What began as one physician’s personal crusade to raise awareness about human trafficking has grown into a health system-wide initiative to combat modern-day slavery. Santhosh Paulus, MD, site director of Huntington Hospital’s family medicine residency program, recently spearheaded Northwell Health’s first symposium regarding the victims human trafficking and how hospital staff can recognize signs of human trafficking.
Human trafficking is an issue close to the heart of Dr. Paulus. In 2015, he and a team bicycled across the country to raise funds and awareness about human trafficking. Two years later, Dr. Paulus created a human trafficking response program taskforce at Huntington Hospital, which currently includes more than a dozen staff members who have been trained by Restore NYC, an anti-trafficking organization based out of Manhattan in New York to identify victims and assist human trafficking victims and provide longitudinal care to survivors.
In the next phase, that taskforce will train Huntington Hospital emergency department and Dolan Family Health Center staff to recognize a potential human trafficking victim and how to help them. Northwell Health Community Health Investment Officer Ram Raju, MD, anticipates that this training will be rolled out through the Northwell Health system.
“Human trafficking is a pervasive issue and as a leader in health care, I am proud that Northwell Health is developing this training program and working to help this vulnerable population,” Dr. Raju said.
The training, led by Dr. Paulus and the Huntington Hospital taskforce, will involve six sessions done in person and also is available online through Northwell Health’s iLearn system. The first level of training involves making both clinical and non-clinical staff more aware of human trafficking. The second phase will show clinical and non-clinical employees separately how to recognize potential signs of human trafficking victims. The final level of training is for the taskforce and nurse managers, who will be available 24/7, to assist when a potential victim has been identified.
Huntington Hospital’s symposium, held on January 12, featured Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office Assistant District Attorney Stacy Skorupa, Suffolk County Police Department’s Sargeant Frank Messana, Gallerani Consulting Group’s Tabitha Gallerani and Mentari’s Shandra Woworuntu, who is a human trafficking survivor.
“I appreciate all of the support that I have gotten from Huntington Hospital’s administration and am looking forward to seeing this program rolled out to all Northwell Health hospitals,” said Dr. Paulus. “As a father of four girls, I will do everything that I can to make an impact on this important issue.”
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