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Northwell CEO urges health care leaders to take stand against gun violence

Michael Dowling, Northwell Health CEO, urges the multibillion-dollar

Michael Dowling, Northwell Health CEO, urges the multibillion-dollar health care industry to take a stand against gun violence. He is shown on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017, at Northwell's Manhattan offices. Credit: Craig Ruttle

Northwell Health’s chief executive officer is urging other leaders in the multibillion-dollar health care industry to take a stand against gun violence and urge legislative reforms to prevent mass shootings and firearm-related deaths.

“It’s a major public health crisis,” Michael Dowling said during a five-minute appearance on CNN Newsroom on Friday with anchor Brooke Baldwin. “We see the impact of violence and gun violence. We see it in the emergency rooms. We see the suffering, we see the pain. We see the distraught families, we see the blood.”

The segment followed a letter he wrote that was printed as a full-page ad in the The New York Times and an opinion piece on cnn.com on Thursday, all of which invite leaders in the industry to support “sensible gun legislation,” and call for better mental health services and universal background checks.

He advocated for preventing "the sale and access of firearms that serve no other purpose than to inflict mass casualties," in one text posted on cnn.com, where he also called for active-shooter drills.   

Dowling heads a Great Neck-based health care system that employs more than 70,000 employees and has 23 hospitals, 6,675 hospital and long-term care beds and more than 750 outpatient physician practices, according to his biography on the system’s website. The system generates $12 billion in annual revenue.

Leaders in the $3.5 trillion health care industry, he said, can react in the wake of the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio — which took the lives of 31 people over two days this month —- by banding together to prevent another one.

“I think what we do is we raise our voices and try to get a coalition of health care leaders across the country to stand up and say this is a public health issue,” he said. “This is about protecting the community. This is about leadership. This is about standing up and saying enough is enough.”

Dowling said focusing on gun violence as a public health issue may start a healthy dialogue and avoid “the toxicity of the political environment we are in,” he said in the CNN segment, adding, “It is about public health and health care leaders, we are the protectors of the public health and if we are not leading on this, then I would say ‘Shame on us.’ We are not meeting our leadership responsibilities by not doing so.”

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