Christchurch GP, Clare Healy, was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) in the New Years Honours 2022 for her services to medical forensic education. The commendation came for her education and policy work for Medical Sexual Assault Clinicians Aotearoa.
Clare has spent over 25 years working with, and for, people affected by sexual assault, family violence and strangulation, including over 20 years teaching clinicians to assess and help victims of sexual assault.
It was a weekend training course in 1996 that opened Clare’s eyes to the prevalence of sexual assault. Once Clare realised how many of her patients might have been sexually abused or assaulted, she couldn’t look back and started on a journey which later saw her become a sexual assault forensic medical examiner.
Clare helped develop robust and internationally respected training programmes for clinicians in sexual and family violence and to train police sexual assault investigators.
“That [education] became a very important part of my life, really,” she says, “helping other people develop language and understanding on how to talk about sexual assault and family violence. And also form some skills in what is now called ‘trauma informed care’.”
She is now the clinical director of Christchurch’s Cambridge Clinic and says it is the collegial support of the sexual assault clinicians’ group that helps her keep working in a sad and difficult field.
She takes strength that, while clinicians can’t change the bad experiences their assault patients have been through, they may be able to help lighten their load. “You treat them with respect, give them some choice, reassure them and possibly make them feel better going forwards.”
Congratulations to Clare for her amazing achievement and her continuous work in the community.