During the second world war Margaret’s parents were among the leading scientists in Washington DC. Margaret’s chemist mother led government’s effort to create synthetic rubber. Margaret’s father, a theoretical physicist, worked on the Manhattan Project and later helped develop military radar. Her father, retired at 92 years of age, living in Redlands, still prizes a letter from War Secretary Stimson acknowledging his service to the nation. Her parents were politically progressive. They subscribed to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Her mother participated in Democratic politics in Colorado, where Margaret grew-up.
Margaret attended the University of Colorado as an undergraduate where she studied economics and Russian. Her parents however persuaded her to pursue a career in the sciences. In the 1970’s, she relocated to Seattle, attending the University of Washington, where she received advanced degrees in physics and bioengineering, and later a medical degree. From 1982-1989, Margaret performed her residency in brain surgery at Loma Linda University, and, later, a fellowship in neuro-oncology at the University of California, San Francisco.
Wanting to serve the poor, Margaret elected to work, from 1993 to 2000, at King-Drew Medical Center. Here she witnessed the unabated horror of gun violence. King-Drew sees three thousand trauma incidents per year, half of which are penetrating wounds, knife and gun-shot wounds.
“Every single day of those seven years at King-Drew I treated gunshot victims,” Margaret recounts.
In the mid-1990’s, she recalls how the news media rushed down to King-Drew when a small child had been shot in his car-seat while the family was driving on the freeway. “I answered the reporters’ questions,” Margaret said, “but they were so naive. They asked if this was the youngest person ever that was shot. Of course, it wasn’t. And it bothered me that they failed to ask about the other nine other people who had been shot that day.”
In the 1990’s Margaret worked with the Los Angeles County Violence Prevention Coalition, Handgun Control and Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles. She spoke at press conferences and testified before city councils.
Dr. Wacker is currently a surgeon at Kaiser-Permanente in Fontana. She regularly travels into Los Angeles to participate in PSR programs.
“Physicians for Social Responsibility is an amazing organization,” she said, “they take on the war in Iraq, all the current craziness and lies. I need PSR because the issues keep changing, and PSR offers the support I need to stay current.”