Campus News News

Dr. Ira Helfand Addresses Hot Topic

Andrew Gutman
Contributing Writer

Dr. Ira Helfand is a local physician and co-founder of the organization Physicians for Social Responsibility, or PSR. PSR is an organization for physicians that are for the prevention of nuclear war.

“The current organization, Physicians for Social Responsibility, started in 1978 when as a resident just out of med school, I met with two Boston area doctors, Helen Caldicott and Eric Chivian who were also working to stop the nuclear danger. We decided that we needed an organization of doctors and other health professionals to alert the public to the immense danger posed by nuclear power and nuclear weapons,” Helfand explained.

Members of PSR spend a lot of their own time traveling to different places to try and spread awareness about this issue, which is greatly unknown to most of the population.

Helfand spoke Tuesday in Marsh Memorial Chapel about PSR’s efforts spreading awareness about the effects of nuclear war and public health. The chapel was filled as the entire audience was engaged for an hour that was full of disturbing, yet gripping information.

Learning information about the destructive potential of our own creation is not easy for some, but it is necessary as these bombs could prove to be a great threat to everyone and the world that we live in. With the capabilities of incinerating cities in seconds and causing a global cooling that would put us in a 10-year famine, this issue is seen as drastic in the view of PSR.

“Nuclear weapons will cause a catastrophe of magnitude larger than the Holocaust if they are ever used. We can’t repeat the mistake of those who witnessed the Holocaust and did not act to stop it,” Dr. Helfand said and reiterated a few times throughout the lecture.

Helfand has been involved in nuclear safety for many years.

“I first became aware of the nuclear issue reading a book (We Almost Lost Detroit) about a meltdown at the first commercial nuclear power reactor in the US. This event was actually publicized very little at the time. I subsequently read a series of articles that had appeared in 1962 in the New England Journal of Medicine, the leading medical journal in the world, in May of 1962. The information about the magnitude of the medical effects convinced me that the medical profession needed to speak out about these incredible threats to public health,” said Helfand.

Along with his experience as a doctor and many years of research, Helfand’s other group, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985 for the work they had done. The IPPNW was started about five years after PSR to branch out and become more global.

“PSR grew over the next five years to a membership of some 50,000 and similar groups were formed in many other countries and were brought together in a global federation, the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War,” Helfand said.

Although these organizations are not well-known to many, they have been playing an intricate role in trying to get all the world’s nuclear weapons under control. It is much harder than one would think, but it is possible if the proper knowledge is spread to a vast majority of the world.

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