Where did you grow up and complete your training? Why did you decide to pursue a subspecialty in child abuse pediatrics?
I grew up in Two Harbors, Minnesota. I attended undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin Green Bay and Medical school at the University of Minnesota. I stayed at the U of M for my pediatrics residency. Following residency I spent two years in a child abuse pediatrics fellowship with Carolyn Levitt, MD and Rich Kaplan, MD at Midwest Children’s Resource Center at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.
Most of my career decisions occurred relatively late. In medical school I found that I enjoyed my pediatrics rotations more than any of my other rotations. Not only did I enjoy working with children but I also enjoyed the pediatricians. In residency I did an elective rotation in child abuse and found it very interesting. As residency was coming to an end, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my career, but I didn’t feel ready to get a job. Child abuse pediatrics was not yet a recognized subspecialty, which allowed me to spend the next two years creating my own fellowship.
Describe a typical day for you. What do you enjoy most and least about your job?
My days are quite varied and this is one aspect that I really enjoy. From a clinical perspective I see a mix of outpatient patients with concerns related to sexual or minor physical abuse and inpatient consults with more serious injuries. I spend a significant amount of time consulting with child protection, law enforcement and county attorneys. I have the opportunity to provide court testimony one or two times per month. I also get the opportunity to teach quite frequently. My least favorite part of my job is the paperwork involved.
Outside of seeing patients, describe your work with the Governor’s Task Force. If you could suggest and enforce 3 changes to the child protection system, what would they be?
Over the past decade Minnesota’s Child Protection has evolved into a system where there is little emphasis on identifying if a child is a victim of maltreatment and who has maltreated a child. This is done under the false pretense that children are safer and parents will be engaged in making changes if parents are not confronted about maltreatment. The first change I would enforce is a fundamental change in approach such that there is an emphasis on establishing if a child has been the victim of maltreatment and who is responsible. An increased focus on investigation is often equated with a desire to punish parents, but I don’t believe this is necessarily true. I believe an increased emphasis on investigation and fact finding is critical for effective safety planning.
Second, I believe we should work toward a system that acknowledges and treats the trauma and lifelong consequences of abuse. The Task Force has recommended increased trauma screening in the Child Protection system and I believe this is a crucial first step in moving to a system that focuses on the consequences of early trauma related to maltreatment.
Third, over the past decade Minnesota has seen massive cuts in Child Protection funding. Minnesota provides some of the lowest state funding in the country. If we want a system that effectively protects children, we need to invest in that system.
What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you? What hobbies or activities do you enjoy?
During residency I built a kayak and a wooden motorboat. I enjoy woodworking and I’m currently working on an addition to our home.