The Mayerson Center
Profiles in Courage and Compassion
Three staff members give us a glimpse of how they care for abused and neglected children and cope with the secondary trauma they experience in the process.
Pratima Shanbhag, MD
Pratima Shanbhag is the newest faculty member in the Mayerson Center for Safe and Healthy Children. She started her fellowship there in 2017 and became an assistant professor in October 2020. She performs medical evaluations of patients who are suspected victims of abuse or neglect.
“It’s my dream job,” she says. “I’m lucky.”
Her patients are children of all ages. Some are adults with developmental disabilities—an especially vulnerable group. A case begins with an open investigation with Child Protective Services or law enforcement for an allegation of abuse or neglect. Then a social worker from the Mayerson Center will do a forensic interview of the patient. Afterward, the social worker will consult with Shanbhag to determine the best course of action from a medical standpoint. That could be a physical exam and/or running tests and following up with treatment, if needed.
“We’ve been learning a lot about trauma-informed care in the center,” she says. “We know our population has been through a trauma, so when I step into the exam room with a child, I am careful in the words I use and with my body language.”
Heidi Malott, LISW-S
Heidi Malott has worked at Cincinnati Children’s for 32 years and was hired to be the clinical program manager of the Mayerson Center by its founder, Pat Myers, 20 years ago. She’s seen a lot of changes in that time, not only within the center but at a statewide and national level.
“The Mayerson Center was one of the first child advocacy centers in Ohio ,” says Malott. “Now there are 28 programs in Ohio, so it’s a movement that is really growing. There are about 780 nationwide, and it’s spreading to other countries.”
The goal of a child advocacy center is to bring all the entities working on a child abuse case together in one place so that families don’t have to travel around trying to coordinate those services themselves.
Says Malott, “Research shows that in communities without a child advocacy center, kids have to repeat a trauma disclosure seven to 14 times, which totally increases their trauma. With a child advocacy center, the child only sits for one interview, and all of the people involved in the case are present to help the family plan their next steps.”