Two local doctors help out in crunch

Two local doctors have offered to provide part-time interim pediatrics for Jackson County's abused children following the pending loss of the Children's Advocacy Center's permanent pediatrician.

Doctors Linda Harris and Richard Tripoli will cover shifts at the Children's Advocacy Center in Medford while the center continues its search for a new medical director, said center Director Marlene Mish.

"We haven't gotten the problem solved yet, but we're thrilled with the progress," said Mish. "We're trying to fill a compelling need."

Dr. Curtis Oddo, the first full-time pediatrician to staff the center's position, is resigning effective Jan. 31 to pursue missionary work after seven years of service, said Mish.

Harris and Tripoli have agreed to cover at least three afternoons a week, said Mish. Harris is a physician at La Clinica and Tripoli is a retired pediatrician from Las Vegas, she said.

Harris could not immediately be reached for comment.

Tripoli, 61, has been retired only a couple years. Any doctor who has practiced for any period of time — particularly with children — has seen abuse, he said.

"It comes with the territory, unfortunately," Tripoli said.

When Tripoli read a December article in the Mail Tribune regarding the advocacy center's need, he felt called to respond so the center can "still function," Tripoli said.

"I felt my skills were being wasted," he said. "I called and told them I'd do it for two or three months for free."

The doctors will perform noninvasive examinations of the children at the center — where the area's youngest victims of physical or sexual abuse can privately disclose their trauma to law enforcement and child protective workers, she said.

Otherwise, the children would be taken to emergency rooms which can seem cold, sterile and scary — especially to a small, scared child, said Mish.

"This means we do not have to take abused children into the ER and retraumatize them," said Mish.

"Karly's Law," (HB 3328) passed in April, is designed to prevent abused children from slipping through the cracks. The new law requires photos of suspected abuse be reviewed by a designated medical professional within 48 hours, said Mish.

But while the part-time help offered by these two doctors is a great help. The county continues to struggle to find new and permanent funding for a dedicated center doctor, said Mish.

Mish will be meeting with Asante, and Providence and Ashland hospitals to discuss permanent funding for the medical director.

The position has been underwritten by Asante Health System, which previously guaranteed salary and benefits. Asante has spent about $750,000 over the past seven years, subsidizing $60,000 of the position's costs in 2007, said Kent Brown, chief executive officer for Rogue Valley Medical Center.

Asante's future funding has yet to be determined, Brown added. And the center cannot advertise the medical director's position nationally until a stable funding source is in place, said Mish.

Payment for services has also been supplemented by the center, grant funds and offender payments to victims. Black, Chapman, Webber & Stevens attorneys recently donated $5,000 to the cause after reading about the center's predicament, said Mish.

Deputy District Attorney David Hoppe is one of two Jackson County attorneys with caseloads primarily dedicated to prosecuting child abusers. It is extremely important to find a trained child abuse pediatrician who understands what types of injuries and behaviors to look for and can provide prompt medical assessment, he said.

It is also imperative the DA's office have a doctor available to testify in court in order to aggressively prosecute the cases "for the victims, for the family and for society," said Hoppe.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail

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