Human Trafficking in the Healthcare Setting


Dean’s Lecture Series presents SONHS Visiting Scholar Heidi E. Schaeffer, M.D. ’98


Heidi E. Schaeffer, M.D. ’98, a nationally recognized human trafficking awareness and intervention expert, recently returned to her alma mater as a Visiting Scholar of the School of Nursing and Health Studies (SONHS). She will speak on “Human Trafficking in the Healthcare Setting” at 1 p.m. Wednesday, December 8, as part of the Dean’s Fall Lecture Series at SONHS.

“This is a beautiful homecoming, as an alumna of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, to come back to an entity so committed to educating our frontline providers,” said Dr. Schaeffer. “Nurses are the backbone of the health care profession, and the UM School of Nursing and Health Studies is passionate about educating not only their faculty but every nurse who graduates from their program in a trauma-informed, victim-centered approach to this special type of population.”

Before her lecture, Dr. Schaeffer will join SONHS Dean Cindy L. Munro in a ribbon-cutting celebration for the Dr. Heidi Schaeffer Academic Lab for Education & Training Against Human Trafficking. Newly named for Dr. Schaeffer’s generosity, this lab is on the first floor of S.H.A.R.E.™ (Simulation Hospital Advancing Research and Education), near the Emergency Department (ED) and Ambulatory Care offices. The location is significant because EDs and outpatient areas are often where health professionals unknowingly encounter human trafficking victims or survivors, and Dr. Schaeffer is committed to collaborating with SONHS to ensure all future health professionals recognize telltale signs of human trafficking captivity and abuse.

Dr. Schaeffer became a SONHS Visiting Scholar in January, after seeing firsthand how nursing faculty at the school are innovating trauma-informed simulation programs to teach students about identifying and assisting human trafficking victims in clinical practice. “The simulated professional patient experience taking place at S.H.A.R.E. is important. It’s one thing to learn from a textbook or lecture, but when you have a ‘patient’ in front of you, and you’re at the bedside, something magical happens,” said Dr. Schaeffer. “It’s that unique boots-on-the-ground education that is going to skyrocket the School of Nursing and Health Studies into a new stratosphere, and I’m really excited to be part of it.”

Dr. Schaeffer is a clinical affiliate assistant professor at the Florida Atlantic University Schmidt College of Medicine and an advisory board member of the Nova Southeastern University College of Health Care Sciences. She has educated emergency department staff and thousands of students and faculty throughout South Florida about human trafficking, collaborated with human trafficking task forces, and served on the executive boards of many human trafficking coalitions. In addition, she has been instrumental in developing and helping to pass victim-focused legislation at local, state, and federal levels and has twice been invited to speak before U.S. Congress members in Washington, D.C. In 2017, she received the State of Florida’s Human Trafficking Advocate of the Year Award.

“We are so fortunate to have Dr. Schaeffer as a committed partner of our program,” said Dean Munro. “Her legislative and clinical expertise are incredible resources as we grow our school’s simulation-based curriculum for educating health providers about the clinical signs and implications related to human trafficking, a global health crisis with devastating consequences in our own state.”

Looking ahead, Dean Munro envisions working with Dr. Schaeffer and other community leaders to create a Center for Human Trafficking Education and Prevention at SONHS, where evidence-based curricula and research will be further developed, disseminated, and scaled to national and international levels. The aim to create this academic center is among the school’s prime priorities for Ever Brighter: The Campaign for Our Next Century, UM’s recently announced $2.5 billion fundraising initiative.

“Human trafficking is an involuntary, nonconsensual act committed against people,” said Dr. Schaeffer. “A lot of us can’t even fathom the depths of despair some of these people endure, so we think it can’t happen to us, it can’t happen to anybody we love, it can’t happen to our kids. But the truth is, there’s no one profile of a victim—or of a perpetrator. Everybody is vulnerable.”

Click here to register for Dr. Schaeffer’s virtual lecture and Q&A.

If you or someone you know is a victim of human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking hotline at 888-373-7888 (TTY: 711), or text 233733.