He was shot when he was 17—but his injuries motivated him to help others heal

May 9, 2018 4:54 pm, Last Updated: May 22, 2018 4:52 pm

Shooting victims often become advocates for gun control and safety. However, this man took a different route.

Dr. Joseph Sakran is 40 years old, and is a trauma surgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland.

People become doctors for a variety of reasons. Sometimes their motivation is as simple as wanting to help people. Other times the reason is more personal.

In 1994, Sakran was attending a high school football game in Burke, Virginia. After the game he was hanging out with friends when a fight broke out.

Sakran wasn’t involved in the fight, but it would change his life for ever.

Someone drew a gun and began firing into the crowd.

A .38 caliber bullet struck Sakran in the throat, and ended up lodged in shoulder. He was only 17 years old.

Sakran a year before he was shot. (Courtesy of Joseph Sakran)

Sakran was critically wounded. He suffered an injury to his carotid artery, a ruptured trachea, and an injury to his left vocal cord, which is why his voice is slightly raspy.

Doctors worked to save his life, and in the process, influenced Sakran’s career choice.

“That moment inspired me. It inspired me to try to figure out how do we give other people the same second chance that I was given, and it’s what got me to go into medicine,” Sakran explained to The Epoch Times.

After the shooting, Sakran reflected on his experience and realized he didn’t want his life to be wasted.

He wanted to use his life to make a difference in other people’s lives.

Sakran shortly after the shooting. (Courtesy of Joseph Sakran)

Sakran attended George Mason University with the intent of applying to medical school.

In 2000, Sakran began his studies at The Medical School for International Health in Israel, which is a collaborative program between Ben-Gurion and Columbia University.

After graduating in 2005, Sakran was 27 and began his residency at Inova Fairfax Hospital in Virginia.

That’s when he treated his first gunshot wound patient.

Sakran operating on a patient. (Courtesy of Joseph Sakran)

“It was a very profound moment because not only was I taking care of victims that were similar to my own incident, but also I was treated at Inova Fairfax Hospital,” Sakran recalled.

He was also working with surgeons that had operated on him when he was 17.

“That was a very surreal moment,” Sakran remembered.

Sakran was passionate about becoming a trauma surgeon, and continued his studies after medical school and his residency.

He later completed a fellowship in Traumatology, Surgical Critical Care, and Emergency General Surgery at the University of Pennsylvania in 2012.

Afterward, Sakran took a faculty job at the Medical University of South Carolina.

While Sakran was passionate about medicine, he also had an ardent interest in public policy as a result of his own gunshot wound experience.

“It inspired me to become a trauma surgeon, and then it inspired me try to figure out how do we work at the intersection of medicine and public health and public policy,” Sakran said.

His interest in public policy motivated him to take an educational sabbatical at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government to study public policy, economics, and leadership development.

“This is a public health crisis that we’re dealing with. This is not Democratic problem, it’s not a Republican problem, this is an American problem that we’re seeing,” Sakran said.

For Sakran, the medical and policy aspects of gun violence go hand in hand.


“In this country we see gunshot injuries and deaths on a daily basis, and I would love nothing more than not to have to care for such patients because these are preventable deaths,” Sakran said.

The hardest part of Sakran’s job is having to tell family members news about their loved ones that will change their lives forever.

“Sometimes the memory of those faces are chiseled into my mind,” he explained.

In September of 2016, Sakran began working at Johns Hopkins Hospital.


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Sakran treated a patient recently, and the experience really stuck with him. The patient had been shot in the head. He was 17 years old, the same age Sakran was when he was shot.

He was speaking with the patient, and told him about his own experience when he was 17. He let him know that he knew what he was going through.

“He looked up at me, and it was a very special moment because I think he was able to look at me in a different sense, that I understood what he had been through and that he could now relate to me a lot better,” Sakran recalled.

“I’m just so grateful to be able to have the ability to care for such patients. It’s the most gratifying experience ever.”