Area nonprofits, physicians lead sexual assault workshop for OUWB medical students
An image of OUWB medical students at the assault workshop
More than two dozen students attended the “Sexual Abuse and the Medical Field Workshop” hosted by the OB/GYN Interest Group (OGIG) and the Pediatric Interest Group (PIG).

With hopes of raising awareness and exposing students to the resources available for victims of sexual assault, two OUWB student organizations recently worked with area nonprofits and physicians on a critical workshop.

“Sexual Abuse and the Medical Field Workshop” was hosted by the OB/GYN Interest Group (OGIG) and the Pediatric Interest Group (PIG).

The event was held at Corewell Health William Beaumont University Hospital in Royal Oak. More than two dozen students attended. Five facilitators led stations, including representatives from Care House of Oakland County, Haven, and clinical faculty from the hospital’s OB-Gyn, pediatric, and emergency departments.

It was the second year of the event created by Melanie Ermler, M2, and president of OGIG for 2022-23.

“From a social justice standpoint, it’s an important topic in general because it affects a lot of people,” says Ermler. “With regard to our medical education, I view it more like these are patients we’re going to see so we should know how to treat them appropriately.”

Max Troyke, M2, president of PIG for 2022-23, said the event adds to information medical students receive via OUWB’s curriculum. PIG was part of the workshop for the first time.

“There’s a lot that we have to learn in the process of becoming physicians, and a lot of that is not able to be conveyed through a PowerPoint,” he says. “If you’ve got someone who’s coming to you, whether it’s a child or an adult, it takes sensitivity…it takes tact.”

An image of OUWB medical students at the assault workshop
Melanie Ermler, M2, and Mackenzie Schmidt, M3, listen to Care House's Nicole Dekker.

OUWB’s curriculum touches on sexual assault in several ways, says Troyke.

But it’s a topic that he says calls for as much understanding as possible so that physicians are prepared to treat victims of sexual assault in a clinical setting.

“Exposure and practicing being in that situation will help us better help people farther down the road,” he says.

That’s why organizations like Care House wanted to be involved, says Nicole Dekker, a forensic interviewer with the nonprofit.

CARE House is Oakland County’s only children’s advocacy center and aims to assist victims of child abuse in various ways.

Dekker says that since physicians are mandated reporters — meaning they have a legal obligation to report suspected or known instances of abuse — it’s important for them to have an understanding of what happens to victims after they leave a doctor’s office.

“I want students to take away a better idea of how we gather statements…assess credibility, and really assist law enforcement with charging criminals of child sexual abuse,” she says.

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Other stations during the event dealt with similar topics. Representatives of Pontiac-based Haven talked about the services it provides for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. The services include shelter, counseling, advocacy, and more. They also talked about what exactly happens when a person is referred to Haven for help.

Sangeeta Kaur, M.D., associate professor, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, led another station aimed at helping participants better understand chronic considerations of patients who have experienced intimate partner violence in physical and/or sexual form.

“Truthfully, that’s where most of you will see the patient,” she said to the students. “Their long-term follow-through.”

 Kaur presented a hypothetical case in which a 35-year-old woman who is pregnant declines several procedures that are normally conducted, such as a pelvic exam and more.

It’s exactly the kind of thing that Ermler said she wanted participants to talk about when she came up with the idea for the workshop.

“(Abuse) is a lot more common than people realize, and victims interact a lot with those in the medical field,” she said. “It’s all about raising awareness and exposing students to the resources that are out there.”

Dekker credited the student organizations for hosting the event.

“It’s awesome,” she said. “I have doctors in my family and I’ve talked with them about the type of training and education they received on this topic and it was not a lot. It’s really incredible that this type of workshop is happening.”

To request an interview, visit the OUWB Communications & Marketing webpage.

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