Johns Hopkins Medicine Helps Develop Physician Training to Prevent Gun Injuries, Deaths


Each year, nearly 40,000 people in the United States die because of guns, making firearm-related injuries a leading cause of death for adults and children. According to a recent report, gun violence surged during the COVID-19 pandemic, making 2020 one of the nation’s deadliest years for firearm-related casualties on record. Health care professionals could help reduce the toll, but only about 20% receive any education on firearm injuries or their prevention. To help change that, Johns Hopkins Medicine experts and collaborators across the United States established a national consensus guideline on educational priorities regarding firearm injury prevention for health care professionals.

The guideline appeared July 6, 2021, in the journal Academic Medicine.


“In many cases, physicians haven’t felt comfortable talking about firearms with patients because it’s been viewed as a divisive subject,” says Katherine Hoops, M.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of anesthesiology and critical care medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.


“We set out to change that by being the first to create standards for undergraduate, graduate and continuing medical education, so clinicians and educators have a foundation from which they can develop educational programming for their learners,” says Hoops, who cares for patients — including those with gun-related injuries — in the pediatric intensive care unit at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.


In April 2019, Hoops and Jahan Fahimi, M.D., M.P.H., an associate professor of emergency medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, convened a diverse group of more than 30 subject matter experts in medicine, nursing and public health from academic institutions across the United States to create a comprehensive and adaptable framework for firearm injury education.


The group outlined six categories previously identified in medical research as priorities. These include a general category with priorities applicable to all types of gun-related injuries and five specific categories focused on intimate partner violence, peer violence, mass violence, suicide and unintentional injury.


According to the researchers, training based on the new standards should enable clinicians to describe fatal and nonfatal firearm injury epidemiology; understand firearm access, possession, ownership, transfer and use; and be familiar with basic types of firearms and ammunition. They also should be able to provide counseling about firearm injury prevention — such as safe gun storage — to their patients.


Regarding suicide and suicide prevention, the researchers say clinicians should be able to describe the epidemiology of suicide and suicide attempts relating to firearm injury and death, as well as have the ability to assess patient suicide risk and understand how to escalate concerns for patients who may be at risk.


The published paper includes more guidelines and can serve as a resource for educators in health care professional schools.


“We hope that this educational framework will fundamentally change how physicians talk about violence in their practices,” Fahimi says. “It’s engaging with patients, talking about their experiences, helping them understand the risk of injury, and ultimately preventing injuries and saving lives.”


Along with Hoops and Fahimi, Megan Ranney, M.D., M.P.H., of Brown University was a key researcher on this project.


Hoops is available for interviews.