Gun Violence: A Public Health Issue

OHSU is a community of people dedicated to healing others and advancing scientific knowledge. With our country in the midst of a gun violence crisis, OHSU, along with Portland State University, the OHSU-PSU School of Public Health and a broad array of community stakeholders joined together to address gun violence as a public health issue.

In an all-campus message, President Joe Robertson writes, "All of us at OHSU are torchbearers. We take on the biggest threats to human health, casting light into the darkest parts of our universe, inspiring hope. One of the ways we do this is by becoming a more inclusive community that can respond to violence and racism with compassion, humility and intelligence. This means not only acknowledging that violence is a preventable public health issue. It means understanding that violence can be a reflection of greater structural problems in society - and that the threat of trauma from violence affects all of us - students, faculty, staff and patients. We cannot fulfill our mission unless we understand this."

Leading the conversation

In 2016, OHSU joined with a number of peer organizations to call on Congress to lift the ban on Center for Disease Control funding of research into gun violence. OHSU is uniquely positioned, particularly within Oregon, as a research university and public health leader, to evaluate the type of data necessary to inform a public policy discussion on gun violence.

In October 2016, OHSU took another step by making a commitment to addressing gun violence as a public health issue. The institution lead a series of community-wide conversations to bring together diverse perspectives to identify how OHSU – across its clinical, research and education missions – can best address gun violence as a public health issue and work with community partners to reduce gun deaths.

An advisory committee was formed comprising of representatives from OHSU, PSU, OHSU-PSU School of Public Health, county, state and city governments, mental health groups, advocacy groups and nonprofit and volunteer outreach programs. As part of its ongoing efforts in addressing gun violence as a public health issue, the committee developed three forums: a campus community forum, a Portland metro community forum and a business forum.

A summary report of the forums is available to download. It includes details of the three forums, as well as lessons learned and recommended next steps.

OHSU students have joined in solidarity with people and communities impacted by gun violence. As future health professionals, they believe they have a duty to minimize factors of human illness and injury, including gun violence. Students from across medical training and graduate programs have organized a campus initiative and participated in national campaigns.

The OHSU Students Against Gun Violence committee encourages the OHSU community to share their views regarding the importance of federal funding for gun violence prevention research. They are organizing a letter-writing campaign that includes a sign-on letter to members of U.S. Congress and a template letter for individuals to send to local lawmakers.


For more information about OHSU’s Gun Violence as a Public Health Issue Initiative, contact the Center for Diversity and Inclusion at or 503-494-5657.

Actionable steps toward gun violence prevention

What can you do? It is upon us, as public health professionals and advocates, to do everything in our power to enact meaningful change. While it may not feel this way, there are changes that have been occurring across the nation over the past few years that suggest we are entering a new era of addressing gun violence. Please add your name and efforts to this era of change.

First, consider joining the Gun Violence as a Public Health Issue Advisory Committee which includes OHSU and PSU faculty, researchers, students and healthcare providers. Community members and county and state public health organizations are also included.  Contact Kathleen Carlson, M.S., Ph.D., Associate Professor at the School of Public Health and Chair of the Committee, at, for more information.

Second, educate yourself through the array of resources that exist on reducing gun violence.

Reports, articles and videos


Because suicide is a significant part of the gun violence crisis, for anyone feeling in crisis or knows anyone in crisis, Lines for Life and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline are important resources.

Third, collaborate. Work with partners and colleagues in government services, social work, law enforcement, mental health services, and many other fields, to open new dialogues and explore collaborative solutions that cross all disciplines. Make sure that gun violence is framed as the public health issue that it is – that it is not a hopeless issue, and that there are many interventions – at many levels – that can be used for prevention. Collaborate on research and evaluation of gun violence and its many interventions.  

Fourth, make your voice heard. Send a message to policy-makers, influencers, and elected officials at the local, state, and national level demanding policy and other changes that can reduce violence and, particularly, gun violence. Before doing so, please review institutional policies for any engagement in your official capacity. OHSU employees and students can review the Political Activity Guidelines on OHSU’s public website as well as the Political Involvement policy on OHSU’s internal O2 page. PSU employees and students can refer to PSU’s public website HR Policies Page and be mindful as a state employee, here is a Quick Reference to Restrictions on Political Campaigning for Public Employees.