Tami enjoyed life. She was a happy — she was a happy person. Very happy. Her mission – now that we look back, and it was pretty straightforward – was to help people. She’s the type of person that
would, was a very caring person – a person that believed in people. She
believed in the best of people and she believed in doing the very best toward
people and making people’s lives better. She lived a life that any parent
would be proud of and happy. Any parent. The emergency room doctor is 38 year old Tamara O’Neall. We’ve just confirmed. O’Neal graduated from Purdue in 2002,
she is described as a critical care specialist at the hospital. Dr. Patrick
O’Connor, the Chairman of the hospital’s emergency department announced O’Neal’s death yesterday. As a doctor, one of the worst things is having to tell a parent
that their child has been shot. And even worse is telling them that you haven’t
been able to save their kid. You don’t have time in the moment to grieve, but it sits with you. It’s something that never, never leaves you. It is the reason why I work at AFFIRM. It’s what keeps me going. And I still see the expressions… And you wonder could you have done anything differently?
The answer is rarely yes. So few of us have wondered what we could have done to
stop it before it happens but that’s one of the things that we’ve created at AFFIRM – is a commitment that we can stop these tragedies before they happen. Gun violence is the worst public health problem our country is facing and we
don’t have a plan and within medicine we don’t have organized systems of care… yet. We have initial data that suggests that most of the folks who shoot are seen by
a doctor or a nurse in the weeks before the shooting and there’s an opportunity
there for us to intervene: to stop the shooters before they shoot. We know we can stop this now. We take care of people who are at risk of hurting themselves or
others everyday and we have to create solutions that are medical and public
health base to identify people at risk of hurting themselves and others and
then operationalize them. We have the opportunity to really make a difference
here: to get guidelines and best practice into the hands of the people that need
it. Our job as physicians is to understand a problem and then create
systems of care to correct that. That’s what we do for everything: that’s what we’ve done for car crashes that’s we’ve done for HIV. There’s currently no
federal money to do this. There is currently no research
money at the federal level to do this. So we have to create it ourselves. Med students and residents are not traditionally taught about gun violence
or how to stop it. At AFFIRM, we’re creating solutions that
didn’t exist before and there are solutions at work. We’re
working with Americans across the country to fund the research that can
stop this epidemic. People said cancer couldn’t be stopped or cured. People say the same thing about gun violence. I’m not willing to accept that. In America, we’ve been approaching the problem of gun violence as ‘gun rights’ versus ‘gun
control’ – which is completely the wrong way to think about the problem. We
brought together the entire US healthcare safety net. This is not a
political issue, it’s not a criminal justice issue. This is a public health
epidemic We know that it doesn’t have to be this way. We know there are risk
factors – that these folks are seen in doctors’ offices and schools in the weeks
before tragedy strikes and we are creating and disseminating ways to stop
that. Once gun violence has infected your life, you’re living with it. We have to
create that cure. Time heals all wounds and I believe that. I believe time will
heal the wounds that we have. What we’re doing now are the next steps and
that’s working on helping promote research on these issues of things that
we don’t know. We have a natural fear of the unknown. In
this case we’re looking at it from a medical standpoint – understanding what
the real root causes are – then we can provide solutions and fix them. The answers are there – we’ve just been maybe looking in the wrong places. What happened to Tamara is not the end of the story. Although she’s not here physically,
that’s not the end of story. So everyone out there: let’s make this
world a better place