A National Healing

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Like many of you, I spent this past weekend searching for understanding and healing – trying to process the tragic events that took the lives of 20 young souls and 8 adults in Newtown, Connecticut. Understanding may never come, but here are some thoughts on healing.

As a young pediatrician, I know I don’t know everything about child health. But this, I know for sure. Guns kill kids.

While the recent events may seem horrifically random, it turns out homicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for our young people aged 15-24. And if you are African American in that age group, it is the number one cause of death. Sadly, in 2010, an average of 13 kids a day (age 10-24), were victims of homicide. And among those victims, 82.8% were killed with a firearm. Guns.

What happened in Connecticut is heart breaking, but less than 1% of youth homicides occur at school.

The truth is, our kids are dying in our neighborhoods. And they are dying from guns.

Not just guns wielded by the mentally unstable or personally careless, but guns in our homes and guns in our communities. National data has consistently shown that regardless of storage practice, type of gun, or number of firearms in the home, having a gun in the home is associated with an increased risk of firearm homicide and firearm suicide in the home. The bottom line is, guns are unsafe, no matter who bought them or where they are kept. And that’s not even getting into the discussion of semi-automatic weapons (which I don’t think any of us need data to realize, are never safe on our streets).

What happened in Connecticut is what’s happening across our country every day. We must connect the dots. Too many children are dying from senseless gun violence and it is a public health crisis.

We need a national healing and it starts with the collective love of our children and a united refusal to allow any more youth to meet this tragic end. As we mourn the loss of each precious life, we must talk prevention. I join many of you in echoing to our President, congress, state, and local officials, we need comprehensive gun control laws and an expansion of mental health services for those in need.

Contact your officials here.

References: See the links, image credit

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The Power of No

One of my mentors recently asked me to take on a project that’s not my cup of tea. Have you ever had a mentor persuasively ask you to do something you have no interest in doing? I was all…

As I refine my interests, I want to be selective about the opportunities I embrace. Working in settings where doing more is rewarded, makes it hard to figure out what “more” I should and shouldn’t be doing and stressful to pass on the yes train to success. As young professionals, we basically spend our youth forging opportunities and when one is placed in our lap, it’s hard to turn away the gift…even if it it’s not what you and Santa discussed. But, somehow, like my 2 year old patients, I have come to believe in the power of “No.”

“No” has power when you allow it to define your priorities. The power is in the discernment. So how can we invoke this power when we feel pressured (by ourselves or others) to do something that doesn’t align with our goals or interests?

I have a few ideas.

1. Ask for transparency and be transparent. Perhaps you lack insight into your mentor’s vision or they are unaware of your goals. Use the moment as an opportunity to clarify your mutual interests.

2. When stretched too thin, decline something you risk doing poorly. Overextending yourself may reflect negatively on your work ethic or professionalism.

3. Recognize that sometimes, you need to say yes! Good sensei’s should challenge you in ways that help you grow. These ways may not always be apparent, but can lead to new opportunities.

4.  “Great is the enemy of done” (thanks Dr. Michelle Hermiston!). Perfectionism can impede productivity. Find out what commitment is required and when time is tight and you are stretched, let “done” be good enough.

5. When all else fails, go to the bathroom (or wherever you collect your thoughts), look in the mirror and say…

YOU. Know that you are in charge of your destiny and despite your best intentions some opportunities will be squandered. Move on as quickly as possible. It is your willingness to get messy and commitment to try your best (see Playing Like a Champion) that will carry you to where you’re meant to be.

As young pups in the game, a thoughtful “No” may be the greatest tool in our professional toolbox. This week, let “No” be a step towards something you want for yourself!