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Astrid Heppenstall Heger, MD

Astrid Heppenstall Heger, M.D. is our Executive Director at VIP, and a Professor of Clinical Pediatrics at the University of Southern California Medical Center. In 1984, Dr. Heger founded the Center for the Vulnerable Child for the evaluation of child abuse.

This was the first medically-based Child Advocacy Center in the world and its success eventually led to the expansion of services for adolescents and adults. Known today as the Violence Intervention Program, Dr. Heger has built the first of its kind, “one stop shop” community Family Advocacy Center, offering medical, mental health, protective, legal and social services to over 20,000 victims of family violence and sexual assault each year.

Dr. Heger has been called on to help replicate this model in hundreds of programs around the world – and in 2004 she piloted the HUB system within the county of Los Angeles which provides dedicated services for children at risk for or already in foster care. Today, VIP’s HUB clinic combines round-the-clock forensic and medical assessments with an ongoing medical home that includes mental health and support services.

30 yrs

of expertise with Treating sexual abuse and assault

After 30 years executing her mission, Dr. Heger remains the pre-eminent expert in the field of child sexual abuse and sexual assault, and is the author of numerous articles as well as the definitive textbook “Evaluation of the Sexually Abused Child,” now in its second edition.  She has served as a commentator on family and juvenile violence in local and national media, and has received numerous honors and awards for her work with victims of abuse including the President’s highest award for victim advocacy.  

Dr. Heger has dedicated her life to protecting and empowering our most vulnerable and precious population – our children – and her tireless efforts continue to impact thousands of lives.


Dr. Heger also serves as a consultant to the Los Angeles County Coroner in cases involving child death or sexual assault in all ages.  She is an avid writer and photographer and has completed a series of short stories about the children that have impacted her life over the past two decades. We are honored to continue to have her serving our community, helping those who need it most.


Cuyana highlight’s Dr. Heger’s prestigious career in this special piece on inspirational women.

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Dr. Heger’s career path in medicine in her own words, courtesy of Education Update.

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Learn more about Dr. Heger’s work and legacy in this magazine feature, ‘The Healer’.

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Access Dr. Heger’s official USC research on child abuse and depression.

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