Summer 2018

Taking a Stand Against Gun Violence

Donning white coats, students condemned the public-health crisis.

By Laura Ferguson

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Photo: Alonso Nichols

On February 21, more than 100 Tufts medical students came together to demonstrate against gun violence on the one-week anniversary of the deadly shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Teron Nezwek, M20, organized the rally at the Jaharis Courtyard to encourage health-care professionals to draw attention to gun violence as a public-health crisis. His own personal shock and grief at the Florida massacre spurred him to plan the gathering—he is a 2011 graduate of MSD High School, and his sister is still a student there. Nezwek asked his classmates to wear their white coats for a group photo to be posted on social media with the tag #whitecoatsagainstgunviolence, and also brought a poster bearing photographs of the seventeen victims for Tufts students to sign.

Nezwek, who is pursuing a dual M.D./M.B.A. in health management, said he was heartened by the turnout. “It was phenomenal,” he said. Students and faculty spoke, including Sackler School dean Daniel Jay; dean for educational affairs Scott Epstein; and Aviva Must, dean of
public health.

“More than 30,000 people are killed with guns in the U.S. every year,” Nezwek said in his own remarks. “The government spends only about $22 million a year on research into gun violence. This dwarfs in comparison to funding for other major health threats, such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, where funding is in excess of $10 billion . . . I hope that you leave understanding this: Gun violence is a public health crisis that takes thousands of lives each year. And we, as future health providers, have a duty to address it.”

Nezwek thanked the dean for student affairs, Amy Kuhlik, and others who helped him mobilize the rally on short notice. He is also working with Kuhlik to schedule a forum for students and faculty to, as he said, have a “serious debate about what we can do, as physicians, to prevent future tragedies.”

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