Published on February 14, 2024 by Alison Ingle  
Pellegrino recipient and friends DR02092024699

Gun violence is a leading cause of premature death in the United States. This year's Healthcare Ethics and Law (HEAL) Institute conference, “Gun Violence and Health Care: A Public Health Issue?" explored the challenges around preventing firearm injury and death.

Hosted by Samford University's College of Health Sciences Office for Faith and Health, HEAL is designed to facilitate collaboration amongst healthcare professionals, clergy and health system administrators through presentations and discussions with prominent experts. More than 200 attendees heard presentations, which included public policy findings, epidemiological solutions, local initiatives, and health care strategies to interrupt the cycle of gun violence.

Health care training, policy reform and firearm home safety are all imperative countermeasures. However, gun violence prevention is an exceedingly complex issue. According to the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive, there were 18,874 firearm deaths, excluding suicide, which accounts for more than half of all gun fatalities.

"No one would deny that gun violence is a problem in the United States. It is important to include diverse voices in the conversation, reflecting the myriad facets of the problem," said Brannon Denning, JD, Starnes Professor of Law at Samford’s Cumberland School of Law. Denning provided some legal background for the public health audience to understand the constitutional limitations within which regulatory proposals must operate.

David Cecil, PhD, LICSW, a professor of social work in Samford's Master of Social Work program, discussed the importance of distilling a best-practice psychotherapeutic understanding into a set of practical recommendations for anyone who might encounter people who have been traumatized by gun violence. "Our communities continue to be rocked by gun violence. As traumatized people approach our health care systems, we need to provide the best trauma-informed care possible," Cecil said.

The conference's keynote speaker and the 2024 recipient of the Pellegrino Award was Cassandra Crifasi, PhD. Crifasi is an associate professor of health policy and management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and co-director of the Center for Gun Violence Solutions. She is also a core faculty member in the Center for Injury Research and Policy and the Center for Health Disparities Solutions.

"Gun violence is an urgent and important public health issue. It affects communities across the country, and unfortunately, no one is immune. This year's HEAL conference brought together people from various backgrounds to improve our understanding of the issue, which is essential to reducing the unacceptably high toll of gun violence. I am honored to have been chosen as this year's recipient of the Pellegrino Medal,” Crifasi stated.

The medal is named for Dr. Edmund D. Pellegrino, called the “father of American bioethics movement,” who in 1998 received the first lifetime achievement award from the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.