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Upstate to train doctors to treat child abuse

Upstate Golisano Children's Hospital

Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital will soon be training doctors who want to focus on treating victims of child abuse and neglect.

A new fellowship would certify a physician in child abuse pediatrics. It’s something that’s been around since 2009, and it comes at a time when the number of cases in central New York is on the rise. The McMahon Ryan Child Advocacy Center in Syracuse saw 700 children in their center for child abuse last year, and is on track to see 900 this year.

Ann Botash, an Upstate pediatrics professor and nationally recognized expert in child sexual abuse evaluation, says there’s a need for an expertise that’s needed in helping victims, especially of child sexual abuse.

Credit Upstate Medical Universtiy
Upstate Medical Universtiy
Ann Botash is a nationally recognized expert in child sexual abuse evaluation.

“First of all, kids don’t disclose right away. They might not tell someone for a year later. And then they come to see us. And it’s important for them to see us, because we do an exam. We check them for sexually transmitted infections,” Botash said. “But mostly we’re telling them, your body has healed, everything looks fine and you’re going to be okay. And I think that goes a long way to the mental health healing that needs to happen.”

Upstate would be the second medical school to offer this training in New York state. Botash says doctors that specialize in this aren’t just looking at the clinical cases. They also are involved in the criminal justice system, so they have to learn how to testify in court, and work with other agencies regarding prevention of child abuse.

“It’s not as scientific as some other specialties. If you’re a nephrologist, you know all about the kidney. If you’re a child abuse doctor, you know all about the resources, you know how to differentiate this injury as an accident versus abuse,” Botash said. “What’s missing is really the experience working inter-professionally with other agencies in town, being on a team that even reviews cases on a regular basis. Really a lot of it is in the investigative end but there’s also prevention types of things.

The fellowship is a three-year program.