Original Post: July 19, 2016
Before the dust had even settled on the fatal shootings of 5 police officers in Dallas on July 7th, 2016, 3 more law enforcement officers were ambushed and killed in Baton Rouge on July 17th. These violent attacks have elicited emotionally charged responses related to race relations, legislation, and politics. As a physician, I put politics aside and see the personal side of these horrific events.
For 25 years, I did preemployment screenings for police officers and firefighters in a local municipality. As a result, I see a disproportionate number of first responders in my practice. Rarely does a day in the clinic pass that I don’t see one of these first responders or their family members as patients. I am beginning to hear how the police shootings in other parts of the country have affected law enforcement officers and firefighters right here in Denver. Police have been instructed to patrol in pairs, and firefighters have been issued bulletproof helmets and vests. In addition, these events have provoked anxiety and apprehension in local first responders.
It bothers me to hear the anxiety in the voices of patients who I have been treating for years. I have patients who have experienced the horrors of war in the Middle East, others who responded to the mass shootings at an Aurora cinema in 2012, and others who were present at a plane crash that killed members of a collegiate basketball team as they were flying home from Boulder in 2001. These first responders are real people who have chosen honorable careers. Sadly, their careers are becoming more and more dangerous every day. The recent fatal police shootings have raised new anxiety in some and triggered traumatic memories for others.
By expressing my support and respect for first responders, I do not mean to defend the wrongdoings of any individuals. There are bad apples in all professions – in law enforcement, business, education, and health care. At a local hospital in Denver, for example, a surgical technician recently stole narcotic pain medications and potentially infected almost 3000 patients with used needles. Thankfully, no groups or individuals have responded by randomly firing assault weapons at health care providers in healthcare facilities.
Just as the vast majority of doctors do their best to care for sick or injured patients, the vast majority of first responders show up every day to keep our streets and neighborhoods safe. As I see these law enforcement officers and firefighters in my clinic, my respect for them grows every day. These are strong, brave, honest, and caring individuals. I will continue to support first responders and their family members the best way I know how-by providing the best patient care I can and giving them the honor and respect they deserve.
Dr. Gerard Guillory, MD
The Care Group, PC