two weeks, our colleagues share touching observations about our work and our world. A piece from February, entitled “Preventing Trauma Surgeons from Becoming Family Doctors” (registration required) has been on my mind, and I am reminded of it each time I hear about another failure by Congress to pass even the most rudimentary legislation to limit access to guns. In it, a trauma surgeon laments the cycle of repeated gun violence that delivers gravely injured and dead young men to his Emergency Department on a regular basis.
This is the most glaring example of the phenomenon that I have written about previously — that health care (all the stuff we do) is not the most important driver of health. In this case, the outcome (violent death) is the product of complex social circumstances, poverty and access to deadly weapons. That said, I agree completely with the author of the piece, who made the case that we have an obligation as health professionals to go beyond the traditional limits of providing care (sewing up the wounded) to preventing the violence, through advocacy and programs to address the underlying social ills.
What do you think?