Child Abuse Expert at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC Appointed to Task Force on Child Protection

January 20, 2012

PITTSBURGH, PA - January 20, 2012 - Rachel Berger, M.D. M.P.H., a member of the Child Protection Team at the Child Advocacy Center of Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC has been appointed to the Pennsylvania Task Force on Child Protection by Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati.

The task force is a panel created by the General Assembly to thoroughly review state laws and procedures governing child protection and the reporting of child abuse. Governor Tom Corbett and House Speaker Sam Smith also named members to the task force.

“We applaud Pennsylvania’s leaders for recognizing that the state’s child protection laws must be reviewed and that we must take proactive steps to ensure that we’re doing everything in our power to protect vulnerable children,” said Janet Squires, M.D., physician director of Children’s Hospital’s Child Advocacy Center. “We’re also proud Dr. Berger was selected to participate on the task force as she is a leading child abuse researcher and Children’s has one of the state’s leading child protection teams.”

The 11-member task force will begin to examine and analyze the practices, processes and procedures relating to the response to child abuse; review and analyze law, procedures, practices and rules relating to the reporting of child abuse; hold public hearings, accept and review written comments from individuals and organizations; submit reports that will include recommendations to improve the reporting of child abuse; implement any necessary changes in state laws and practices, policies and procedures relating to child abuse, as well as train appropriate individuals in the reporting of child abuse.

Dr. Berger is one of the leading child abuse experts in the nation. Her clinical research involves the development of the nation's first blood test to help physicians screen infants who may be victims of abusive head trauma, sometimes also referred to as shaken baby syndrome. Abusive head trauma (AHT) is the leading cause of death from child abuse and the most common cause of severe traumatic brain injury in infants. In 2009, Dr. Berger received a prestigious five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to conduct a multi-center national study to conduct this research.

In 2011, Dr. Berger was the lead author on a multi-center study which evaluated whether there was a relationship between the economy and the rate of AHT. The study demonstrated that the rate of AHT increased significantly during the 17 months of the recent economic recession compared with the 47 months before the recession in all three regions of the country that were studied.

For more information on Dr. Berger and the Child Advocacy Center, please visit our website.

Andrea Kunicky, 412-692-6254,
Marc Lukasiak, 412-692-7919,