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Forensics unit tackles child abuse

LOUISVILLE — Dr. Melissa Currie knew something didn't look right when she saw an infant girl with a head injury.

The baby's father said the girl fell out of her seat. Currie, a University of Louisville pediatrician specializing in abuse injuries, figured out otherwise.

"She was shaken and thrown across the room." Currie told U of L medical school students and physicians at a recent seminar. "The important thing is that the baby is now safe."

Currie and the University of Louisville's pediatrics department have established the state's only forensic medical unit for children after being alarmed by Kentucky's high rate of child-abuse injuries and deaths. The unit picks up from a service the state Medical Examiner's Office in Louisville ended in 2006.

The unit, which opened in September 2007, is designed to examine cases of suspected abuse and, when needed, collect medical evidence to prove it. Currie is the full-time director, and works with a part-time physician, three nurses and a social worker.

Currie, 35, said she has been alarmed at the rapid growth in the number of children referred to the unit and thinks its work is increasingly important.