My father had a career in public health, and I grew up admiring his work which was to protect the public from infectious diseases. After medical school, I became a pediatrician. My career in pediatrics was with Kaiser Permanente because I felt that this organization would let me concentrate on providing care to young families without having to worry about insurance forms, etc. Also, I became an Associate Professor at the UCLA school of medicine, where I was a volunteer who mentored the young pediatric residents. A large part of my pediatric practice was to prevent the risks of disease through immunizations, and to prevent the risks of accidents through education.
[pullquote3 quotes=”true” align=”left”]As a young father who wanted to protect and nurture my child, I joined Physicians for Social Responsibility.[/pullquote3]I decided to join Physicians for Social Responsibility because I realized that the gravest threat to children, and to all us humans, is no longer infectious diseases, but a nuclear accident or attack. I felt these risks more acutely in 1980 when my daughter was born and Ronald Reagan started his presidency by calling the Soviet Union an “evil empire.” As a young father who wanted to protect and nurture my child, I joined Physicians for Social Responsibility. I knew the PSR motto: “Prevent What We Cannot Cure” was accurate because the medical community could provide no real help once the terribly powerful nuclear weapons were exploding. I soon became an active member in the Los Angeles chapter, and I was elected to be on the board.
Now, I am a grandfather, and I wish to act once again to try to preserve the life and health of a loved child, and of all children. The only “way out” is to prevent any use of nuclear weapons, and so, these weapons should be abolished. Far from protecting anyone, or making anyone “strong,” these nukes actually threaten to extinguish all human civilization and life on earth. Doctors are expected to tell their patients the truth about their health, even if the truth is something threatening, such as the diagnosis of cancer. Doctors can also help tell the truth about nuclear weapons, even if politicians would rather not upset or worry their constituents. The Health Ambassador Program will give me opportunities to join with other professionals to advocate and educate the public, and the politicians, that a lot more progress is urgently needed to reduce the size and risks of the world’s nuclear arsenals.
Dr. Bill Perkins is a Health Ambassador in the Nuclear Threats Program with Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles