Mohler Lecture at McPherson College Features Expert on Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention

By McPherson College
March 03, 2015

McPherson College is pleased to present alumna Dr. Kathy Melhorn ’77 – an expert in the prevention of child abuse and neglect – for its annual Mohler Lecture on March 8.

Dr. Melhorn will present “Child Abuse and Neglect: Do we have the Evidence and Courage We Need to Make a Difference?” starting at 4 p.m. in Mingenback Theatre on the campus of McPherson College.

Her lecture will cover what researchers and physicians know about child abuse – and what researchers still need to learn. While she said research methods continue to improve the prevention of abuse and neglect, the problem is still far from solved.

“I think that’s important to acknowledge that we don’t have all the answers to this problem,” she said, “And what we need to do to address that.”

The percentage of people who have experienced abuse in their life may be surprising – some studies of adults reporting on their childhood experiences suggest up to 10 percent of the population has experienced abuse or neglect personally, Dr. Melhorn said.

Dr. Melhorn is a clinical professor in pediatrics with the University of Kansas School of Medicine – Wichita, certified in both general pediatrics and child abuse pediatrics. She has worked across the state of Kansas in a variety of ways to help young victims of abuse and neglect. In addition to direct patient care, she also has consulted on the subject, provided legislative testimony and public policy recommendations, and investigated possible cases of death resulting from abuse.

Previously, Dr. Melhorn served as the Residency Program Director, Department of Pediatrics at the University of Kansas School of Medicine – Wichita and continues to help with supervision in the program.

While occasionally she works with cases where abuse or neglect has clearly happened or cases where, on the other extreme, abuse has clearly not played a role, she usually deals with sorting out a difficult gray area.

“Really my job is to sort out what is and isn’t abuse, because kids get injured all the time accidentally,” she said.

To fill in that gray area, Dr. Melhorn and those whom she works with make frequent follow-up visits after initial warning signs.

In addition to covering current research and advances in preventing abuse and neglect, Dr. Melhorn’s lecture at McPherson College will also describe where society needs to move to continue bringing the rates down.

She’ll also present a challenge to those attending and any who read about her lecture – take personal responsibility to prevent abuse. She’ll equip audience members with signs that could be red flags of possible abuse, such as injuries that don’t match the explanation, kids reacting in fear to a particular person or location, or children wearing long sleeves or pants that are inappropriate to the weather.

Anything suspicious should be reported, Dr. Melhorn said, either to an abuse prevention agency or with an emergency 911 call if a child’s health or safety seems to be in immediate danger.

“How would you feel if you didn’t report it and the child was severely injured or died?” Dr. Melhorn said. “Giving people the courage to report it is one of my goals.”

Dr. Melhorn and her husband, Mark, have been generous benefactors to McPherson College, providing the lead gift for the construction of Melhorn Science Hall on the MC campus, in honor of their parents.

The Mohler Lecture is free and the public is invited and encouraged to attend. The Mohler Lecture series marks its 40th anniversary this year and is the oldest endowed lecture series at McPherson College.

It was started in 1975 through the generosity of Dr. Robert and Mrs. Fern Shoemaker Mohler to enrich a variety of academic experiences at McPherson College. From meteorite expert and MC professor H.H. Nininger at the inaugural lecture, to “Roots” author Alex Haley in 1987, to Holocaust survivor Gerda Weissman Klein in 2003, the Mohler lecture has showcased the diverse range of human experience and intellectual thought.