Nurse practitioner noted for helping abused children

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2008 Healthcare Hero
Cheryl Martin-Schroeder

All medical professionals take care of the ill or fragile, but caring for society's most vulnerable patients is a very special calling.

Nurse practitioner Cheryl Martin-Schroeder stepped in to fill a gap in services in the county for physically and sexually abused children. Martin-Schroeder, who works at Dr. Stuart Trust's pediatric practice in Fulton, administers exams for these children every Thursday through the Child Advocacy Center (CAC) of Oswego County.

Thursday used to be Martin-Schroeder's day off.

Olivia VanSanford, director of CAC, says of Martin-Schroeder, "Cheryl volunteered to help child abuse victims when no one else would. The CAC sought a provider for eight months. During that time children were going without an appropriate exam."

Martin-Schroeder has been a pediatric nurse since 1982 and a member of Trust's team since 1984. After graduation, she worked in a clinic for coal mining families in West Virginia. The experience proved illuminating—she says the medical expectations of patients in that area were almost 20 years behind the curve. She worked hard to help change that.

Martin-Schroeder says helping abused children has long been an interest of hers. It was the topic of her Master's thesis. "I just jumped at the chance," says Martin-Schroeder. "I was very happy to do it." She underwent the requisite CHAMP training at SUNY Upstate in September of 2007 under Dr. Ann Botash.

Martin-Schroeder praises the facilities CAC built at 370 S. Fourth St. in Fulton, which allow children to receive their examinations in a less intimidating non-hospital setting, without having to travel to Syracuse. She says the program has giving her the opportunity to work with non-medical professions like the police and Social Services to help improve the lives of her patients.
"Without Cheryl, both the legal investigation and the health of hundreds of children a year would be in jeopardy," says VanSanford. "Cheryl is an amazing advocate of children."

"I try to make it as positive an experience as I can," says Martin-Schroeder. "I try to let them know that they're heroes." She says it's important to alleviate the children's anxiety as well as check for signs of scarring, abuse or sexually transmitted diseases.

After having been in the nursing trade for so long, Martin-Schroeder says she feels rewarded when she meets the children of patients she once treated as children.
(By Chris Motola)