In an effort to continue its mission of reducing firearm injury, and expand the efforts of firearm injury prevention research, the Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention has broadened its expertise with the first cohort of faculty researchers whose appointments fall solely under the institute.
First launched as a presidential initiative in 2019, it became an institute in 2021, and is led today by Patrick Carter, MD and Marc Zimmerman, PhD, who have conducted research in this field for more than a decade. Their expertise and the university’s $10 million commitment over the next five years led to a successful recruiting class of faculty.
The inaugural cohort is made up of five faculty members: Hsing-Fang Hsieh, PhD, MPH, Daniel Lee, PhD, Rebeccah Sokol,PhD, Doug Wiebe, PhD and April Zeoli, PhD, MPH, and brings a wide range of research to bear, focusing on areas such as intimate partner violence, community violence, and school and mass shootings.
Hsing-Fang Hsieh’s research combines resilience theory and multi-domain analysis to understand disparities in firearm injury and how racism and exposure to violence play a role. In an effort to find resolutions to these issues, Hsieh also focuses on the resilience of communities and how groups come together after acts of violence.
“The institute is expanding and as it continues to expand, we build this supportive community for each other,” said Hsieh. “We have really skilled researchers. We have statisticians. We have really skillful program managers, and on and on. So this is really a sufficient resource for me to build my research program within the institute.”
The research efforts of Daniel Lee focus on how structural racism contributes to health disparities related to youth firearm violence and injury. His overall goal is to help inform firearm injury prevention programs that address structural racism among racially minoritized youth.
“I’m also really excited about joining the Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention to work closely with researchers from across many different disciplines to build and strengthen a transdisciplinary evidence base that can speak to the multifaceted ways by which racism contributes to youth firearm violence,” said Lee. “And so, for example, a project that I’m working on with physicians, and epidemiologists, and community psychologists, and researchers from a wide array of disciplines, is we’re conducting a national survey as well as statewide surveys to quantify racial disparities and firearm attitudes and behaviors, as well as to examine racism as a contributing factor to those disparities.”
Utilizing her skills as a behavioral scientist and her background in public health, Rebeccah Sokol examines trauma and trauma prevention in youth and is working to develop strategies that reduce youth firearm violence. Other aspects of her work include identifying families at risk for firearm violence and using machine learning to prevent trauma.
“Advancing solutions to prevent youth firearm violence really requires a lot of different types of resources,” said Sokol. “It requires opportunities for interdisciplinary research. It requires opportunities to engage communities in research. It also really involves opportunities for researchers to learn how to best communicate their results to the public. And that media training, those resources to engage with community partners, those opportunities for interdisciplinary work, those are all supports that the Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention provides. And as such, I believe that the institute is really an ideal place to generate this new knowledge that will hopefully prevent youth firearm injuries.”
Doug Wiebe spends time focusing on how places, policies and locations have implications for firearm injury. Much of his research includes environmental factors, patterns, routines and health condition connections.
“I am delighted to be part of the Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention, at this exciting time as state and federal resources are being committed to firearm injury prevention like never before, and investments from the University of Michigan have set a precedent and helped the Institute emerge as a national leader in this area,” said Wiebe. “In particular now at IFIP, I am excited to help build the careers of the next generation of firearms researchers and work with trainees to create partnerships with communities and organizations, design innovative and impactful projects, compete successfully for grant funding, and lead their own research and prevention agendas with firearms as a focus. It will be key to evaluate our approaches and the effects of our efforts as we go. The Institute is a hub from which we can leverage capacity from across campus to help do this, in what will have to be a multidisciplinary and collaborative process. I am excited to help this Institute make connections with people who can be part of making firearm injury prevention happen.”
April Zeoli conducts interdisciplinary research, with the goal of bringing together the fields of public health, criminology and criminal justice. Her main research interests are in how the use of policy and law can aid in the prevention of firearm violence, intimate partner violence, and homicide. By studying the role of firearms in intimate partner violence and homicide, the way civil and criminal justice systems respond to intimate partner violence, the legal firearm restrictions for domestic violence abusers and the impact on intimate partner homicide, Zeoli hopes to identify ways to protect individuals from potential violence.
“Being part of the Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention better positions me to compete for that funding because I have these interdisciplinary partners I can work with,” said Zeoli. “I have a group of brilliant scientists and researchers I can go to, and ask them to weigh in on my research idea, ask them to collaborate on my proposal, ask them if they think this method is an appropriate method. The collaboration that is available through this institute will enhance my research and the research of my colleagues, and we will submit better proposals because of it.”