A prominent Memphis-area surgeon was shot and killed in what’s believed to be a targeted attack.
The shooting is the latest incident pointing to an alarming increase in violence against physicians nationwide.
Physician Benjamin Mauck, MD, was shot and killed while working at Campbell Clinic in Collierville, TN, on Tuesday, July 11, 2023. The suspect, Larry Pickens, 29, of Memphis, was reportedly taken into custody within 5 minutes of the shooting. He has been charged with first-degree murder and aggravated assault.
According to police records, the incident occurred in an exam room at around 2 p.m. By then, Pickens had been at Campbell Clinic for several hours. At the time of the assault, Pickens and Dr. Mauck were the only people present in the exam room. Pickens fled the clinic after the shooting and was apprehended by police.
Chief Lane also praises how Campbell Clinic staff handled Tuesday’s active shooting. Many other staff members and patients were in the clinic, but there were no additional injuries. Campbell Clinic is an orthopedic clinic—with eight locations throughout the greater Memphis area—that specializes in sports medicine, oncology, surgery, and rehabilitation.
Dr. Benjamin Mauk
Dr. Mauk was 43. He and his wife, Rhiannon Mauck, had two children. He had been with Campbell Clinic since 2012 and specialized in hand, wrist, and elbow surgery. In addition to seeing patients at Campbell Clinic, Dr. Mauk worked at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, where he ran the Pediatric Hand Clinic. A graduate of Lambuth University and the University of Tennessee-Memphis, Dr. Mauk was well known for his work throughout Memphis. He was named one of the city’s “Top Doctors” in the June 2023 edition of Memphis magazine.
Violence against physicians
Dr. Mauk’s tragic murder is the latest among increasing violence cases against physicians and other healthcare workers. These attacks have been on the rise in recent years. Evidence of this increase has been documented in numerous ways. Not only have these cases been documented in major news stories—including stories about this case and the June 2022 shooting at a Tulsa, OK, medical center that killed four healthcare workers— but also statistics from survey data.
For instance, according to the 2022 American College of Emergency Physicians survey, the number of emergency physicians who reported being assaulted within the past year increased by 6%. Respondents to MDlinx’s recent physician survey also reported a sharp increase in violence over the past few years.Related: Unsafe haven: The rise of violence against physicians in the workplace
Several reasons for this increase have been suggested, and likely, a combination of factors, including the stress and fear of the COVID-19 pandemic, understaffing, increased wait times, and the current political and social climate, all play a role. While some of these factors certainly affect those in other professions, physicians are in a unique position that makes them more likely to be on the receiving end of anger.
Daniel Boyer, M.D., a pathologist who has been practicing medicine since 2013 and who serves as a medical reviewer for online healthcare publications dedicated to public education, says he believes that the way information circulates on social media also plays a role in anger toward physicians.
“Though it has been there since the beginning, we have seen a great escalation in the past few years,” Dr. Boyer says. “I believe this stems from massive misinformation happening across social media against medical science and doctors as a whole. [It’s really] people more aggressive against doctors and other medical professionals.”
This spike in anger and violence toward physicians and other healthcare personnel has legislators in some states, such as Utah, considering targeted laws to protect healthcare workers. In theory, these laws would be similar to state laws that enforce more substantial penalties for assaults against police officers or government workers. Wisconsin already has a law making battery against certain medical workers a felony.
It’s uncertain if any of these conversations among state lawmakers will lead to new laws, and it remains unclear whether those laws would lead to greater safety for physicians. However, it’s notable that these measures have been suggested. The issue of physician safety, and the rise in violence against physicians, has garnered lots of attention, becoming a subject of major news stories, professional studies, and political discourse—and it seems likely to stay one until solutions are found.