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Nursing Alum Honored for Work with Sexual Assault Victims

Amy Smith, a nurse practitioner at Northwell Health and coordinator of the sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) program at the Hofstra Northwell School of Graduate Nursing and Physician Assistant Studies, was recently honored for her longtime work with sexual assault victims.

Smith won the Lydia Martinez Multidisciplinary Collaboration Award, given by the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault during its 10th annual Celebration of Excellence Awards. The award recognizes individuals who are involved in the coordinated response against sexual violence; in addition to Smith, this year’s honorees include an assistant district attorney, a special victims unit police detective, a volunteer advocate, an assistant professor of medicine who researches violence prevention, a social worker, and a member of a bystander intervention training organization that aims to prevent sexual assault in bars, nightclubs, and restaurants.   

“My passion is working with people who have experienced sexual assault and domestic violence,” said Smith, “so this recognition is not only important to me personally but continues to shed light on these survivors.”

As a sexual assault nurse examiner (also known as sexual assault forensic examiner, or SAFE), Smith provides confidential medical care to victims of rape and other sexual assault in the hospital setting and coordinates follow-up treatment and emotional support.

She has been in the field for 11 years, beginning as a volunteer advocate for survivors in an intervention program at Mt. Sinai Hospital that provided advocacy and long-term counseling for patients.

“As I was responding at all hours to these calls, I saw there was a disconnect between the patients and the very busy ER staff, so I decided to go to nursing school to be able to work in the ER, specifically with these patients,” she said.

After earning her nursing degree, Smith spent four years building the SAFE program at Lenox Health Greenwich Village, one of four Northwell Health emergency departments that have been designated as SANE Centers of Excellence by the state health department for its 24-hour nurse coverage for sexual assault victims. In addition to hiring and training nurses interested in this specialized care, Smith compiled required data on sexual assault statistics and was also a liaison between the facility and the New York Police Department, the Manhattan district attorney’s office, and the community. 

Smith then pursued advanced practice studies, graduating with a Master of Science in 2018 as part of the Hofstra Northwell School of Graduating Nursing and Physician Assistant Studies’ inaugural class of nurse practitioners.  Later that year, she was appointed coordinator of the school’s new, federally funded program aimed at increasing the number of nurses in New York who are trained and certified as sexual assault nurse examiners.

“Our students are learning to provide compassionate care with standardized patients who are trained to represent real sexual assault victims prior to entering the sensitive world of sexual assault,” said Kathleen Gallo, the school’s founding dean and the primary investigator for the grant program. “Amy’s proven skills and dedication in this area make her the ideal person to help lead this effort.” 

Smith now works as an adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner in the emergency department at Long Island Jewish Forest Hills Hospital, where she is also helping build processes around the care of SAFE patients.

“When people in need come to a hospital, there should be people in place with the specialized skills to handle the complicated layers of something that is not just a medical issue, but also a crime,” she said. “I would do this for any place that needed it. It is my life’s work.”

The Lydia Martinez Multidisciplinary Collaboration Award is named in honor of NYPD Detective Lydia Martinez, who was known for her expertise in working with sexual assault victims. The New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault, founded in 2000, works to prevent sexual violence and reduce the harm it causes through education, advocacy and research.

Watch Amy Smith talk about her work with survivors of sexual and domestic assault (beginning at the 5:35 mark):

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