January 1997 Bulletin

Academy plans program to raise awareness of family violence

"It's OK to talk to your orthopaedic surgeon about family violence."

The Academy is preparing a major initiative on spousal/partner, child and elder abuse:

Developed by the Academy's Task Force on Family Violence, the program is designed to heighten the awareness of orthopaedic surgeons about the issues, ways to identify family abuse and actions that can be taken, said William W. Tipton Jr., MD, Academy executive vice president and chairman of the task force.

The Academy will launch the program at the Annual Meeting with a major presentation at a general session and an exhibit with information about hotlines and services available for abused patients.

Does this type of program produce results? Richard F. Kyle, MD, knows it does. Dr. Kyle became more aware of the issue as a member of the Task Force on Family Violence.

"One day, a woman on whom I had done a rotator cuff repair came to see me," Dr. Kyle said. "She was well dressed, from an upper middle-class family. She complained that her shoulder was bothering her, that she had reinjured it and it was painful."

Dr. Kyle was skeptical when the woman said she twisted her shoulder. He asked her directly how she sustained the injury. The woman was reluctant to answer, but Dr. Kyle persisted.

Finally, she said her husband had grabbed her arm and had twisted it. The woman said her husband had been abusing her. His business was bankrupt and he had started drinking heavily.

Dr. Kyle asked the woman if she needed help and she eagerly accepted his offer. He put the woman in contact with a family counselor at his hospital. Later, he learned that both the woman and her husband were going to family counseling.

"If I hadn't been thinking about family violence because of the work on the Academy's task force, I might not have persisted in finding out about the cause of the problem," Dr. Kyle said.

"I learned that if an abused patient knows that you are interested in their problem, if you show real concern, they're likely to talk about it."

Dr. Tipton pointed out that many abused patients don't realize that a physician can help them in other ways than in treating their injuries. " We have an obligation for the care of the patient," he said.

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