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Academy Assesses Human Trafficking through the Lens of Health Care

By November 19, 2021Featured, News

In the fight against the scourge of human trafficking in the United States, healthcare professionals remain on the frontlines.  Research shows that up to 88% of victims of human trafficking accessed health care during their exploitation. Not only do healthcare professionals have a unique opportunity to identify victims of human trafficking, but they also play a trusted and integral role in a survivor’s mental and physical health during their involvement with the legal system, and in their healing and reintegration in the long term. The 2021 Human Trafficking Academy, Assessing Human Trafficking through the Lens of Health Care: Examinations in Health and Law. Healing with Integral Development, aimed to address these issues by offering 15 courses taught by leading experts in the field worldwide.

Participants in this year’s Academy hailed from over 15 states and internationally.  Their ranks included healthcare professionals, attorneys, service providers, academics, case managers, investigators, students, nonprofits, faith-based institutions, and government agencies.  Together over 1,700 hours of online learning and over 1,000 posts on the discussion boards were completed.

The Academy began with an invocation from Rev. Msgr. Franklyn M. Casale, President Emeritus of St. Thomas University, followed by a warm welcome from David A. Armstrong, JD, President of St. Thomas University, and opening remarks by Dr. Roza Pati, Founder and Director of the Academy.

Through a pragmatic approach that moved beyond the theoretical to actual hands-on application of skills in practice, participants then completed five distinct modules developed by the Academy in consultation with experts, Holly Austin Gibbs, System Director of the Human Trafficking Response at CommonSpirit Health, and Dr. Heidi Schaeffer, MD, Visiting Scholar Faculty of Miami School of Nursing & Health Studies.  In Module One, attendees learned about the various forms of human trafficking as well as identification in a health care setting under the instruction of Professor Laura J. Lederer, JD, Founder of the Protection Project at Harvard University and subject matter expert for U.S. DOD, HHS, and DOJ, and Barbara A. Martinez, Esq., Partner at Holland & Knight and former Chief of Special Prosecutions Section at the U.S. Attorney’s Office SDFL.  Maria Clara Harrington, MS, Training and Outreach Coordinator of the CHANCE Program at Citrus Health Network, shared trauma-informed and person-centered strategies to improve patient engagement and health outcomes for human trafficking survivors based on her 20 years of serving young survivors of human trafficking.

Module 2 discussed principles in practice to improve health outcomes for survivors through diagnosis and treatment.  Dr. Mollie Gordon, MA, MD, of Speaker’s Bureau of the renowned HEAL Trafficking, provided insights on physical health impacts, and Dr. Elizabeth K. Hopper, Director of Project REACH at Justice Resource Institute and Co-Chair of the Mental Health Council for HEAL Trafficking, addressed mental health impacts.  Dr. Ronald Chambers, MD, FAAFP, and Jennifer Cox of the Medical Safe Haven of Dignity Health discussed the role of multidisciplinary partnerships in identifying gaps, creating streamlined referrals, and promoting best practices for equitable access to care.

Health, law and ethical considerations of human trafficking were addressed in Module 3, which included a discussion from Dr. Laura Chilcutt, JD, MD, on various laws and regulations at the intersection of health care and human trafficking, an insightful presentation on ethical issues when treating trafficked persons from Professor Panagiota V. Caralis, JD, MD, FACP, Medical Director at the distinguished THRIVE Clinic of the Miami Miller School of Medicine, and SANE nurse perspectives in participating in the legal process by Angelita Olowu, BSN, RN, SANE-A, SANE-P, a forensic nursing specialist with the International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN).

Special topics in health and human trafficking were presented in Module 4.  The Academy commenced on October 18, European Union Anti-Trafficking in Human Beings Day, and attendees had the privilege of learning about the state of human trafficking globally and in Europe from Professor Ryszard Piotrowicz, Vice President of GRETA, Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (2017-2020).  Professor Dr. Mohamed Y. Mattar, United Nations Senior Expert in Criminal Justice and Clinical Professor of Law at Qatar University College of Law, presented on the international standards and comparative models of organ trafficking.  Topics surrounding the trafficking of persons with disabilities were also examined through the co-instruction of Sara L. Bessell, Esq., Deputy Director of the Human Trafficking Legal Center, and Ericka Reil, a Peer Specialist of Another Way Community Center.

In the last Module, Survivors Who Thrive: The Integral Development of the Whole Person as a Path to Healing, the concept of integral human development as a path to human flourishing for survivors of human trafficking was introduced by Dr. Philip Larrey, Chair of Logic & Epistemology of the Pontifical Lateran University at the Vatican, followed by valuable insights from a course developed by expert survivor leaders in the field: Patty Bennett, MA, Leadership & Anti-Trafficking Movement, Christine Cesa, MA, Human Trafficking Expert Consultant for the U.S. DOS TIP Office, Jessa Crisp, MA, Human Trafficking Expert Consultant for U.S. DOS TIP Office and Co-Founder and CEO of BridgeHope, and Erik Gray, Human Trafficking Survivor Expert and Founding Partner of Queers Uniting to End Exploitation.  “The educational impact of learning from human trafficking survivor leaders is unmatched. Their voice, their resilience, their wisdom should guide all good law, policy and practice,” said Prof. Dr. Roza Pati.

The final Course of the Academy, Survivors Who Thrive: A Fireside Chat with Dr. Roza Pati and The Honorable Robert R. Lung, was offered both online and live at St. Thomas University.  This session explored the factors that contribute to the empowerment of survivors of human trafficking, and the path that they follow to thrive and become leaders in our global community.  Dr. Roza Pati facilitated an insightful discussion with a foremost survivor leader – the Honorable Robert R. Lung.  Among his many accomplishments, Judge Lung has received Presidential appointments to the National Advisory Committee on the Sex Trafficking of Children and Youth in the U.S. (2017) and the U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking (2018), on which he served as Chair until July 2020. Judge Lung also provides consultation to the Department of Justice, the Administration for Children and Families, the State Department, and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), and serves on the Academy’s International Council on Human Trafficking.

The Academy concluded with Closing Remarks by Liza Smoker, Esq., Managing Director of the Academy, and Professor Tamara F. Lawson, Esq., Dean and Professor of Law at St. Thomas University College of Law.

The Academy extends its deep appreciation to all who attended and contributed their knowledge and expertise to make this world-class learning experience possible, including the late John J. Brunetti whose generosity provided survivor scholarships for all survivors who wished to obtain the Certification from St. Thomas University College of Law.