U of MN School of Public Health alum lifts Minneapolis youth out of street crime and into more promising lives

Emergency physician Dave Dvorak goes beyond ‘treat and street’ to stop the cycle of violence for Minneapolis kids.

A victim of child abuse who ends up in the emergency department would never be treated and sent back to a violent environment without some sort of intervention. But all too often that’s exactly what happens when young people arrive at the hospital stabbed or shot as a result of street crime.

As an emergency physician, Dave Dvorak knows this troubling reality well. As an SPH graduate, he understands the power of viewing violence as a public health issue.

A few years after the city of Minneapolis introduced Blueprint for Action, an initiative to curb violent crime among young people, Mayor R.T. Rybak asked Dvorak to help launch the program’s hospital-based component. At the time, Dvorak was working toward an MPH degree through the executive program in public health practice.

Those political and school connections helped Dvorak implement violence-prevention protocols at Hennepin County Medical Center and North Memorial Medical Center. The work — in which he partnered with Minneapolis health commissioner and fellow SPH alum Gretchen Musicant — served as the basis for his master’s project.

Now when young victims of violent crime arrive at the two trauma centers, they are connected to a social worker who evaluates them on a host of issues — anger management, chemical dependency, mental health, just to name a few. The patient is then matched to any one of 35 community organizations that can help with GED tutoring, job training, breaking from a gang, and other services to cut the chance of repeat violence.

The hospital protocol has been running for just a year, but similar efforts in Baltimore and Oakland have proved to save lives, as well as the financial costs of violent crime.

While the emergency department may seem like a questionable place for initiating big life changes, Dvorak says it’s ideal. “In the hospital, kids are out of their environment and quite often feeling vulnerable,” he explains. “It’s a perfect time to break through.”

By Kristin Stouffer on January 20, 2011

This post was originally published here: http://blog.lib.umn.edu/sphpod/advances/2011/01/sph-alum-lifts-minneapolis-youth-out-of-street-crime-and-into-more-promising-lives.html