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A Community Fractured, A Community Resolved

David Marcus, MD, FAAP
March 9, 2018 
                          

In 1988, I moved my family to a small, quiet town in south Florida and began practicing pediatrics. It was safe. The families there believed in strong public education, and the parents were engaged enough to propel the local schools to be the best in the area. I raised all four of my children in this wonderful town, which until February 14, was little known beyond its residents. The town is Parkland. Its name is now forever linked with the latest mass school shooting, one that took the lives of 17 students and teachers.

 

My children all graduated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where the shooting happened. My son was on the school’s math team, number one in the country, and was inspired to become an aerospace engineer. The school helped launch my daughters’ dreams, too; one is now a pediatric rheumatologist, another an assistant U.S. attorney, and my youngest is a special education teacher working with autistic preschool children just two miles away from MSD. When they were students there, I never thought twice about their safety. Until the recent shooting, I’m sure most parents whose children attend the school now didn’t either.  

A Parkland pediatrician stands proud with patients turning grief over their school’s mass shooting into action. “They are refusing to accept inaction, turning their tragedy into advocacy, and changing the conversation about gun safety.” #AAPvoices

As a pediatrician, I care for many current MSD students. My heart has broken a little bit more every day I've gone into my office since the shooting. I see the forlorn looks on the faces of my patients who have lost friends and who cowered in classrooms and closets only to be escorted out of the school by armed SWAT teams, hands over their heads.  Most of my patients are shell shocked and have not yet registered the pain or mourned for those we lost.  All I can do is hug them and offer support to help get them to a better place.  Our wonderful city is broken. We see it in the eyes of one another's faces when we go to the gym or shop in the grocery stores. Pain. Fear. Anguish. Outrage.But my heart is also filled with pride. Pride for the children who should be shopping for prom dresses and thinking about their college careers, who are instead holding town meetings, protest marches, heading to Tallahassee and Washington DC to meet with elected officials to fight for their right to be safe. No parent should have to bury their own child.  No child should ever have to bury their friends, or their teachers. They should not be afraid to go to school.  


"As a pediatrician, I have an obligation to keep my patients safe from any threat to their health. Gun violence is a public health epidemic that is killing our children.

As a pediatrician, I have an obligation to keep my patients safe from any threat to their health. Gun violence is a public health epidemic that is killing our children.


Our patients and their families are angry. They want change, and we pediatricians who took an oath to care, teach and guide our patients to be the best that they can be, will stand with them and demand it. Our patients are showing us how to be strong. We need to be strong with them.  We will fight for policies to keep our patients safe: universal background checks, banning of assault weapons, and robust funding for public health research that can help understand what works to prevent another tragedy like Parkland.  ​

     

This wonderful town of Parkland continues to demonstrate more and more each day just how wonderful it is, through its children. They are refusing to accept inaction, turning their tragedy into advocacy, and changing the conversation about gun safety.

 

Our community may be broken, but we are also resolute. We are joining these brave students in speaking up, and we will not relent until we see policies that will keep our patients, our students, and our community safe.   


The views expressed in this article are those of the authors, and not necessarily those of the American Academy of Pediatrics. 
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​​​Ab​out the ​​Author



David Marcus, MD, FAAP, is past president of the Florida Chapter of the AAP. He also has served on the AAP Committee on Medical Liability and on the Florida Healthy Kids Corporation board. He practices with Pediatric Associates of South Florida.








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