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Home Allies of Sistercare: Recognition of IPV as a Public Health Issue

Allies of Sistercare: Recognition of IPV as a Public Health Issue

Catherine Ross, Ph.D., ACSW, LISW-CP, VSP

Director of Community Clinical & Educational Services                                                                                                  

“According to the World Health Organization, intimate partner violence is a major public health issue warranting a comprehensive health sector response.  It is a highly prevalent problem affecting millions of women, yet it is significantly underdiagnosed by healthcare providers.” – Dr. Catherine Ross, Sistercare’s Director of Community Clinical & Education Services 

Allies of Sistercare is a partnership between Sistercare and USC Medical School to provide community outreach and educational assistance in helping survivors of IPV and their children to live a life that is violence free. 

This partnership began in the Spring of 2020 when a first-year medical student, Alec Giakas, approached me after I gave a lecture on, “Identifying Patients of IPV,” to begin a student led organization that could partner with Sistercare.   Thus, Allies of Sistercare was formed and since then has been actively involved in supporting the mission, goals, and objectives of Sistercare. 

Allies of Sistercare is led by a group of officers with position descriptions and responsibilities unique to each officers’ role ranging from the President, Vice-President, Treasurer, Volunteer Coordinator, Educational Programs Director, Recruitment Chair, and Quest Coordinator.   Advisors to the Allies of Sistercare are Dr. Britt Wilson and Dr. Catherine Ross. 

The goal of Allies of Sistercare is to provide community outreach and educational assistance for various projects as designated by Sistercare. Examples of these projects have ranged from getting needed items on Sistercare’s Wishlist, getting clothing for shelter children attending summer camps, conducting fund raisers, and participating in community activities to raise awareness of IPV. In addition, Allies of Sistercare continues to host a number of “Lunch and Learn” trainingsconducted by Dr. Ross pertaining to the physiological effects of trauma on the body, having survivors share their stories and health outcomes, and general information on the psychodynamics of IPV and how patients may present themselves in a medical setting. 

In 2022, due to Dr. Ross’s involvement as a visiting lecturer at the USC School of Medicine for several decades and her role as an advisor to Allies of Sistercare, USC School of Medicine chose Sistercare as one of five community agencies to partner in a service-learning pilot project focusing on social determinants of health.  This service-learning project is under the direction of Dr. Christopher Goodman, Prisma Health.   Sistercare hosted the first meeting to kick-off this project along with Food Share, the Free Medical Clinic, the Good Samaritan Clinic, and Links to Care.  This opportunity has allowed students involved with Allies of Sistercare to learn more about their community, the social determinants of health, and how to apply that knowledge to the practice of medicine.  In the second year of this pilot project, the Allies of Sistercare will be working on setting up protocols to screen for IPV as well as to set up protocols for follow-up.