(PHILADELPHIA) –The Philadelphia Center for Gun Violence Reporting and the Stoneleigh Foundation today named Dr. Jessica H. Beard, a trauma surgeon at Temple University Hospital and public health researcher at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University, as a Stoneleigh Fellow and the Center’s director of research effective July 1, 2021.
Through her three-year fellowship, Beard will work with the Philadelphia Center for Gun Violence Reporting to deepen the media narrative around gun violence, with the goal of increasing support for policies and programs to curb the epidemic and save lives.
The fellowship will focus on widening the lens of media reporting on gun violence in Philadelphia to provide context, solutions, and varying perspectives.
“Our research indicates that gun violence in Philadelphia is inextricably linked to poverty, environmental factors, and historic and structural racism,” Beard said. “However, we don’t typically see these root causes explored or used to contextualize gun violence in local media reports.”
“We believe that if the public is better informed about the epidemiology, root causes, and solutions for gun violence, this could ultimately lead to increased support for policies and programs to prevent gun violence,” continued Beard.
Beard’s research is anticipated not only to benefit Philadelphia but also other jurisdictions across the United States.
Jim MacMillan, director of the Philadelphia Center for Gun Violence Reporting, thanked the Stoneleigh Foundation for supporting the project and for recognizing the media’s role in influencing gun violence policies and perspectives in Philadelphia.
“I am tremendously grateful for the support of the Stoneleigh Foundation and am honored to work with Dr. Beard on this important initiative,” said MacMillan, a Pulitzer Prize-winning multimedia journalist and former Philadelphia Daily News photographer. “The work of the Philadelphia Center for Gun Violence Reporting is rooted in the belief that advancing the practice of reporting can actually prevent shootings and save lives.”
Beard’s research will aim to elucidate the current state of gun violence reporting in Philadelphia, the barriers to more holistic gun violence reporting for journalists, and how to tell the stories of gun violence in Philadelphia and throughout the country more effectively and empathetically.
Gun violence is a public health emergency in the United States. Each year, approximately 110,000 Americans are shot and 38,000 die from gun violence.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, gun violence rates have skyrocketed in U.S. cities. In Philadelphia, there were 499 homicides in 2020—the highest number since 1990—the majority of which were committed with a firearm. Women and children were more likely to be shot during 2020 in Philadelphia, and more than 20 children died due to a firearm injury in the city.
Nationally, disparities exist in firearm victimization. Young adults, males, and non-Hispanic Black people are at highest risk for violent firearm injury. In fact, firearm homicide is the leading cause of death for young Black men ages 15 to 34 in the United States. Similar disparities exist in the city of Philadelphia.
“Now more than ever, gun violence is an urgent threat to the health and welfare of young people in Philadelphia,” said Ronnie Bloom, executive director of the Stoneleigh Foundation. “The work of Dr. Beard and the Philadelphia Center for Gun Violence Reporting in collaboration with local media will bring more depth, nuance, and action-oriented solutions into the public discourse about gun violence.”
Beard’s recent research has included an examination of “everyday mass shootings” in American cities, a revelation that half of shooting victims go uncovered in the news, and a confirmation that last year’s spike in gun violence followed COVID-19 containment policies.
The Philadelphia Center for Gun Violence Reporting is committed to improving reporting on community gun violence by collaborating with journalists, researchers, and local organizations to raise voices from neighborhoods and broaden the narrative to include a wider range of perspectives.
MacMillan started developing plans for the Center in his role last year as a fellow with the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri School of Journalism.
The Philadelphia Center for Gun Violence Reporting is hosted by the Institute for Community Engagement and Civic Leadership at Community College of Philadelphia and was founded with support from The Philadelphia COVID-19 Community Information Fund created by The Knight-Lenfest Local News Transformation Fund, The Independence Public Media Foundation, The Lenfest Institute for Journalism and The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
“The College is excited that Dr. Jessica Beard will join the Philadelphia Center for Gun Violence Reporting as its director of research,” said College President Dr. Donald Guy Generals. “Alongside the COVID-19 pandemic, last year was a record-breaking year for gun homicides across the United States. To successfully curb the gun violence epidemic impacting the City of Philadelphia and our country, there must be evidence-based and trauma-informed solutions and reporting. I am confident that Dr. Beard will be able to provide guidance on both.”
About Jessica H. Beard, MD, MPH
Jessica H. Beard, MD, MPH is a trauma surgeon at Temple University Hospital and public health researcher at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University. Beard holds a bachelor's degree from Columbia University, an MD from Yale University, and an MPH from UC-Berkeley. She completed her general surgery residency at UC-San Francisco and surgical critical care fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania. As a trauma surgeon, Beard cares for people injured by firearms every day in Philadelphia. She is passionate about firearm injury prevention and is the author of numerous publications examining firearm injury in Philadelphia.
About Jim MacMillan
Jim MacMillan is the founding director of the Center for Gun Violence Reporting at Community College of Philadelphia. He completed fellowships at the Reynolds Journalism Institute, the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma and with the Knight-Wallace Fellows at the University of Michigan, and was a visiting assistant professor at the University of Missouri School of Journalism and Swarthmore College. Previously, MacMillan spent 17 years at the Philadelphia Daily News and photographed the war in Iraq for The Associated Press, after which his team was awarded The Pulitzer Prize.
About the Stoneleigh Foundation
The Stoneleigh Foundation was founded in 2006 by John and Chara Haas to improve the life outcomes of our community's youth. The Foundation meets its mission by awarding Fellowships to exceptional leaders who advance change in the systems that serve these young people.