'This Killing, It Has To Stop,' Says Surgeon Who Treated Wounded Police Officers | KERA News

'This Killing, It Has To Stop,' Says Surgeon Who Treated Wounded Police Officers

Jul 11, 2016

After the shooting in downtown Dallas last Thursday, hospitals had the difficult task of tending to the injured officers. On Monday, doctors and nurses at Parkland Hospital’s trauma center shared their experiences.

Parkland treated seven of the 11 officers who were shot. One surgeon, in particular, said he can’t ignore how race affects him as a doctor.

The shooting last week, which took the lives of five officers, was painful for everyone in Dallas – not just residents, not just police but also the doctors and nurses who tried to save them.

“I think this has rocked some guys to their core, who I thought were unshakeable,” said Dr. Alex Eastman, the medical director and chief of the Rees-Jones Trauma Center at Parkland Hospital. He's also the deputy medical director of the Dallas Police Department.

Eastman recalled last year's incident when a man shot at the Dallas police headquarters. No officers were injured then.

“If you asked me last year at this time, would I ever thought I’d see us shaken like this after the headquarters' attack, many of us thought that was the incident of our careers," Eastman said. "And this makes that pale in comparison.”  

While the events from last week shook many of the doctors and nurses, one doctor especially struggled.

Dr. Brian Williams was the trauma surgeon on duty. He’s black. And he said the pain he felt over the violence happened days before the shooting in Dallas. It started when Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, both black men, were shot by police in Louisiana and Minnesota.

“There’s this dichotomy where I’m standing with law enforcement, but I also personally feel and understand that angst that comes when you cross the paths of an officer in uniform and you’re fearing for your safety,” he said. “I’ve been there. But for me, that does not condone disrespecting or killing police officers.”

Williams said that dichotomy of respecting and fearing police simultaneously came to a head last Thursday. Breaking into tears, he expressed how the deaths of those five officers haunt him constantly.

“I think about it every day that I was unable to save those cops when they came here that night,” Williams said. “This killing, it has to stop – black men dying and being forgotten, people retaliating. We have to come together and end all this.”

Williams believes there’s not enough open discussion about the role race plays in our everyday lives. He believes there’s room for improving race relations in Dallas and beyond.  

For Williams, in that hospital emergency room, he saw a scene reflecting years of racial tension that hasn't been addressed.

For other doctors, like Todd Minshall, who’s white, it was more difficult on that night to put that racial tension into context.

“When you come here, you’re a patient and we do our best to take care of you, so it’s hard for me to put into context that there are still people who don’t treat people that way,” Minshall said. “It’s almost unbelievable to me.”

Parkland doctors say they’re a family, and only time will help them heal from a very tough few days.

Video coverage from the press conference at Parkland