Kellogg '78 works to aid sexually abused children

by JOHN FINE | 11/20/06 6:00am

Dr. Nancy Kellogg '78, an internationally recognized expert on childhood sexual abuse who is severely hearing impaired, attributes much of her professional success to her experience working directly with children. Kellogg says that her hearing deficit actually helps her connect with young patients by bringing her to their level.

"Children, in particular, are used to thinking of adults as being somehow higher than them, smarter than them, and more perfect than them," Kellogg said. "So when I tell the child 'Look, there is something you need to know about me before we start. I have trouble hearing and I might need some help,' all of a sudden they kind of see me in a different way."

Kellogg communicates with the help of a hearing aid and by reading lips, using context to understand what people tell her.

She is currently a professor of pediatrics at the University of Texas Health Science Center and the medical director of ChildSafe, a clinic that works with children who have been sexually abused.

Kellogg, who was initially interested in sports medicine, shifted her interests after serving a medical clerkship in pediatrics.

"I decided I wanted to work with kids. They seemed to be resilient. They seemed to get better, and it was just a nice group to work with. It was really the experience I had that directed me to pediatrics," Kellogg said.

From there, she gradually moved into the field of child sexual abuse, publishing a series of articles beginning in the early 1990s that garnered attention from health professionals throughout the world.

Kellogg wrote "The Evaluation of Sexual Abuse in Children," which was published by the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2005 and is a commonly used guide for clinicians treating children who have been sexually abused.

She will publish another article in the next year calling for pediatricians to expand their roles when dealing with child victims of physical abuse. The report mirrors her studies of child sexual abuse cases and advocates a more holistic approach to treating these patients.

Until recently, pediatricians focused on collecting physical evidence that sexual abuse had occurred, including gathering DNA samples, Kellogg said. She said she believes that the ideal role of a pediatrician is to take care of a child's entire well-being, and considers psychological and familial factors important.

"We have an opportunity to really impact this child's recovery, and impact the likelihood that the child is going to get their childhood back and have a fulfilling life," Kellogg said. "I've kind of brought people back to basics."

Kellogg's program at ChildSafe focuses on addressing the root causes of sexual abuse.

"Based on what we've learned from these kids, sexual abuse doesn't happen in a vacuum," Kellogg said. "In order to help the child, you've got to help the family with their other problems like drug abuse, lack of role models."

The approach works, according to Kellogg, as revictimization rates have plummeted since the program began.

Although she is an expert in her field, Kellogg said that her favorite aspects of the job are constantly learning and feeling that her work is actively shaping a body of knowledge.

"This is a very new field of medicine, and I feel like I'm a part of the evolution of this field," she said.

Kellogg said that attending Dartmouth helped her achieve her current level of success.

She noted that as a member of the second coed class at Dartmouth, she developed a sense of humor in dealing with stressful situations, which she has found relevant to her current job.

"There are just times when you need to find a coping mechanism," Kellogg said.

Advertise your student group in The Dartmouth for free!