Like all Americans, I watched with shock and sadness over the past week as our country was awash in fear and violence.

The explosive devices that were mailed to political leaders represented a new low in our country’s political discourse, but thankfully, no one was hurt and a suspect was apprehended. Tragically, in Pittsburgh on Saturday, 11 Jewish people worshipping at their synagogue were killed by a gunman filled with hate. The alleged gunman has been apprehended and charged with 29 crimes, including federal hate crimes.

My thoughts are with the fallen and their loved ones left behind. In the face of this senseless violence, I was inspired by the first responders and hospital personnel who rushed to treat the wounded. I want to thank Allegheny General Hospital, UPMC-Mercy and UPMC-Presbyterian and the first responders for showing they are a force for good in the community and will be there when disaster strikes.

Hate and violence have no place in our society. The fact that we have this conversation so often speaks to the serious and enduring challenge our society faces.

We need to have a national conversation about how to address these issues and prevent this violence that tears apart families and communities. We must find real and lasting solutions to violence and mass murder. Everyone has a role to play in this conversation because it affects us all.

When tragedy strikes, the role of hospitals and health systems is clear: respond, treat, and be a force for good. Hospitals are cornerstones for care in their communities, and they have a role in the larger conversation, too. They are working to address mental health and violence issues in their communities so we can prevent more tragedies from happening.

The AHA is committed to supporting hospitals’ efforts to prevent violence in the community. Several years ago, we launched our Hospitals Against Violence initiative, which seeks to prevent community violence by shedding light on ways to combat youth violence and human trafficking, helping hospitals protect their own workforce from violence and helping them heal when violence is visited upon them. I encourage all hospitals to speak up in their communities, and I ask all communities to involve their hospitals in the conversation.

Ultimately, we all have a role to play in addressing the hate and violence that plagues our society, and hospitals and health systems have and will continue to be an important part of the solution.

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