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Put me out of business, trauma doctor pleads after U.S. Navy Yard shootings

A lone bouquet of flowers is left at the base of a statue at the Navy Memorial in Washington, to honor the victims of the attack at the Navy
A lone bouquet of flowers is left at the base of a statue at the Navy Memorial in Washington, to honor the victims of the attack at the Navy

By Susan Heavey

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A doctor who oversaw the treatment of multiple victims of Monday's mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard is seizing her time in the spotlight to call for an end to gun violence.

Janis Orlowski, the 57-year-old chief medical officer at the MedStar Washington Hospital Center, has worked nearly a decade at the facility, a top trauma center that frequently treats victims of gun violence in a city still plagued by drug crime.

Before that, Orlowski worked for more than two decades in Chicago - another U.S. city that has long battled shootings.

But it was Monday's mass killing at the Navy installation in the nation's capital that motivated Orlowski to speak out on the controversial topic of curbing gun violence, although she did not offer specific policy prescriptions.

"There's something wrong here when we have these multiple shootings, these multiple injuries... The only thing that I can say is: We have to work together to get rid of it," she said at a news conference on Monday, calling such violence "evil."

"I would like you to put my trauma center out of business. I really would ... We just cannot have one more shooting with, you know, so many people killed," she said.

Monday's shooting left 13 people dead, including the suspected gunman, 34-year-old Aaron Alexis, a military reservist with a history of violence and mental problems.

The incident has again stoked debate about what, if anything, the government should do about gun violence after Congress failed to pass any measures following the shooting deaths of 20 children and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut in December.

President Barack Obama and several Democratic lawmakers acknowledged Monday's mass shooting, and some said they hoped to renew bipartisan efforts to address gun violence. But most stopped short of calling for specific action.

The National Rifle Association, which has lobbied heavily and successfully against gun curbs, did not address the debate after Monday's shooting but on its website offered condolences for the Navy Yard victims.

Some commentators blasted Orlowski, saying she used the victims' misfortune to make a political point and was furthering a liberal agenda.

But there was praise too, including from Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne who said on MSNBC that Americans must ask, "How do we follow that doctor's prescription?"

The Washington Business Journal has reported Orlowski will soon leave her hospital post for a health policy-related job at a national professional organization without naming the organization. A hospital representative did not reply to requests for comment.

On Tuesday, Orlowski said too often people want Washington to fix society's problems but that Americans need to act themselves.

Orlowski said she worried that her call for change would fade just as other pleas following other mass shootings in Connecticut, Colorado and Arizona. "But you know what? If we don't say something, if we don't speak out, then shame on us," she told MSNBC. "I mean every word of it."

(Reporting by Susan Heavey; Additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Richard Cowan; Editing by Karey Van Hall and Cynthia Osterman)

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