Pioneering Child Abuse pediatrician retires
Camden, SC – Dr. Susan Breeland Luberoff may not be from or live in Kershaw County, but she has helped county and municipal law enforcement agencies here change the way child abuse and sexual assault cases are investigated for nearly 30 years. Luberoff’s focus has been on the forensics of such cases — the collecting and processing of evidence by medical personnel and translating that work into language and processes members of law enforcement can use in their investigations.
A Lexington County resident, Luberoff is a pediatrician and long-time faculty member at the University of South Carolina’s (USC) department of pediatrics who has known Camden Police Chief Joe Floyd for about 45 years. Early during Floyd’s career in Sumter, he and Luberoff worked on the initial grants — as did a team in Arizona — that helped create what are known as MDTs, or multi-disciplinary teams, across the country.
MDT members come from the worlds of law enforcement, child advocacy, social services, health care and other disciplines. The Kershaw County MDT, for example, consists of representatives from the 5th Circuit Solicitor’s Office, Department of Social Services (DSS), local guardian ad litem program, Family Resource Center, Child Advocacy Center, The CARE House of the Pee Dee in Florence, SisterCare, Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office and Camden Police Department (CPD).
When he and Luberoff met in Sumter, Floyd was working in his department’s criminal investigative division.
“She was the go-to person for child abuse and sexual assault,” he said during Luberoff’s last meeting with the Kershaw County MDT on Dec. 8 in the CPD’s training room. “She inspired one of my Sumter investigators to go to (the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division) to investigate child and sexual abuse. She’s a credit to the medical field because she made a difference in many people’s lives by protecting children.”
Luberoff noted to her younger colleagues that their Sumter days pre-date cell phones, tracking each other down via landlines. That was then, this is now. Luberoff complimented those same colleagues by saying she “learned something every single time” she attended an MDT meeting.
But it was those same colleagues who said the same, only in reverse.
“We’ve learned very much from you,” CPD Victims Advocate Dena Horton said. “The impact of your touch on our cases — our superiors have always said, ‘You have no idea how fortunate you are to have her.’”
One of Luberoff’s other colleagues said she first saw the pediatrician in a video presentation dealing with sexual assault victims. They said the video was “painful to watch,” but that it taught them a lot.
Another MDT member said anytime Luberoff’s name is mentioned, people are in “awe” of her work.
Luberoff appreciated the comments, but said she sees her work as being part of a pie.
“I’m very careful to stay in my piece of the pie,” she said, “and trust the rest of the pieces of the pie to do their job. All the pieces are equally valuable.”
She added that she does like to make sure the different pieces are communicating with each other.
Other MDT members talked about how they were initially shocked at the direct, blunt references to body parts and functions, but realized it was “OK, despite being uncomfortable.” They said Luberoff had a way of not minimizing those processes, but getting the concepts across in a way so that they and their colleagues could receive it.
“My goal has been that, for whoever attends those lectures, they leave with a new skill or an improved skill,” Luberoff said, especially when it comes to not just understanding medical terminology, but having that understanding positively impact the investigation of such cases.
“I have always been left with another tool I case use to protect children and prosecute these cases,” he said.
Luberoff has, as one colleague pointed out, testified in court. There have even been times, they said, when a judge appears uncomfortable with the terminology Luberoff has to use, but that she manages to ultimately put them more at ease.
“I testify on things specific to the case so they understand the medical part,” she said, explaining that sexual assault cases can typically take two years to get to court. “Family court allows DSS up to 45 days to investigate to make a determination and, if they say to go forward, it usually takes a few months to get to court.”