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    Physicians for a Violence-Free Society

    September 19, 2002

    Patrician R. Salber, MD, MBA, Co-President and Co-Founder of PVS
    Physicians for a Violence-free Society (PVS) is a San Francisco-based non-profit organization established in 1993 by two emergency physicians, Drs. Patricia Salber and Ellen Taliaferro. The PVS mission is to promote violence prevention by developing leadership and advocacy in the health care community. To this end, PVS has developed the PVS Physician Network to sustain and support physician community leadership in violence prevention. The Physician Network pilot was launched last year in California, creating the California Physician Network (CPN).

    DESCRIPTION Violence prevention activists have repeatedly told PVS that the violence prevention movement is stronger when complemented with an informed and vocal physician voice. These organizations have also told us that they often find they do not know how to make contact with physicians who can support their work. Further, because physicians often lack time, resources for research, and community contacts, physicians may be reluctant to explore and become involved in community based violence prevention activities.

    The CPN was created to give physician activists tools that will make it easier for them to become engaged in efforts to reduce and prevent family violence and other forms of violence in our society. The CPN will also "link" physicians interested in or already working in the area of violence prevention with community based organizations interested in having medical professional involvement in their work.

    TOOLS The CPN provides tools such as scripted slide shows on firearms and family violence, sample speeches that address family violence and other forms of violence from a public health perspective, and an infrastructure to alert physicians when a rapid response to violence prevention issues becomes necessary. The CPN also networks its members with other physician activists and community based organizations to strengthen ties between health care professionals and the violence prevention movement.

    INVOLVEMENT POLICY— CPN members provide a physician’s voice to legislative advocacy.

    As an example, the staff of Assemblyman Paul Koretz recently contacted PVS to request a representative from PVS to attend and testify in the hearing of the Assembly Select Committee on Gun Violence. The hearing was held on Tuesday, August 14th 2001 at the LAC-USC Medical Center in Los Angeles. PVS arranged for Dr. Michael Sise, a CPN member and Clinical Professor of Surgery, UCSD School of Medicine and Trauma Medical Director, Scripps Mercy Hospital to give a formal presentation elucidating the impact of gun violence on public health. Later, the Assembly member told PVS that Dr. Sise’s testimony was extremely persuasive and effective.

    MEDIA—CPN members create a stronger physician voice in the media.

    The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence requested that PVS identify physicians in the Vallejo area to write a letter to the editor in support of crucial gun control legislation. A CPN member, Dr. Frederic Van Rheenen, agreed to sign the letter urging Gov. Davis to sign AB 35 and SB 52 (firearm licensing and registration bills). The letter was published in the San Mateo County Times. Since then, both AB 35 and SB 52, requiring handgun owners to pass a written test and prove to a state instructor that they know how to handle a gun safely, were signed by Governor Davis. The laws, which go into effect in 2003, also require new owners of handguns to provide the Department of Justice with a thumbprint.

    COMMUNITIES—CPN members become active in their local violence prevention organizations.

    PVS was contacted by Sacramento area participants in the "Break the Silence on Domestic Violence four-year multi-media Awareness Campaign" (funded by the California Endowment). They requested the involvement of at least one physician involved in domestic violence prevention and knowledgeable of effective domestic violence screening. PVS identified Dr. Frank Apgar, Senior Care Management Medical Director, Blue Shield of California and a CPN Advisory Committee Member, as an ideal candidate. PVS provided Dr. Apgar with an email version of the PVS DOC-umentation Course, PVS’ nationally recognized DV educational program for health professionals, and CPN talking points on DV. This program was simulcast Sunday, December 2nd from 6 – 7 pm on all major Sacramento stations. Similar projects are planned throughout California. We plan on assisting these efforts by providing access to local physicians active in domestic violence prevention.

    In addition to creating and sustaining an educated network of physician activists who will support and further the work of existing community-based violence prevention organizations, the CPN provides a unique opportunity to learn about physician activist behavior through the evaluation component of the program. We have partnered with Barbara Gerbert, PhD Professor and Chair of the Division of Behavioral Sciences and Director of The Center for Health Improvement and Prevention Studies (CHIPS), UCSF, we hope to identify what tools and strategies will be most effective in mobilizing physicians around the issue of violence and violence prevention. We will be conducting our first of three focus groups that will consist of questions regarding the effectiveness of the CPN. We anticipate many lessons will be gleaned from the CPN that demonstrate how to effectively support physician behavioral change that can be extrapolated and implemented in other states.

    We anticipate publishing the data from the evaluation nationally in order to inform the public health response to violence about the effectiveness of physician involvement in the movement. This evaluation will also inform PVS how to further develop our physician network to better meet the needs of our physician members. The evaluative results will lay the groundwork to replicate this statewide organizing model nationally.

    Physicians in the network will be educated about the statistics and medical evidence regarding interpersonal violence as a personal and public health issue. In addition, in the coming year, they will receive media and speakers training, as well as training in effective advocacy. All too often physicians who are active in violence prevention are working in isolation. The CPN will link activist physicians together so they can share experiences and support each other in this important work. If you would like to join PVS’ California Physicians Network, please contact the PVS office at 415-621-3698 or email.

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