Dr. Kanani Titchen, this year’s award recipient, tells us about her research in child sex trafficking.
Resident physicians famously work very long hours – but some still find time to engage in issues that are important to them.
Dr. Kanani Titchen was just recognized for her “extra curricular activities” with the $25,000 Medelita H.E.R.O. award. Medelita makes scrubs, and the award is meant as a way to recognize residents who inspire their peers.
Titchen is a pediatrics resident at Jefferson Hospital, who won the award for her research on child sex trafficking. Over the past year, she’s been working on a research project to gauge the knowledge and attitudes of doctors toward child sex trafficking.
“One of the things that I found is that most physicians don’t know that child sex trafficking is an issue here in the U.S.,” says Kanani. “It’s a domestic issue; it affects millions of American citizens and [doctors] don’t realize they are seeing these patients in their clinics and emergency departments because they’re not looking for them. They’re not looking for the warning signs.”
One of the things Kanani is hoping to achieve is to educate physicians about the warning signs of sex trafficking and to give them the tools to help those patients.
“A lot of these kids do not come in for regular care,” Kanani says. “They come in for care only when they need it – STDs, traumatic injuries – so when they do present, it provides a critical opportunity for a physician to interview that patient, enter their life for a brief moment and provide a relationship that could potentially help them either in that moment, but more likely, down the line.”
As for warning signs doctors should look for, Kanani says foster care children and children from lower socio-economic classes are particularly at risk. She adds that some tattoos can be a telling sign, because a number of pimps will brand their girls as a way of claiming ownership over their bodies. Other signs include children coming into adult emergency departments, claiming to be older than 18, with repeated STDs, traumatic injuries or repeated pregnancies.
Despite the heavy workload that comes with medical residency, Kanani says pursuing her passion in child sex trafficking research has been well-worth the extra time and effort.
“I’ve always been a person that’s been active in volunteerism,” she said. “Finding the time became easy once I realized that this made me a happier person and that I needed this in my life to be a better resident and a better physician.”