Student Life

An American Academy of Pediatrics Campaign: Toxic Stress and Its Impact on Children

uvmmedicine blogger Meredith Sooy '17

uvmmedicine blogger Meredith Sooy ’17

Each year the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Section of Pediatric Trainees (SOPT) coordinates an advocacy campaign for fellows, residents and medical students across the country aimed at improving the lives of children.  This year’s campaign, entitled “Partnering for Resilience: Learn, Empower, and Connect to Address Toxic Stress,” focuses on learning about toxic stress, adverse childhood experiences, and resilience, translating the science behind toxic stress and resilience into clinical work, and learning how to connect families to community resources and leverage community partners. Extremely stressful experiences in childhood, from violence to sexual abuse to divorce, can alter brain development and have lifelong effects on health and behavior. Toxic stress is now understood to be one of the leading causes of everything from heart disease and cancer to substance abuse and depression. Whether you choose a specialty where you are directly working with children or not, it is important that we understand the significant role that childhood experiences play in an individual’s overall health.

This campaign is personally very important to me because of the experiences I had teaching high school students in Brooklyn, N.Y.  These amazing, inspiring, and enthusiastic young people had experienced unimaginable things.  One young girl told me about her life growing up in foster care. A brother and sister that I taught were homeless and moving from shelter to shelter throughout the school year. One boy told me about living with his grandmother after witnessing the murder of his father. I did the best I could to be a supportive; however, I know that these experiences will have a lifelong impact on the health of these kids. While we may not be able to keep children from all of these adverse experiences, it is essential to put into place supports that provide social-emotional buffering to translate what might be toxic stress into tolerable stress.  Our role as providers, community members, teachers, and social workers is to educate ourselves about toxic stress and connect families with resources to promote resilience.

You can learn more about toxic stress and resilience at our first event, a screening of the documentary Resilience: The Biology of Stress & the Science of Hope.  This documentary delves into the science of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and the birth of a new movement to treat and prevent toxic stress. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion of providers, community organizations, and families.  The event takes place on Wednesday, December 14th at 6:30 p.m. in the Davis Auditorium at The University of Vermont Medical Center.  Light refreshments will be served from 6 to 6:30 p.m. If you have any questions about the event you can contact meredith.sooy@med.uvm.edu.

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