Child Abuse Doctor Trains Fellows with Grant Assistance from the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians
Early this year, Children’s Fund increased its support for abused children through a partnership with San Manuel Band of Mission Indians. The $333,333 support is for increased medical services at the Children’s Assessment Center (CAC) in San Bernardino, which provides care for the most vulnerable children who have been severely neglected, and physically or sexually abused.
The large grant from the San Manuel Tribe will enable one existing fellow to graduate and fund year two (of a three-year program) for another forensic pediatric fellow.
Nationally, there are not enough board-certified forensic pediatricians in the United States, and over half of them are set to retire within the next ten years. Few medical professionals are entering the field of forensic pediatrics.
“The best way for the CAC to secure more child abuse medical staff is to offer Forensic Pediatric Fellowships, essentially growing and retaining local expertise.” said Dr. Amy Young, the Medical Director at the CAC.
Dr. Young herself, is that local expertise she speaks of. As a young child, she watched her maternal grandmother and mother work at the Kaiser Hospital in Fontana. Although neither attended college, through hard work, both women moved up the ranks. When she was little, her mother would walk her through the hospital halls.
“I would see all these older men in white coats, and my mom would say, ‘See them, you know, you’re going to be one of them…you’ll be a doctor,’” said Dr. Young. “I was like, ‘Oh, that’s what I want!’”
Education was always the dialogue in Dr. Young’s family. Because her mother and father struggled because they didn’t attend college, the conversation was always, ‘You’re going to college and we’ll figure out how to afford it.’ Dr. Young vividly remembers driving to Redlands every weekend with her family when she was very young. They would start at one end of Sunset St. and drive the length of the street. Her mom would say, “If you’re a doctor one day, you could live here.”
Dr. Young was in high school when she learned that her grandfather had a drinking problem, and was abusive to his family. He eventually left his family, leaving her grandmother (a waitress) to raise seven children on her own, including her father. Based on stories she was told by her grandmother, she knows that her dad witnessed violence and likely was abused himself. That realization made an impact on her.
As time passed, Dr. Young found herself on a path to college and medical school. In her first year of college, she and her brother started a summer camp for children who were homeless or living in domestic violence shelters. She always loved summer camp, which was a splurge for her parents, so she wanted to pass on those memorable experiences to these children. Dr. Young had no money but found a Loma Linda Adventist camp that offered to host them for the summer. Together with their college friends, they brought up their first group of kids for a week-long camp.
“It was an eyeopener. A lot of children came without any belongings, just a throw pillow from a couch and some clothes in a grocery bag. No sleeping bag, or bathing suits,” she said. But that is not all they brought. Once they got to camp, they found that most of the children had head lice. They had trouble contacting the families to take care of the lice, and ended up treating the children themselves. Dr. Young says she had underestimated the instability that existed in their homes. Many of the children disclosed abuse and sexual abuse. The camp counselors learned how to write child abuse reports and what to do to make sure the kids were safe. The following year, they were more prepared for the summer camp and received funding from Loma Linda Children’s Hospital Foundation and Erin Lastinger, the daughter A. Gary Anderson, a co-founder of Children’s Fund.
After several summers, and when their camp ended, they were really attached to the children. They missed them and wanted to see them again. One of the domestic violence shelters invited them to an event at the beach where the children would be. The shelter also invited the men who were making progress with anger management and domestic violence program to the event to spend time with their kids.
At one point, a little boy kept splashing his dad with water. Dr. Young could tell that the father was beginning to get angry so she went into the water to tell the boy that he should probably stop doing that. But before she could get to him, the father picked the boy up by his neck and started dragging him out into the ocean and was dunking him under the water and holding him down. She ran to him and began hitting the father on his back and doing everything she could to get him to let go of the little boy.
“The police came and the little boy survived. But that left a big traumatic memory in my mind. I had never seen abuse much at that point,” says Dr. Young. “That was the turning point for me. I needed to figure out how I could help women and children who had been victims of domestic violence.”
Dr. Young finished college and went to medical school at Loma Linda University. She knew she wanted to practice medicine in a way that would help children who had been victims of abuse.
She was in her fourth year of medical school when she met a severely-abused baby girl while doing her rotation in the ICU unit. Initially, she tried to change her rotation to something else, but was unable to. She believes it was fate that kept her there because she and her husband eventually adopted that baby girl.
Dr. Young was assigned to care for her, never really leaving her bedside. She grew attached to her over the months, and when she realized the baby would eventually be entering foster care, she decided she wanted to be her foster care mother. Her new husband agreed after meeting the baby and bonding immediately with her. The couple brought her home just days before Dr. Young graduated from medical school.
It was these life experiences, plus a lecture from a child abuse doctor, that make Dr. Young realize she was meant to be a child abuse doctor. Loma Linda Children’s Hospital has been her home since then. She attended medical school and did her residency there. As soon as she got her license in her second year of residency, she began doing child abuse consultations.
“As soon as I was done with my residency, I started as a child abuse doctor and did rotations at the CAC,” she explains. “That’s pretty much where I’ve done most of my work from the very beginning.”
Dr. Young became the CAC’s associate medical director in 2014 and then the Medical Director in 2017.
Her vision is to create a “medical home for children in foster care” where treatment is trauma-informed and holistic, looking at everything from medical needs to educational needs, to advocacy issues and mental health. But she acknowledges that we need to train more child abuse doctors to accomplish that goal.
Dr. Young explains, “Fellowships in general can be difficult to pay for. They are more sub-specialized than residencies, and you have to secure funding for three years, which is the length of a residency, before you can bring a fellow on.”
Having the funding from San Manuel has allowed the CAC to hire three fellows. The first fellow is fully trained and now works full time at the CAC. The second fellow has about 14 months left of the program and has signed a commitment to stay when she’s done.
Dr. Young states that they are building the workforce up to the level they need to accomplish the county-wide healthcare system, and to accomplish what she has been aiming for her entire adult life.