SAN ANTONIODr. Ronald Stewart, chair of surgery at UT Health San Antonio, said he considers gun violence “the most neglected public health program in the United States.”

Stewart speaks from experience. He saw the aftermath of the 2017 mass shooting in Sutherland Springs.

Stewart was part of the all-out response by the San Antonio medical community that he said was “a huge success.”

But knowing that 26 lives were lost, Stewart said, “That day to me, it felt like a failure.”

Stewart said he remains optimistic given a recent medical summit hosted by the American College of Surgeons, with physicians and researchers from a wide variety of medical specialties representing all sides of the issue.  

“When 45 medical organizations come together and they basically commit to it, I have confidence that this is moving forward,” Stewart said.

He said they agreed that gun ownership is a constitutional right but also that gun violence is a public health problem.

Stewart compares their approach to the medical community that through the years has spoken out about traffic fatalities, smoking and cancer and AIDS prevention.

He said confident research, science and collaboration can cross the public divide.

Stweart said at that point, “policy solutions will come naturally.” He said the process must be inclusive so that all sides are heard.

If they disagree, he said, perhaps they could ask: “I understand, but is there another alternative that would be a win-win for both of us?”

Stewart said one of the biggest barriers would be that “they get more committed to being right in winning an argument than addressing the problem.”

Link to American Foundation for Firearm Injury Reduction in Medicine (AFFIRM), which is a nonprofit comprised of health care professionals and researchers working together to find lasting solutions to curb the epidemic of firearm violence across the United States. 

WEB EXTRA: Dr. Ronald Stewart discusses importance of gun violence public health problem