Rachel Safeek, right, with Patrice Harris, M.D., M.A., president of the American Medical Association
Rachel Safeek, right, with Patrice Harris, M.D., M.A., president of the American Medical Association

Rachel Safeek, a second-year medical student at the University of Louisville, is calling for medical schools to train future physicians in techniques to help prevent injuries and death caused by firearms. Her work has led to UofL being one of the first medical schools to incorporate this training for all students.

“About 40,000 Americans die and 85,000 others are injured each year from firearm-related causes, and the incidence of firearm-related morbidity and mortality has increased over the past decade,” Safeek said. “This is a very important public health issue. My classmates, colleagues and I believe that physicians have a role in counseling patients related to their health and we have an opportunity through those interactions to help reduce the number of firearm-related deaths and injuries.”

In September, Safeek and her colleagues wrote and presented a resolution that was adopted by the Kentucky Medical Association (KMA) to support training in Kentucky’s medical schools to reduce firearm-related morbidity and mortality in their curriculum. She presented a similar resolution at the American Medical Association conference in November, which was adopted by the American Medical Association Medical Student Section.

The resolution calls for all future physicians to have training to counsel patients in safe firearm use and storage, to know how to screen patients for suicide risk and to learn trauma-related first response techniques.

At UofL, Safeek presented a curriculum plan she coauthored with faculty members Suzanne McGee, MD, and Charles Kodner, MD, and Susan Sawning, MSSW, to the School of Medicine’s Educational Program Committee, which voted to include it in the school’s curriculum beginning with the 2020-2021 academic year.

To jump-start the training effort, Safeek and other students and faculty have partnered with Whitney/Strong to organize a week-long series of optional events to educate UofL medical students, faculty and residents on firearm violence prevention, scheduled for February.

“Our hope is that more medical schools will incorporate this type of training into their programs and doctors will be able to help make a difference in this health crisis,” Safeek said.

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Betty Coffman
Betty Coffman is a Health Communications Specialist, working on the Health Sciences Campus with departments in the School of Medicine. A UofL alumna and Louisville native, she served as a writer and editor for local and national publications and as an account services coordinator and copywriter for marketing and design firms prior to joining UofL’s Office of Marketing and Communications.