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p h i l a m e d s o c  .org


Physicians for Social Responsibility
Philadelphia PCMS
By: Walter Tsou, MD, MPH, and Susan Robbins, MD, MPH

our education about nuclear war by focusing on something that
we could get involved about, youth violence prevention.
Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) Philadelphia is a
nonprofit (501c3) public health organization which has as its
mission the promotion of social responsibility: protecting health,
the environment and communities via education, training, advocacy
and direct service. It was established in 1979 and since then has
focused its programs on two main areas: 1) the prevention and
reduction of interpersonal violence particularly amongst youth,
and 2) addressing environmental health issues. PSR Philadelphia
takes an active public health approach to addressing some of these
threats to our region and beyond, and welcomes physicians, nurses
and other health professionals and students who wish to join in
these efforts.
Interpersonal youth violence is addressed through two major
programs that PSR Philadelphia helped promote in the Philadelphia region. One of these programs is called Youth Courts;
these have taken place in both middle and high schools since the
emember those days when they asked you during your med mid-1990s. These Youth Courts use a restorative justice model
school interview, "why do you want to be a doctor?" And whereby students who require disciplinary actions can have their
you nervously said something like, "I want to help people" issues discussed amongst their peers in a mock court room setting.
Affected youths are encouraged to think about their behaviors and
or "I want to use my scientific skills to help better mankind."
what may have led to their actions, while their peers learn how to
Now, years later, you've gotten totally caught up with third
listen and decide upon appropriate consequences for each youth's
party payers, paperwork, and wondering if there is a way to use
misbehavior. Such Youth Courts have been noted to decrease the
your dormant social consciousness in a more constructive fashion.
number of school expulsions and detentions. The other program
Enter Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) which has been
operated by PSR Philadelphia is the Peaceful Posse, through which
involving medical students and physicians for 38 years in the
groups of students meet approximately once a week to speak about
Philadelphia area.
the challenges in their lives in a safe setting. These groups foster
PSR Philadelphia is a chapter of the national PSR organization, healthy communication and problem-solving techniques with the
best known for addressing the greatest threats to mankind: nuclear intention of reducing violent behaviors while promoting healing
war and climate change. National PSR was founded in 1961 and and well-being.
came to prominence by documenting how children's teeth were
Regarding its promotion of environmental health, PSR Philadelaffected by a highly radioactive waste product of atmospheric nuclear
phia has been involved with convening informational sessions for
testing. This finding was instrumental in leading to the Limited
the public, for health professionals and for elected officials regarding
Nuclear Test Ban treaty that ended atmospheric nuclear testing.
issues such as fracking, climate change, energy sources and pipeline
In 1985, PSR shared in the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize awarded to
routes. Periodically, it has joined with other environmental groups
the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War
in press conferences to bring a health perspective in testimony
(IPPNW); together these organizations built public pressure to
in front of government officials in Philadelphia, Harrisburg and
severely limit the nuclear arms race. Beginning in 1992, the national
other places across the state. PSR Philadelphia wants to "ensure
PSR organization decided to expand its mission to environmental
that public health professionals and public health messaging are
health issues, utilizing the expertise of the medical community to
front-and-center in the Pennsylvania coalition's efforts to tackle
address public health concerns regarding climate change, pollution
climate change." Information on environmental issues, including
and other environmental issues. Locally, Philadelphia PSR modified


30 Philadelphia Medicine : Spring 2017


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