PSR-LA’s Prescription for Survival Campaign – Making the Case in Los Angeles for a World Free of Nuclear Threats

PSR-LA has launched the “Prescription for Survival” campaign to revitalize and grow our efforts to address nuclear threats. The campaign will enable us to build upon our unique legacy and combine the credible voice of physicians with effective, innovative advocacy to build a much-needed anti-nuclear movement in Los Angeles. This year brings critical challenges and opportunities for reducing nuclear threats that can best be met by the full force of medical science and an organized, educated public demanding protective policies.

JimmyposterOur goal is to raise an additional $100,000 annually to fund dedicated staff that can coordinate crucial awareness and advocacy efforts, as well as the resources needed to educate our members, policy makers and the public about nuclear threats.
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Nuclear threats may have ebbed from public consciousness, but the need to protect public health from such dangers has grown ever more urgent. This year, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists moved the hand on the allegorical “Doomsday Clock”, designed to depict threats to humanity and the planet, to three minutes before midnight. The Bulletin was founded by Manhattan Project scientists and made this decision in consultation with its Board of Sponsors (which is comprised of 17 Nobel laureates) by evaluating current global developments such climate change, nuclear weapons modernization programs in the US, Russia, and other countries, stalled reductions in numbers of nuclear warheads, and escalating tensions in Europe, the Middle East, and the South China Sea. Their message is sobering – the risk of nuclear war and the collapse of civilization has increased to levels not seen since the height of the Cold War.

psrposter3It is critical for PSR-LA to redouble our efforts to protect health from nuclear threats. Physicians and health professionals are uniquely suited to articulate the public health consequences of nuclear policies and promote protective policies, and PSR-LA is distinctly well positioned to help them do so. We are the largest PSR chapter in the country, have a history of innovative and effective advocacy, and maintain a dedicated core group of physician members who have been advocating for nuclear disarmament since our organization was founded.

Since the end of the Cold War, however, a diminished sense of urgency for nuclear disarmament has led to a gradual decrease in funding for our nuclear abolition work. Without adequate funding, PSR-LA struggles to maintain, much less grow, this important work that is central to our mission and upon which our organization was founded. We can and must do more.

PSR-LA’s Board of Directors has therefore resolved to launch the Prescription for Survival campaign to secure the financial resources needed for PSR-LA to address nuclear threats of the 21st century. The campaign draws its name from the seminal book by PSR founder Dr. Bernard Lown, Prescription for Survival: A Doctor’s Journey to End Nuclear Madness. Dr. Lown summed up our mission succinctly in his 1985 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech when he said, “We physicians who shepherd human life from birth to death have a moral imperative to resist with all our being the drift toward the brink. The threatened inhabitants on this fragile planet must speak out for those yet unborn, for posterity has no lobby with politicians.”

PSR-LA’s Prescription for Survival campaign will help us grow our efforts to build awareness, ability, and avenues for engagement from the public health community in nuclear policy decisions. To this end, PSR-LA will provide doctors and health professionals with the information and skills they need to be effective and credible voices in the public discourse about nuclear issues. As a direct result of physician advocacy, elected officials and the public will have an increased awareness and understanding of nuclear policy and be motivated to take preventative actions against nuclear threats. Click here to donate now.

Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles (PSR-LA) was founded in 1980 with the mission of reducing threats to public health related to nuclear weapons. At the time, the Cold War between the US and Soviet Union was rapidly escalating and with it, the threat of nuclear war. The global nuclear arsenal was growing toward 70,000 weapons, yet the public was told that a nuclear war was survivable. Physicians knew better. In Los Angeles, a small group of doctors were drawn to the message of the national organization, Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), that there is no meaningful medical response to nuclear war and physicians must therefore work to prevent it. Our founders determined to create a PSR chapter in Los Angeles, the nation’s second largest city, to educate health professionals and the public about the health risks of nuclear weapons.

PSR-LA co-founders Pauline and Richard Saxon MD at 1985 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony.

PSR-LA co-founders Pauline and Richard Saxon MD at 1985 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony.

Early years brought many accomplishments. In 1981, PSR-LA organized a conference on the medical consequences of nuclear war that was attended by over 3,000 people and catalyzed LA’s anti-nuclear movement. The following year, PSR-LA produced a film, Race to Oblivion with Burt Lancaster, which was screened in thousands of households throughout the nation. In 1984, PSR-LA’s physician delegation to the Soviet Union was the organization’s first international effort. In 1985 PSR was the American recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (which PSR co-founded), for building public awareness and pressure to end the nuclear arms race. PSR-LA physicians also traveled to meet with their physician counterparts in China, Germany, Kazakhstan and Great Britain.

The early 90s brought the end of the Cold War, and while tens of thousands of nuclear weapons still plagued the planet, the sense of urgency behind the nuclear disarmament movement began to fade. Other critical threats to health and survival emerged, such as climate change and toxic pollution, and PSR-LA expanded its mission to address them. PSR-LA’s peace and security work continued, however, through physician trainings, legislative visits, lectures, film screenings, and art exhibits. Recognizing that nuclear power also threatens health and the environment with highly toxic, long-lived radionuclides and waste, PSR-LA helped stop a proposed radioactive waste dump in Ward Valley and continues to fight for cleaning up the Santa Susana Field Laboratory, a former nuclear site near Los Angeles. Click here to see a photo gallery of PSR-LA’s efforts to protect health from nuclear threats.

nuclearfaminecoverToday’s global arsenal of 16,300 nuclear weapons, most of which are far more powerful than those that devastated Hiroshima and Nagasaki, represent a clear and present danger to humanity. Thousands of nuclear weapons are on hair trigger alert. Dozens of accidents, near misses, and losses have occurred. Today we also face the threat of nuclear terrorism, with several current global conflicts giving cause for concern.

We now realize the threat from nuclear weapons is even greater than we thought before. A recent IPPNW and PSR report found that a limited nuclear exchange could cause climatic effects that would result in up to 2 billion fatalities. The threat identified by this scientific study may well be the most significant information on the risks of nuclear weapons since PSR’s original work in the 1960’s.

Though the U.S. is obligated by international treaty to move toward disarmament, it recently signaled its intent to go in the opposite direction by pledging to spend as much as 1 trillion dollars over the next three decades to “modernize” the nuclear arsenal and facilities. Major scientific challenges facing us – including how to break our addiction to fossil fuel, stop global warming, dismantle useless and dangerous nuclear weapons, and clean up the toxic legacy of the Cold War — receive lower priority.

Nuclear power continues to be touted as a solution to climate change though it is not safe, clean, or economical, produces deadly long-lived waste that cannot be safely stored, and is inextricably linked to nuclear weapons’ proliferation. Unresolved safety issues mean accidents can, do, and will occur. The 1989 Chernobyl accident released 400 times the radiation as the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, and many scientists believe the ongoing disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan has already dwarfed Chernobyl. Nuclear reactors are also vulnerable to terrorist attack, and to natural disasters such as flooding, earthquakes, and tornadoes, all of which are expected to increase with climate change.

State and national regulations to protect public health from radiation are continually under assault by industry forces and government agencies that are captured by them. In L.A.’s own backyard, the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL), site of a 1959 partial nuclear meltdown and other nuclear accidents, remains polluted with nuclear and chemical contaminants that pose a threat to public health. Agreements to cleanup the site are being undermined by the parties responsible for cleaning it up (NASA, the DOE, and the Boeing Company), as well as the regulating agency the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC).


Bob Dodge MD shows the destructive power of nuclear weapons.

Bob Dodge MD shows the destructive power of nuclear weapons.

The long-term goals of PSR-LA’s nuclear threats program are to 1) recruit and train physicians who can bring the credible voice of physicians to nuclear policy debates; 2) educate and build public awareness about nuclear threats and policy solutions; and 3) organize health care professionals and the public to advocate for health protective nuclear policies.

In 2015, a fully funded Nuclear Threats program would enable PSR-LA to:

  • Increase our participation in the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons campaign, an international movement spearheaded by PSR that is gathering strength and momentum. In response to the campaign, 155 countries – a majority of the world’s nations – support a ban on nuclear weapons. PSR-LA has been active in this campaign, but there is much more that we can do to organize support in Los Angeles by training physicians who can help us reach out to various civic, community, religious, environmental and social justice organizations in Southern California.
  • Utilize the upcoming 2015 Nuclear Non-Proliferation (NPT) review conference to educate the public about US obligations to disarmament as well as the security threats posed by nuclear energy. PSR-LA physicians attended the 2010 NPT Review Conference, and we would like to send a delegation this year to gain a deeper insight into the challenges and opportunities that the NPT provides. These lessons can be brought home to LA and presented in educational events and media opportunities.
  • Organize support for reducing wasteful nuclear spending, including Rep. Ed Markey’s Smarter Approach to Nuclear Expenditures (SANE) legislation, expected to be reintroduced this year, to cut $100 billion over the next decade from the U.S. nuclear weapons budget. PSR-LA physicians will meet with Congressional leaders from Southern California on this and other budget considerations.
  • Advocate for nuclear reactor safety initiatives, including efforts to shut down the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant until PG&E can prove the the reactors can withstand potential earthquakes on nearby faults, which were recently discovered to be capable of creating ground movement larger than they were designed to withstand. A reactor accident at Diablo Canyon could impact tens of thousands in Central California and potentially millions in Southern California should southerly winds prevail.
  • Increase efforts to achieve full cleanup of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory and proper disposal of radioactive debris from the site, including working with communities that may be impacted by that waste and/or are similarly impacted by problems related to improper or inadequate regulation by DTSC.

Implementation activities include:

  • Train physicians and other health care professionals to be active and engaged in policy around nuclear weapons, nuclear energy, cleanup and disposal of radioactive materials, and protective radiation exposure guidelines.
  • Educate policymakers on the importance of implementing strong security, energy, and radiation safety policies that reduce threats to public health and move us to a clean energy future.
  • Host education and awareness events on pressing nuclear issues, targeting health professionals and also soliciting attendance from the public, policymakers, and media. Events may include lectures, film-screenings, art shows, and issue forums.
  • Engage physicians, PSR-LA members, and the public in advocacy efforts on pressing nuclear issues utilizing the most strategic or appropriate methods, including writing op-eds and letters to the editor, providing public comment, e-advocacy, petitions, phone calls or letters to elected officials.
  • Develop joint strategies and initiatives with PSR National and other PSR chapters as well as allied national and state nuclear watchdog, peace, environmental, public health, and justice organizations.
  • Build PSR-LA’s website into a comprehensive resource for learning about the health impacts of nuclear weapons and nuclear energy.

DDhiroshimaDenise Duffield – Denise Duffield is PSR-LA’s Associate Director. She has provided support for and coordinated PSR-LA’s peace and security efforts since 2004. Denise has helped organize educational events on nuclear threats including lectures, film screenings, conferences, vigils, commemorations, and even a flash mob. In 2008, Denise launched the Physician Ambassador program to provide issue and advocacy training to physicians and health care professionals. She has organized physicians to speak to nonprofits, churches, student organizations, and other civic groups about nuclear threats. Denise also arranges physician participation in visits with legislators, e-advocacy, sign-on letters and petition efforts. She has coordinated physician testimony at local government and regulatory hearings on nuclear issues, and has secured media interviews, op-eds, and letters to the editor for PSR-LA physicians. Denise also leads PSR-LA’s efforts to cleanup the nuclear and chemical contamination at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory, organizing community participation in proposed cleanup decisions. Through these efforts, Denise has developed a solid knowledge of nuclear threats and policy solutions as well as strong relationships with numerous organizational allies who also work to address them.

DodgeRobert Dodge MD – Dr. Robert Dodge is a family practice physician in Ventura, California. He became active in the peace movement as a college student at the University of Colorado, Boulder in the 1970′s where he majored in molecular, cellular and developmental biology. He went on to receive his M.D. at the University of California at Irvine and completed his residency in Family Medicine at Ventura County Medical Center. Dr. Dodge became active with Beyond War’s Ventura group in the 80′s, and currently sits on the board and serves as a voting member of the renewed international Beyond War group. In 2002, following the release of the U.S. Nuclear Posture Review which advocated policies that could ignite a renewed global nuclear arms race, he began Citizens for Peaceful Resolutions ( as a grassroots coalition. Dr. Dodge currently serves as the group’s co-chairman. He is on the board of PSR National and serves on its Security Committee. Dr. Dodge also serves on the board of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. He frequently speaks and writes on issues related to nuclear security and global sustainability and is a firm believer that the individual can make a difference if only they will.

Jimmy Hara MD, FAAFP– Dr. Jimmy Hara has served on the PSR-LA Board of Directors since 1981, including service as Chapter President for 15 years and now Vice President. He has served on the National PSR Board as Pacific Regional Director and has been active with the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW). He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. Dr. Hara’s wife and two sons were start to finish participants of the Great Peace March for Nuclear Disarmament in 1985. Dr. Hara is Professor of Family Medicine and Interim Associate Dean for the College of Medicine of the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science and Professor of Clinical Family Medicine for the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. He is also the Family Medicine Director Emeritus for the Kaiser Los Angeles Center for Medical Education. Dr. Hara has been a volunteer physician at the Venice Family Clinic for four decades and was a member of the Venice Family Clinic Board of Directors for thirty years and now serves on the Board of Trustees of the Venice Family Clinic Foundation. He is the Founding Director and Advisory Board Chair of the Los Angeles Albert Schweitzer Fellowship and is currently on the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship National Board of Directors. Dr. Hara also serves on the Board of Fire Commissioners for the Los Angeles City Fire Department.


Dr. Jose Quiroga is a cardiologist and co-founder and director of medical services at the Program for Torture Victims (PTV). He serves on PSR-LA’s Board of Directors, and as a vice-president of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT). Dr. Quiroga worked as a personal physician to a Chilean president, Salvador Allende, before fleeing Chile after the coup d’état in 1973. On September 11, 1973, CIA-backed Chilean military army, led by General Augusto Pinochet, launched a coup against the democratically elected Unidad Popular Government of Salvador Allende. A team of doctors including José Quiroga and a few officials were the only ones to stay with the president at the palace La Moneda. Dr. Quiroga left Chile with his family in 1977 after increasing harassment and threats under the Pinochet regime, and secured a position at UCLA as an associate researcher in public health. He soon began working in close collaboration with a refugee from Argentina, psychologist Ana Deutsch. Together, they co-founded the Program for Torture Victim (PTV) in 1980, and Dr. Quiroga established a medical arm of the program at Venice Family Clinic. Dr. Quiroga urges doctors to get involved in the community and politics of one’s country to impact and to make change in the society. In 2008, his leadership was instrumental in helping PSR-LA successfully pass state legislation condemning medical professionals who participate in torture.

MargaretWackerDr. Margaret Wacker joined the board of directors of Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles in 2006. Her commitment to peacemaking has very deep roots — during the Second World War Dr Wacker’s parents were among the leading scientists in Washington DC. Her chemist mother led the government’s effort to create synthetic rubber, and her father, a theoretical physicist, worked on the Manhattan Project and later helped develop military radar. Margaret attended the University of Colorado as an undergraduate where she studied physics and mathematics. She also had an interest in politics and languages. In the 1970’s, she relocated to Seattle, attending the University of Washington, where she received a master’s degree in physics, later she studied bioengineering and the received her medical degree. From 1982-1989, Margaret performed her residency in neurosurgery at Loma Linda University, and, later, a fellowship in neuro-oncology at the University of California, San Francisco. Dr. Wacker worked 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. In the 1990’s Margaret worked with the Los Angeles County Violence Prevention Coalition, Handgun Control and Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles.

Bill Perkins MDDr. William E. Perkins is a semi-retired pediatrician who was a member of the Board of Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR-LA) for over 25 years and continues to serve the organization as a Peace and Security Ambassador. PSR-LA is the local affiliate of the Nobel Peace Prize winning national organization, Physicians for Social Responsibility. Dr. Perkins graduated from Yale Medical School in 1968 and then did his pediatric internship and residency at the University Hospitals of Cleveland. From 1971 to 1973, he served in the U.S. Army as a doctor in pediatrics and was stationed in Anchorage, Alaska. He joined the Southern California Permanente Medical Group after the army, and became a partner in the department of pediatrics. He was the chairperson for the committee on Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect at the Kaiser West Los Angeles Medical Center. He has been a mentor as a voluntary faculty member at U.C.L.A. for over 25 years. Dr. Perkins has always had an interest in the health of children. He came to realize that the gravest threat to children of this world would be the use of nuclear weapons. This became personal when his own daughter was born.

farideh_kiouhmerFarideh Kioumher MD is the Founder and Executive Director of the International Health and Epidemiology Research Center (IHERC), a non-profit organization dedicated to the research and prevention of epidemic diseases. As part of that mission, she established the innovative Anti-Violence Campaign for Peace project in 1994. Dr. Kioumehr-Dadsetan received her D.V.M. degree from the University of Tehran. She continued her education at the University of Michigan, School of Public Health, in Ann Arbor, Michigan earning her M.P.H. and Dr.P.H. degree in the field of Epidemiology. She served as a Director of the Health Planning Department, and taught as a professor at a medical school and school of Public Health for many years. She was awarded the American Public Health Association’s first Sidel-Levy Award For Peace in 2008. This award is given to public health professionals who make great contributions toward promoting international peace and stopping war.

With your support, PSR-LA will revitalize our role as the leading voice in Los Angeles working to protect health from nuclear dangers. Please give today! Together, we can create a healthier, safer world.

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You can donate above or mail a check to PSR-LA, 617 S. Olive Street, Suite 200, Los Angeles, CA 90014. Please be srue to indicate that your gift is for the Prescription for Survival Campaign. For more information contact Denise Duffield at 213-689-9170 or