As a pediatric critical care physician, Dr. Ty Berutti regularly sees proof that children are strong and resilient. No matter how grave their illnesses, his young patients face each day with large measures of optimism and hope.
“Kids want to be healthy,” he says. “They have great spirit. They want to smile and they want to have fun and they want to get up and run around.”
He wants that for them, too, and so something clicked when he found Our Kids. He saw how the staff there possesses that same resolve to restore normality to a traumatized child’s life. So he started giving his time to the organization, and he found an area where he was in a unique position to make a difference: educating local doctors about Our Kids services.
Berutti first learned about Our Kids in 2001, when he did a rotation there during his residency at Vanderbilt University Hospital. Working alongside the staff and clinicians who shepherded children through the physical exam and spoke to family members about next steps, he gained insight into the issue of childhood sexual abuse. It gave him the tools to address the issue as a pediatrician.
“The numbers are staggering — 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 7 boys will experience some form of child sexual abuse by age 18 — but seeing the magnitude of it up close hit me,” he says. “I knew it was something that I would see on a regular basis, and now I knew the signs to look for, how to approach it, who to contact, and that once a patient was referred to Our Kids they would take care of everything.”
Going to the hospitals
Over the years, Berutti became a dedicated supporter of Our Kids. He volunteered for fundraising events, bartending at silent auctions and helping with clean-up at Soup Sunday. He got to know the staff and other volunteers well. If a need arose, he happily gave his time. In 2016, he became a member of the Our Kids board.
Meanwhile, he was establishing his career in pediatric critical care and building relationships in the healthcare community. It was only a matter of time before his profession and his volunteer work came together. The opportunity presented itself when he accepted his current position at HCA’s Centennial Children’s Hospital.
HCA operates multiple hospitals in the Nashville area, and as part of the company’s staff, Berutti could easily reach out to its other physicians to spread awareness of Our Kids. He turned to emergency room doctors to gauge their interest in receiving training from the organization about what to do when they see a young patient who has been sexually abused, or suspect that it is an issue.
The response: a resounding yes. Though they will likely see cases of childhood sexual abuse at some time in their careers, most ED physicians don’t have specialized training in how to treat those patients, though they understand the need for it. And so three key staff members from Our Kids met with the ED medical directors for TriStar Health, a division of HCA, for an in-depth discussion about the work that Our Kids does.
“Our discussions made it clear that the ED physicians wanted the education,” Berutti says. “They come from all over the United States, and since they are not local to Nashville, they often don’t know what resources are available. They wanted the answer to, ‘If I see this, what do I do?’ The training was warmly received, and it was a huge relief to these doctors to know that Our Kids is there and will take care of everything.”
By the same token, Our Kids and its future patients benefit greatly from increased awareness of the organization among local doctors. The issue of child sexual abuse has come out into the open in the past decade, and caregivers are more aware of the signs of abuse. But the next steps after a report are crucial, both for the child’s healing process and for the prosecution of the abuser. That’s where Our Kids steps in, and the more doctors who know that, the better.
“Doing that rotation at Our Kids as a resident opened my eyes,” says Berutti. “I didn’t know about them before, and most people don’t know what they do until they need their services. The breadth of what they do is amazing, and they handle everyone involved with dignity and respect. Anything I can do to help spread the word, I am happy to do.”