By Si (Floris) Wu
Around 50 people gathered in a large meeting room at Massachusetts General Hospital on the afternoon of Friday, April 13. Among them were four groups of innovators looking to win a $10,000 grand prize from CAMtech, the Consortium for Affordable Medical Technologies based at the hospital. After two months of preparation, all four teams shared the same goals: curb the gun violence epidemic and improve the lives of survivors.
MGH hosts medical industry leaders to improve lives of gun violence survivors
“Not all gun violence is the same, and you can’t lump it into one bucket,” said Dr. Kristian Olson, director of CAMtech.
Olson is a pediatrician, internist, educator at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and professor at Harvard Medical School. He suggested that solutions to mass shootings, gun assaults, unintentional shootings and suicides may overlap, but can be very different. Although the teams all aimed to reduce gun violence, they tackled the issue in different ways.
“I think the overall aim here is the reduction of suicides and unintentional shooting, because I think that’s where the safety piece is going to have the biggest effect,” said Dr. Peter Greenspan of MGH. Greenspan and Zoe Wolszon, a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, represented the $10,000-grand-prize-winning team, Good Guy with a Gun. Their product is an app that focused on preventing unintentional shootings and suicides.
App looks to prevent unintentional shootings
According to Wolszon, users can access instructional videos and in-person support through the app. The videos offer training on topics such as how to improve your aim and how to install accessories. Individuals can also use the app to find more advanced, in-person training. Those cover such topics as the psychology of stress and suicide risk. The ultimate goal is to make app users become the “good guy with a gun” who are able to integrate new safety practices into their daily habits.
According to Dr. Kristian Olson, a common measure of gun violence is how almost 100 Americans get killed by guns on an average day. Christy Charlot, from team Adore Life, chose do address that with a proposal that centered on community hopes and health.
Adore Life is a platform for people to “anonymously report crimes, have access to mentor opportunities, and begin to create a sustainable framework for the hopes and health of community,” said Charlot. Through an app and a website, Charlot proposed a curriculum to reduce bullying, gun violence and school shootings.
James Wright, from the Sobriety Controlled Guns team, provided a unique perspective as an electrical engineer and a firearm expert and instructor. He is concerned about the large number of firearm-related suicides and the high-level involvement of alcohol use within those cases. His device consists of a breathalyzer and a gun lock. Write presented two iterations of his idea. The first is a cable lock that can attach to a firearm. And the second a magnetic lock to attach to a safe. The device is intended to connect wirelessly to the internet, and loved ones or caretakers will be alerted if the device is activated under influence.
Team Detect and Connect targeted their product at school shootings, proposing an app to help keep students safe. During a shooting, students could use the app by answering a series of quick questions. Their answers would be sent to local authorities to help them pinpoint students’ and the shooter’s locations. One member of Detect and Connect said the next iteration of the app will use “sound detection” to set off an automatic alert after a gun shot.
Although only one team was awarded the prize, all of the teams plan to expand their projects in the future.
“Even if you are not that one team that wins, we want to help you move forward through a number of mechanisms like the CAMtech innovation platform,” said Dr. Kristian Olson.