$2.5M donation expands child abuse treatment program at U of M

A $2.5 million gift will help a child abuse treatment program at the University of Minnesota expand its reach.

The Otto Bremer Trust's donation will help launch the state's first child abuse fellowship training program and pay for an additional pediatrician specifically trained in child abuse treatment.

The gift will also bolster the University's telehealth capabilities, allowing its specialists to consult with pediatricians across Minnesota and in neighboring states.

There are 26 fellowships across the country designed specifically for child abuse. But none exists in Minnesota, nor in North and South Dakota.

Dr. Nancy Harper, medical director of the newly renamed Otto Bremer Trust Center for Safe and Healthy Children, said the new fellowship should increase the number of child abuse specialists in the state.

"Physicians like to stay in a similar region to where they were trained," she said. "So this is important to get physicians that are trained in child abuse not just into Minnesota, but into a lot of the upper states."

Minnesota has just four board-certified child abuse pediatricians. Two work at the U of M.

Dr. Joseph Neglia, who chairs the University's pediatrics department, said there's a severe shortage of child abuse specialists — there are only 324 practicing doctors nationwide.

"Of these 324 pediatricians across the country, over 30 percent are over the age of 55," he said. "The need for more trained specialists is paramount."

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