Dr. Rebecca Girardet has been named the first director of the Division of Child Protection Pediatrics in the Department of Pediatrics.
In addition, a fellowship program in child abuse pediatrics has been established, one of just three in the state and 22 nationwide. Dr. Sharifa Glass is the division’s current fellow.
“The need is great to train more physicians in child abuse pediatrics,” said Girardet, who leads a statewide network of child abuse pediatricians and is an associate professor of pediatrics. “They need to learn injury patterns that can give us clues as to whether the injuries came from natural processes, or were the result of abuse. They need to learn to be effective advocates and to present information in court so that the right decisions are made to protect children. And they need to learn communication skills to work with law enforcement, Child Protective Services, and families.”
UTHealth’s Child Abuse Resource and Education (CARE) Center is a state-recognized child abuse center of excellence. Directed by Girardet, the UTHealth CARE center is part of the Texas Medical Child Abuse Resources and Education System (MEDCARES) established by the Texas Legislature in 2009. It includes clinical care, education, research, and prevention efforts.
Girardet also directs the Forensic Assessment Center Network (FACN), which the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services chose UTHealth to lead in 2006. It has been developing and maintaining a statewide network of child abuse pediatricians who provide consultation and ongoing training for Child Protective Services (CPS) and Child Care Licensing (CCL). FACN physicians are available around the clock to CPS and CCL investigators to answer questions and provide information.
“Dr. Girardet’s appointment and the creation of this new division offers us the opportunity to enhance our service to our community in an area that is too often overlooked in health care,” said Dr. Brent King, professor and chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine and interim chair of the Department of Pediatrics. “Our vision for a healthy future for all of our neighbors begins with a healthy childhood, and Dr. Girardet and her team will help to identify children at risk and teach the healthy parenting practices that are so important to the next generation.”
Girardet is medical director of the Harris County Hospital District Forensic Nurse Team, a member of the honorary Ray Helfer Society, and a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. She is a member of the Texas Pediatric Society Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect and a former member of the state Pediatric Centers of Excellence Advisory Committee.
The new division includes board-certified child abuse pediatrician Dr. Sheela Lahoti, associate professor, and has academic affiliations with child abuse pediatricians Dr. Margaret McNeese, professor; Dr. Kim Cheung, assistant professor; and Dr. Christopher Greeley, associate professor. Along with Girardet, they provide expert clinical consultations in cases of child abuse or neglect in outpatient settings as well as Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital and Lyndon B. Johnson General Hospital, part of the Harris County Hospital District. Cheung is chair of the Harris County Child Fatality Review Team and a member of the Texas Child Fatality Review Team.
Published research of the CARE Center has included diagnostic testing for sexually transmitted diseases, unmet health care needs among sexually abused children, and the epidemiology of sexually transmitted infections in suspected child victims of sexual assault.
— Deborah Mann Lake, Office of Advancement, Media Relations