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.
Almost 30 years ago, already a pediatrician, Luberoff became the youngest faculty member in USC’s pediatrics department. About two years in, she was asked to take over a role where she would supervise the collection and processing of evidence in child abuse and sexual assault cases.
“I realized there was a need for more than just evidence collection,” she said. “So, we added in social work and child life specialists.”
Eventually, Luberoff and some colleagues started a clinic that was initially open a few hours on certain days, but grew to the point of being open every day. They took on another faculty member, who specialized in mental health and borrowed space at an orthopedics office before moving into the mental health department.
Over the years, an early version of an MDT formed with the addition of forensic interviewers, victims advocates and guardians ad litem.
Luberoff herself is an important piece of the pie — a child abuse pediatrician, which is a board certified discipline medical students can choose to pursue.
Despite the darkness that surrounds child abuse and sexual assault cases, there is light.
“I actually have fun every single day because I’m working with non-medical people, which medical people don’t often get to do,” Luberoff explained. “Non-medical people are very professional people, very grounded.”
She sees the MDT’s job as putting the pieces of a puzzle together.
“It’s how the medical side — injuries, sex abuse exams — helps decide if other tests are needed and help non-medical personnel interpret the medical reports. I love languages and medicine is a language.”
Her favorite quote is, “A teacher … he can never tell where his influence stops.” To her, that means, hopefully, one of the many people who have attended or watched videos of her lectures will remember something that helps with a case.
“We help agencies figure out whether abuse has happened,” Luberoff said, explaining that about one-third of complaints turn out not to be abuse, which she said is helpful in and of itself. “If law enforcement has questions, they have access to us during the investigation, but, most of the time, I don’t know how the case turns out.”
The intensity of Luberoff’s work will wind down now that she’s announced her retirement. She said she will continue to teach first- and third-year medical students and has just accepted a part-time position with a disability service to help determine what, if any, services potential clients need.
She’s also applied to go back to school, and wants to take classes in things like geology, Italian, astronomy or linguistics. And she plans on being a “professional grandma.”
“I have four grandchildren so far,” Luberoff said, with family in Columbia, Charleston and up in Philadelphia, Pa.
That means her friends on the Kershaw County MDT won’t be seeing her as often. Colleague after colleague said a little something about her impact on their work and lives — and gave her lots of hugs.
All of them said they would miss her, but wanted her to know one thing: what she has done and what she has taught has positively influenced their mission to protect children.