Addressing the Doctor Deficit, with Dr. Suzanne Starling

Season 3Episode 5March 25, 2021

Renowned medical expert Dr. Suzanne Starling joins us to talk about the scarcity of child abuse pediatricians and other challenges we face in ensuring that children who have been abused have access to medical care.

Sometimes we forget that the medical response to child abuse as a discipline developed over our lifetime, and what was nascent 30 years ago is now a board specialty, like cardiology or oncology. For all the gains we’ve made in research and practice, though, there are still tremendous challenges in ensuring that all children who’ve been abused have access to medical care. Things like: Why is there such a scarcity of child abuse pediatricians? What can we do to increase the number of physicians willing to care for abused children as a part of their practice? And how can we ensure that abused children—no matter where they live in the U.S.—get the care they need to heal and thrive? In today’s episode, “Addressing the Doctor Deficit,” we speak with a pioneer in the field: Dr. Suzanne Starling, a renowned medical expert and child abuse pediatrician.

Topics in this episode:

  • Accidentally becoming a child abuse pediatrician (1:16)
  • Fewer than 400: A rare specialty (6:18)
  • Barriers to kids getting medical exams (12:27)
  • Family advocates taking the lead (17:30)
  • How public policy can help (23:12)
  • Effect of the pandemic (25:28)
  • What’s next in the field? (31:50)
  • Unintended consequences (36:14)
  • How to get more people involved (41:17)


Suzanne Starling, M.D., is a board-certified child abuse pediatrician who serves as medical director and associate center director of the Chadwick Center for Children and Families at Rady Children’s Hospital – San Diego and clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of California San Diego

American Board of Pediatrics

Sexual assault nurse examiners (SANE) are registered nurses with specialized training in medical forensic care of patients who have experienced sexual assault or abuse

To learn more about teleforensic interviewing, listen to “The Intersection of Technology and Forensic Interviewing” with Debra Poole, Ph.D., and Jason Dickinson, Ph.D. (May 28, 2020)

To learn more about the impact of the pandemic on mental health and advice on how to cope, listen to:

We’re Not All Having the Same Pandemic,” with Rabah Kamal and Carole Campbell Swiecicki, Ph.D. (June 11, 2020)

Can a Pandemic Have a Silver Lining?” with Dr. Danielle Roubinov of the University of California (September 10, 2020)

Transcript to come.