Homicide and Hope: How CMC doctors manage the strain with strength

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - When someone is rushed to the Emergency Department (E-D) - that's actually what it's called - even though most know it as the emergency room - a team of highly trained doctors, nurses and medical staff spring into action.

Every time. This year - has been especially taxing for the E-D. Dr. David Jacobs is the emergency department's chief of the trauma at Carolinas Medical Center's main campus. Even after being a surgeon in the E-D for more than two decades - he's still deeply disturbed by every life lost because of violence.

"You think about the waste of life," he said. "As an African-American male, I take this very personally."

That and calling Charlotte home for so many years is why Jacobs believes he is duty-bound to do more than just save lives.

"You can't stick your head in the sand and say, 'this is going to get better on its own,' " Jacobs implored.

He and colleague, Dr. Emily MacNeill, a professor of emergency medicine at CMC, say the focus shouldn't be on the number of homicides.

"It really only takes one for you to think that this is a big problem," MacNeill said.

The two say looking at what can *lead to violence - poverty and disparities in healthcare, housing and education - is key.

It provides more context when looking at the bigger picture of crime in the community.

"How are we investing in our children," MacNeill queried. "How are we helping our kids grow up in safe spaces with parents who feel empowered to be good parents?"

Dr. Jacobs then chimed in and said, "are you willing to change how you do business? Are you willing to have kids that don't look like your kids go to school with your kids? are you willing to put your kids on a bus and send them halfway across the county recognizing there are significant inequities in education?"

Both agree that race is certainly part of the conversation as most of the victims are people of color. MacNeill pointed out, "what is it about the way that our systems are set up that disparately affects someone purely based on race?"

They both caution against letting that be the focus.

"It has the potential to have people who are not of color, not affected, pull back from the conversation," said MacNeill. "And that is very dangerous, I think."

Dangerous, she said, because violence isn't just a problem for one community or group of people.

A danger Jacobs freely admits is always lurking in the E-D.

"When you see parade of young African-American faces that come through the E-D that come through the trauma center, it's easy to begin to develop bias," he said.

That potential for bias is why MacNeill says their practice of giving staff the chance to reflect once time of death is called --  is so important.

"We take a pause," she said. "We make sure we know the person's name. Everybody involved in the care take a moment to understand to contemplate that this was a life that was lost."

Those precious moments, MacNeill says, touches people in their humanity. Particularly for the families - who are brought in *while doctors are working to save their loved one.

"We have families be present if we are resuscitating a patient - if we are trying to save their lives and it's not going well," she said. "I will almost insist that a family member is in the room when we do that. I think it's important for people to see the lengths to which we go to try to save life."

Lives they say many times, are unfairly highlighted by Charlotte's tale of two communities, so often divided along racial and socio-economic lines.

"Bridging that divide," MacNeill said. "Making these two communities living side-by-side, really embracing the fact that a problem affects one affects all of us is a huge challenge for us."

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