- Active community participation as a physician, beyond
the provision of one-on-one patient medical care, always seemed natural.
My concept of "physician" includes being involved with all aspects
of our social and political environment. This seems particularly needed
today, when our political institutions significantly impact the traditional
- Our privileged position as physicians in our society
provides us with a powerful voice in community affairs. When I was the
senior officer in a small community of Army families in the Marin Headlands,
I learned a lot about the inherent community respect and powerful voice
that can be derived from just being a physician. This is particularly true
when there is need for our specialized medical knowledge. The Army offered
several unique opportunities to utilize my specialized training in nuclear
medicine. In my role as the Nuclear Medicine Consultant to the U.S. Army
Surgeon General, I became involved with emergency medical teams preparing
to respond, if needed, to nuclear weapons accidents. Several times a year,
I actually taught classes about the medical aspects of such accidents at
the DOD's Inter-Service Nuclear Weapons School.
- After leaving the Army to assume my current position
as Chief of Nuclear Medicine at San Francisco General Hospital, I continued
to use my expertise in radiobiology and radiation risk assessment in my
role as physician-citizen-activist. I became the sole physician member
of a -appointed citizens' advisory committee that toured and reviewed the
evacuation plans of each nuclear power plant in California. It always seemed
important to share my knowledge about radiation risk, since misinformation
and fear about ionizing radiation often causes political paralysis when
the greater public good requires decisive action.
- When physicians and scientists avoid the heated public
debates about such controversial subjects as ionizing radiation, ignorance
and fear too often triumph over science. Dealing with low level radioactive
waste (LLRW) is an example of such a contentious issue. There are many
benefits to society from the use of radioactive materials. However, these
activities do generate LLRW, which requires safe disposal to avoid human
exposure and environmental contamination.
- I got actively involved in this issue 20 years ago when
Congress passed legislation encouraging states to form groups, called compacts,
in order to share LLRW disposal responsibilities. California is the host
state (i.e. responsible for developing a disposal site within its borders)
for the Southwestern LLRW Compact. I was appointed several years ago by
the governor as one of four LLRW compact commissioners for California and,
am the only physician member of the commission, which controls LLRW disposal
within California and the other Southwestern Compact states. Since many
of the public concerns about LLRW relate to potential health risks, the
presence of a physician commissioner is very helpful at our many open meetings.
- I have continued to be a board member and was formerly
a chairman of the California Radioactive Materials Management (CALRAD)
Forum, a watchdog group of radioisotope users (from medicine, education,
research, industry, and utilities) which seeks to ensure a safe and cost
effective LLRW disposal solution in California. I represented both the
CMA and the University of California on this board. This issue, which has
national ramifications, continues to defy the political consensus needed
for a permanent solution.
- One of my most enjoyable activities is being a board
member of my local Diamond Heights Neighborhood >>Association in
San Francisco. It has been a lot of fun working with my neighbors. They
really appreciate a physician making time for local community activities.
We currently are focused on preventing the San Francisco Police Academy
from moving out of our neighborhood to distant Treasure Island. This issue
has allowed me to meet with elected city officials in a context quite different
from my usual SFMS concerns.
- In summary, I have found it extremely satisfying to interact
as a physician-citizen at various governmental levels and hope that such
extra efforts make a positive difference on the world we share with our
- - Dr. Lull is the president elect of the San Francisco
Medical Society and the chief of staff of the SFGH Department of Nuclear