When Olga Rosa, MD, starts something, she wants to see it to fruition.
On Sunday, Sept. 17, she will be recognized at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Section on Child Abuse and Neglect (SOCAN) national conference in Chicago with the Award for Outstanding Service to Maltreated Children.
“This national award has been given to all my mentors as a lifetime achievement award. When I learned that I would be this year’s recipient in front of thousands of pediatricians, I was stunned,” said Rosa.
“This recognition of Dr. Rosa, along with other national and state awards, affirms the significant contributions she has made to improve the care of abused and neglected children,” said Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital Senior Medical Director Caughman Taylor, MD. “Her efforts have led to an exemplary program to serve children in the state of South Carolina. We are fortunate to have her.”
Rosa became South Carolina’s first fellowship-trained child abuse pediatrician in 2001 and has practiced at Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital for 13 years. Two years ago, Rosa was recognized by the South Carolina chapter of the AAP for developing a statewide response team – the South Carolina Children’s Advocacy Medical Response System (SCCAMRS).
In her role as director of SCCAMRS, Rosa is an advocate for the nearly 15,000 South Carolina children who were abused or neglected in 2015. “In 2015, we were fourth in the nation in physical abuse and we are always in the top ten,” she said. “For every story we hear about in the news, there are more than 300 children we never hear about. One out of 75 children in our state is abused or neglected.”
Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital has always been supportive of this mission. “It takes the full team of medical providers, nurses, forensic interviewers, therapists and victim’s advocates to provide the best care,” said Rosa.
Funding is a constant challenge. “We burst into the limelight in 2014 and 2015 when I fought at the statehouse to have this program mandated in our state budget.” Rosa said the medical component of child abuse is the most expensive part and the state should support this service to protect children. “We have support from Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital and from the community, but it should not be a constant struggle to get state funding for this program.”
Rosa grew up in Puerto Rico and wishes that her mother, who passed away in 2016, could have been able to attend the award presentation. “My career is my way of saying ‘thank you’ to my mom for letting me be what I wanted to be. Because of her, I take pride in the task and learn from it. She taught me to be creative when the road takes you in a different direction than you imagined,” said Rosa.
“It is ingrained in us to protect our children and it is so difficult for us to accept that abuse happens,” said Rosa. “My colleagues and I have seen and heard the plethora of ways human beings can inflict pain on children. If I can stop the cycle of abuse for one child, I consider that a good day. I take comfort in knowing that the child will sleep in a safe environment that night. We do this because someone has to do it.”