A Richmond program to reduce gun violence has had rare success. Now it’s expanding.
With over 20 years of emergency care experience, Dr. Michel Aboutanos, a surgeon and medical director of Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center’s Level I trauma center, is all too familiar with performing life-saving surgery on youth gunshot wound victims.
It was one of those cases that inspired Aboutanos to create a hospital-based violence prevention program known as “Bridging the Gap” at the VCU trauma center in 2003. That instance involved a 17-year-old boy who died from a gunshot wound to the head after having previously spent months in the hospital due to being shot on two separate occasions that same year.
“I watched this kid die in our trauma bay. … I realized the function, the role of the trauma center is at the end of this vicious cycle of violence,” Aboutanos said. “We have to change the paradigm, change the role of the trauma center so that it can be part of the community’s answer.”
Since then, Bridging the Gap has become a national model for how to help reduce gun violence rates and break the cycle of violence for patients in vulnerable communities. It primarily focuses on people ages 10 to 24 who are admitted to the trauma center for intentional injuries such as gunshot wounds, stab wounds and assaults.
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