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Exterior shot of NYC Health + Hospitals/Jacobi, one of Bronx SART's operating locations.

Every April, we observe Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), and shed light on victims of sexual assault and the PAGNY professionals who treat them with compassion and care. On the SAAM Day of Action, we're proud to feature our Bronx Sexual Assault Response Team (SART), who has provided essential sexual health services to our NYC Health + Hospitals/Jacobi, North Central Bronx, and Lincoln communities since 2004.

Glenda Guzman’s first day on the job as a Physician Assistant in 1995 at Queens Hospital Center set her up for her life’s passion. One of her first patients in the Emergency Department had survived abduction. The case made Guzman emotional and stressed, not only for herself, but more importantly for the patient.

“During this time, there were no sexual assault trainings available to address these important services in the community,” said Guzman. “Women’s health is my passion and I wanted to do something that gives back to the communities where I grew up.”

In 2002, an initiative from the Mayor’s Office, Law Enforcement, NYC Health + Hospitals, and the medical community helped jumpstart sexual assault programs in the city’s public health system. The initiative was designed to improve the care and response times of emergency department services for sexual assault patients. Our health care providers, forensic examiners, social workers, sexual assault advocates, nurses, and administrators work tirelessly to ensure victims of sexual assault receive the medical and psychosocial care and treatment they need in a timely fashion.

In 2004, the Bronx Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) was the first program to service sexual assault patients in its emergency departments. Our Bronx SART programs operate from H+H/Jacobi, H+H/North Central Bronx, and H+H/Lincoln.

Today, SART is led by Guzman, and the team serves the communities surrounding H+H/Jacobi, North Central Bronx, and Lincoln. The team is comprised of eight forensic examiners, Carmen Calderon (SART Social Worker from North Central Bronx) and Dr. Mary Ryan (SART Medical Director from Lincoln’s Emergency Department). The examiners take calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to ensure that every sexual assault victim is cared for and treated appropriately. The examiners see victims ages 13 and above, and perform forensic evidence collection, which includes photographing injuries, documenting patient medical history, conducting physical examinations, and treating STDs and HIV. Our forensic examiners collaborate with law enforcement and the District Attorney’s office, and also testify in court as expert witnesses.

“We meet a lot of patients through the sexual assault response team, and we see the emotional and psychological effects. However, we also have had some good outcomes when we testify in court and see perpetrators being held accountable and justice being service,” said Guzman.

SART sees between 350 and 400 patients a year. On-call examiners manage the care of the patient alongside emergency department staff, while social workers and sexual assault advocates support the patient through the psychosocial process.

We ensure that patients are informed every step of the way. Our examiners make sure that the patient is involved in every decision so they can regain control of their lives. We want to empower the patient so that they can make informed decisions regarding their healthcare choices. Especially after what they have just encountered.

Glenda Guzman

According to Guzman, reporting has gone up significantly over the years due to public education and increased awareness of the program. Guzman’s role is to ensure everyone is trained to be able to provide the best quality of care to sexual assault victims. She is available 24 hours a day to consult on cases and to support her examiners, and credits the amazing work of her examiners and team to the success of the program.

“It takes a special person to be an examiner,” says Guzman, “They do amazing work, helping people in our community, and they should be recognized.”

Glenda Guzman has been a practicing Emergency Medicine Physician Assistant since 1995. From 2005 to 2017, she successfully operated SART in Queens, and is currently the Associate Director of the Bronx SART Program, where she oversees the program at Jacobi. Glenda currently holds professional affiliations with various Sexual Assault Coalitions and the American Academy of Physician Assistants. She also holds advanced degrees, a Doctorate in Health Sciences from Nova Southeastern University and a Master’s in Public Health/Administration from Mercy College. Guzman is the recipient of the 2012 Lydia Martinez Collaboration Award for her outstanding work as a NYC Forensic Examiner by the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault and the 2018 Dedicated Service Award, presented by NYC Health + Hospitals, for her outstanding leadership and commitment to the SART programs.

We are grateful to providers like Glenda Guzman who demonstrate the utmost sensitivity and kindness to the patients who need it most. Thank you, Glenda, for your stewardship and expertise.

This article originally appeared in our Fall 2022 Edition of PAGNY ONE.