Date December 6, 2018
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Brown physician-researcher offers perspective on firearm safety and #ThisIsOurLane

Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency physician and Brown faculty member, authored a New England Journal of Medicine editorial asserting that firearm safety is, in fact, in the lane of health care professionals.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — News of mass shootings has become devastatingly common in the United States, and at the same time the rate of suicide-by-firearm is silently increasing. The need to treat gun violence as a public health crisis has never been more urgent, many experts argue. 

In that context, Dr. Megan Ranney — an emergency physician who is also an associate professor at Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School and School of Public Health — wrote an editorial with two co-authors that examines the explosive spread of the Twitter hashtag, #ThisIsOurLane, born after a November tweet from the National Rifle Association. The three authors were among thousands of health care professionals across the country who assert that firearm injury prevention is, in fact, their lane.

The editorial was published on Wednesday, Dec. 5, in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).

“We are working together, across the political spectrum, to solve this epidemic,” said Ranney, who is also an emergency physician and injury prevention researcher at Rhode Island Hospital. “As a physician and a researcher, I know that it doesn’t have to be this way. We can create innovative solutions to reduce firearm injury, the same way we’ve done for car crash deaths and HIV.”

Ranney and co-authors Dr. Marian Betz, an associate professor at the University of Colorado, and Dr. Cedric Dark, an associate professor at Baylor College of Medicine, focus on the role of physicians and other health care professionals in identifying sensible solutions to the gun violence epidemic, especially as social media has coalesced the voices of these experts. They highlight that #ThisIsOurLane is neither the beginning nor the end of this work. 

Ranney’s own Twitter hashtag — #docs4gunsense — created after the Parkland, Florida, shootings, yielded hundreds of responses from physicians and other health care workers who shared traumatic summaries of their experiences with the aftermath of gun violence. She is an expert in non-partisan public health research on firearm injury and is among a national group of physicians bringing the matter to the public’s attention.  

“This hashtag isn't a new movement,” Ranney said. “It reflects the daily work of doctors, nurses and other health care professionals, year in and year out, to not just save victims of gun violence — but also to prevent it.”

In the NEJM editorial, she shares not just stories from physicians, but also examples of the non-partisan work that physicians and health care organizations are doing to stop firearm injury. 

“At the end of the day, it’s about keeping our patients, families and communities safe,” she said. 

Ranney serves as chief research officer for the American Foundation for Firearm Injury Reduction in Medicine and has held roles on numerous task forces related to efforts to stem gun violence, including co-chairing Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo’s Task Force on Gun Violence. She has published and presented extensively on gun violence and other types of violent injury.