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May 29, 2001

Kellermann fights war against violence

By Michael Terrazas


When Art Kellermann was summoned to the Administration Building for a meeting with President Bill Chace and Provost Rebecca Chopp recently, he was not elated.

“I thought I was being called into the principal’s office for one reason or another,” Kellermann said. Instead, the University president began to discuss the significance of the Scholar/
Teacher Award and how it is a highly competitive prize whose potential recipients are nominated by all of the University’s deans.

Suddenly, the light bulb came on for Kellermann. “I brightened up and said, ‘Oh, you want names? I can give you some!’” he recalled. “[Chace] smiled and said, ‘Perhaps next year. This year it’s taken.’”

Taken, of course, by Kellermann, who officially received the honor at Commencement on May 14. “I was deeply touched,” he admitted. “Given the caliber of the scholars and the teachers we have at this institution, I feel somewhat bemused and out of my league.”

He is not. Known best for his research into gun violence—the oft-mangled statistics that household handguns are such-and-such times more likely to kill a family member than an intruder have their roots in one of his studies—Kellermann also chairs the Department of Emergency Medicine and directs the Center for Injury Control (CIC), having originated both roles.

A typical week for Keller-mann is split among patient care at Grady Hospital, whose emergency department and trauma center treat the victims of Atlanta’s most violent crime every day; performing research, the particulars of which, in Kellermann’s case, often blur the lines between scholarship and public service; administrative duties for his center and his department; and teaching, either at the bedside at Grady or in classrooms, either his own or a colleague’s.

“It really covers the waterfront pretty widely,” Kellermann said.

Currently the CIC is working with the federal justice department on the Strategic Approaches to Community Safety Initiative (SACSI). The multidisciplinary effort pulls together the efforts of prosecutors, community groups, businesses, academia and other sectors to try to characterize the problem of gun violence and implement solutions —before the guns are used to kill.

The new administration in the White House has had no effect on this program yet, Kellermann said, and added the program is one even the most staunch National Rifle Association supporter could love.

“This particular effort should warm any conservative’s heart because it’s focused on a mantra that’s been shouted for years: We need to enforce the nation’s existing gun laws,’’ Kellermann said. “It’s matching law enforcement strategies with community-building, after-school opportunities and prevention efforts that typically, if dropped into a violent neighborhood, will fail like throwing seed on a rock.

“On the other hand, if you break up the rock and spread soil—but have no seeds to plant behind it—nothing’s going to change.”

While Kellermann’s name regularly appears in local and national media whenever some issue related to gun violence captures the country’s attention, his teaching often goes relatively unnoticed. But he understands this is simply the nature of the pedagogical beast.

“In defense of all the teachers at Emory, teaching doesn’t typically carry the kind of visibility that community service or research does,” he said. “So when I give a talk to the violence studies program or in the nursing school, or in the public health or medical schools, much less to a group like Rotary or Kiwanis, that’s generally received and appreciated only by the people in the room.

“But,” he added, “we all know it’s what this place is all about.”


Back to Emory Report May 29, 2001