MSUToday
Published: May 30, 2017

Human trafficking addressed at Osteopathic Summer Symposium

Contact(s): Laura Probyn College of Osteopathic Medicine office: (517) 884-3755 laura.probyn@hc.msu.edu

Alan Janssen, an associate professor of osteopathic medical specialties in the College of Osteopathic Medicine will discuss the important issue of human trafficking during the college’s Summer Symposium, June 23-25 in Traverse City. It’s the first time the topic has been addressed during a continuing medical education program and looks to help physicians recognize human trafficking victims.

In Michigan, the number of reported cases has risen every year since 2012, according to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center.

“Training to identify human trafficking is now a required part of licensing for osteopathic physicians in Michigan,” said Sara Carson, director of continuing medical education with the osteopathic college. “We’re thrilled that Dr. Janssen has agreed to share his knowledge of this important topic with physicians from across the state.”

Janssen, who is also the emergency medicine residency director at Grand Blanc’s Genesys Regional Medical Center, notes that trafficking victims often show physical signs of abuse that medical professionals can detect, but there are also non-physical signs that can be identified if a provider has the right training.

“Is the patient introverted, not answering questions or seem fearful? Is there a mental health history? Many victims have signs of PTSD,” Janssen said. “There is also a certain psychology between the predator and the victim that mesh together. What is their body language with the people they’re with? Do they not know where they are? Victims are moved around frequently.” 

Janssen says that trafficking crimes often go unseen, occurring in many locations and social situations.  

“First, it’s about awareness. If you don’t think it exists, then you won’t see it. You have to understand all the pieces in order to appreciate how critical it is to be on alert, and to be able to recognize these victims. When a victim is identified or suspected, it’s important to provide them with a safe environment and a way out,” he said. 

Health care providers who suspect that a patient might be a victim of trafficking can direct them to Shared Hope International or the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline at 888-373-7888.

Janssen said his outreach efforts are very rewarding.

“I really feel like we have made a difference,” he said. “When I give a talk and a victim comes up to you afterwards and tells me that they’ve experienced what I’ve described, it tells me that I’m not only helping people understand, but I’m helping people heal.”

The Summer Symposium is also open to all health care professionals. To learn more, including costs to attend, visit the College of Osteopathic Medicine’s website or call 517-353-9714. 

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