Putting Words into Actions
August 29, 2010
As we are nearing the end of the 19th IPPNW World Congress, I cannot help but reflect on all that has been discussed here in Basel. There are several plenaries and workshops that standout in my mind and inspire me to stay involved in PSR/IPPNW’s work. On Friday, during the plenary on violence prevention we heard from Ms. Kidist Bartolomeos from the WHO Department of Violence and Injury Prevention. After giving a brief overview of the issue of small arms violence worldwide, she proposed four “best buys” for decreasing the consequences of violence – including: engaging the health sector in violence prevention, providing mental health and social services for victims, improving emergency responses to injuries, and decreasing recidivism. Specifically, she emphasized the unique role IPPNW plays in the advocacy of small arms violence prevention. As physicians, we have the knowledge and skills from public health to gather data and provide a voice for our patients.
She was followed by presentations from several physicians working in Latin America, Southeast Asia, and Africa. Dr. Nidia Rodriguez, a young physician from Ecuador, presented a powerful and moving documentary asking for medical professionals to add their voice to the Medical Voices Against Violence Project. Dr. Jans Fromow-Guerra, Latin American regional representative and president of IPPNW-Mexico, then gave an excellent overview of the current state of violence in Mexico, noting the major role the US has in this violence by providing 95% of the illegal small arms used in Mexico. These words were echoed by Dr. Bernard Lown, co-founder of PSR and IPPNW. Worldwide, the US contributes over 50% of the weapons currently in circulation. These messages reminded me of the strong influence we as Americans can have in the work of IPPNW. It also inspired me to attend several workshops throughout the rest of the day in which concrete plans were made to further move along IPPNW’s work on small arms violence (through the Aiming for Prevention Campaign), mainly through data collection as suggested by Ms. Bartolomeos. I think both as a major producer and consumer of small arms, PSR can play an influential role in this campaign.
Earlier in the week, during the student congress, Dr. Dale Dewar, Executive Director of the Canadian IPPNW affiliate, spoke on “Getting Bomb Fuel Out of Medicine.” She presented several actions we can do locally to eliminate the use of bomb-grade highly enriched uranium in nuclear medicine, such as speaking to the Radiology Department at our local hospitals. This is also a crucial time to speak to our senators regarding the American Medical Isotopes Production Act (H.R. 3276), which is currently being held up by Senator Bond (R-Missouri).
Lastly, what stands out in mind the most are the fellow participants of this world congress. This is the second world congress that I have attended. As a medical student in 2006, I attended the 17th World Congress in Helsinki. It is interacting with and hearing the work of others that inspires and motivates me to go home and continue to fight for these tough issues. At the same time, it is calming to know that we are not alone in our work but that there is a strong family of IPPNW physicians and medical students across the world. Dr. Gunnar Westberg, IPPNW’s former co-president, ended the student congress with inspirational words: “We will abolish nuclear weapons before they abolish us.”