Debra Esernio-Jenssen, MD, FAAP: Spirit of Gainesville nominee

Published: Thursday, August 23, 2012 at 1:56 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, August 23, 2012 at 1:56 p.m.

Dr. Esernio-Jenssen moved to Gainesville in 2010, to become the Medical Director of the University of Florida, Child Protection Team. Dr. Esernio-Jenssen's selfless dedication to improving the health and well being of children in our community makes her deserving of the Spirit of Gainesville Award. Dr. Esernio-Jenssen has devoted her life to serving the most vulnerable population, abused and neglected children. She is a highly sought after mentor and advisor to medical students, pediatric residents and young faculty. Her passion for children shows in her work and she quickly develops rapport with the children she serves as they can sense her sincere concern for their well being.


Dr. Debra Esernio-Jenssen


Category: Medicine

About Dr. Debra Esernio-Jenssen

Occupation: Medical Director-U.F. Child Protection Team

Years in Gainesville: 2

Spouse: Paul Jenssen

Children: 2 sons

Dr. Esernio-Jenssen has reached out to community partners and works collaboratively with law enforcement, emergency room physicians, child advocacy centers in our region, Florida Department of Children and Families as well as the State Attorney's Office to ensure that the children served remain safe and that justice comes for those who abuse and neglect children. New models of care delivery which Dr. Esernio-Jenssen has established in our community are as follows: Established emergency department evaluation of sexually abused children; established emergency department requisite laboratory and radiologic tests for physically abused children; collaborated with Chief of General Pediatrics to establish protocol for medical providers to get immediate assistance for concerns for maltreatment; collaborated with Pediatric Surgery to ensure timely notification to enable CPT Medical Director involvement with seriously physically injured or burned, maltreated victims; collaborated with Chief of Pediatric Emergency Department, Chief of Pediatric Radiology, and the Office of the Medical Examiner to ensure that all infants who die suddenly and unexpectantly get a skeletal survey before transport to the medical examiner.

Dr. Esernio-Jenssen has been invited to speak at the Florida APSAC Neglect Prevention Conference in October 2012 on Drowning. She also has been asked to speak at the Levin College of Law in 2011 and 2012 on various aspects of child maltreatment and long term effects and for Grand Rounds for Surgery, Emergency Medicine, OBGYN and Pathology. She has conducted trainings for community partners on Abusive Head Trauma and cutaneous manifestations of abuse. An additional group that is benefiting from her education and passion is the high school population. Recruiting several residents to help, she has developed and implemented an educational curriculum with adolescents about the "back to sleep" programs to reduce Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. She engages adolescents and motivates them to become aware of the stresses of parenthood in general and dangerous sleep positions specifically.

Dr. Esernio-Jenssen was awarded the 2010 Alachua County Child Advocacy Award for Outstanding Community Service. Dr. Esernio-Jenssen has written a public service announcement that was produced with the help of the University of Florida IT Department, entitled, "Take a Break-Don't Shake." Recorded on both DVD and flash drive format, the public service announcement is currently being distributed to our community partners in the Child Protection Team's twelve counties for their use for abusive head trauma prevention.

Dr. Esernio-Jenssen has contributed so much to the Gainesville community as well as surrounding counties and because of her hard work and selfless dedication to maltreated children, she has greatly improved the quality of life for the children in the community. Dr. Esernio-Jenssen is available seven days per week and encourages physicians and law enforcement agencies to call her any time, day or night, if they suspect that a child has been abused or neglected. She is easily accessible to all involved in the protection of children as she gives them her personal cell phone to reach her day or night. Dr. Esernio-Jenssen's time and personal sacrifice that she puts into her work shows her passion for our community and we all benefit due to her efforts to reduce child abuse.

Submitted by Jennifer Flinn

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