A year ago this month, Kathryn Wells, MD, became the new Executive Director of the Kempe Center. A board-certified specialist in child abuse pediatrics, Dr. Wells has brought tremendous experience to this role over the last year. She shared some of her thoughts on the year’s highlights and what we can expect to see from the Kempe Center moving forward.

Q: What was your greatest takeaway from the last year?  What successes are you most proud of?

A: What I’m most proud of is the staff and faculty at the Center. They are committed to the work and to our ongoing growth, development and innovation. They have all shown a willingness to engage actively during this time of transition and I’m truly humbled and impressed by how everyone has stepped up; from strategic planning to researching the field to looking at what we bring to the table and what we can all contribute moving forward together.

Another highlight this year was building external relationships. We are most successful when we’re informed by partners and experts in the field about where we are best equipped to engage. Our partnership with the Foundation has also continued to flourish, allowing us to best serve our most vulnerable kids and families with efforts like the CARENetwork. 

Q: In what ways is the Center connecting communities and systems to support families and children?

A: Over the past year, we have made steps to further integrate tele-education and consultation services to expand our reach and offer our expertise across multiple disciplines to a broader community. The CARENetwork has allowed us to communicate with a network of designated healthcare providers in a community response to child maltreatment. We have also deepened our longstanding commitment to the support of systems facing complex and complicated cases of child maltreatment through a major restructuring of our START program. 

Q: What originally inspired your work in the child maltreatment field?

A: I can recall several experiences in my early career as a general pediatrician in a small rural community that influenced my beliefs and commitment to the work we are doing at the Kempe Center. One particular example is a child I saw in my practice who had injuries that I believed were concerning for abuse, resulting in a mandatory report to child welfare and law enforcement. The investigators sought a second opinion from the Kempe Center that ultimately led to the opinion that the injuries could have been accidental. It was at that time I learned about the Kempe Center and the expertise it held and became driven to not only seek additional training but also is the basis of my deep commitment to improving systems that serve our most vulnerable children and families and the professionals that serve them. I am now honored to lead the Kempe Center in that work.

Q: What are some things we can expect to see from the Center in the future?

A: During this past year, the Kempe Center has initiated an intensive strategic planning process that will focus on achieving our mission and vision. We have evaluated our scope of work and are considering how we can adapt our current efforts to expand our reach and promote collaboration across disciplines to better serve our community. This process has included a tremendous amount of work including an internal culture and climate survey, an all staff retreat and over 50 key interviews with stakeholders in our professional community.

The Kempe Center will announce a strategic 5-year plan this April that will include the tactics and timeline for how Kempe plans to move into the future. To learn more about the Kempe Center, click here