Longform

Special Kay

Page 3 of 8

That's too bad, because she's a passionate and convincing advocate, and a skilled debater.

And she's not impervious to the grim realities of her job. Her eyes well with tears when reliving an unsolved child murder.

She's persevered personally and professionally, she says, by virtue of her solid upbringing and her faith in God. But the road hasn't been easy.

As a teen, Rauth-Farley vowed to become a doctor. But her first try to get into medical school failed. Undaunted, she earned a master's degree in biology, gave birth to two children and completed medical school with her toddlers in diapers. She's suffered through her beloved son's serious illness, lupus.

Professionally, she tries to heal broken children day after day, year after year.

"She has intuition, knowledge, skill and grace," says Dr. Tascha Boychuk, an Arizona State University professor who worked with Rauth-Farley at St. Joe's.

"Wrap that up with compassion and understanding and you have a remarkable person. When Kay takes up someone's struggle, she doesn't need something for herself in the process, like so many do in this business. She's always taught us lessons in courage, and that the value of the struggle goes beyond your personal stake. And she also has a great sense of humor."

Rauth-Farley isn't afraid to stand up to the big boys. In 1996, for example, she wrote a letter berating County Attorney Rick Romley for what she called a "cavalier approach" toward child pornography cases. The doctor says the clash marked "the biggest nightmare" of her nine years in Phoenix, and that her relationship with Romley's office never has quite mended.

Rauth-Farley is direct with everyone, and rarely, if ever, goes along to get along--even with cops.

"We try to be helpful," she says, "but we're here to heal kids, not to be an arm of law enforcement."

Phoenix sex-crimes detective Judy Townsend has had no problem with that.
"Here's an example," Townsend says. "There was a little girl of 6 or 7 whose mother took her to the ER. The doctor over there examined her and said she'd been sexually assaulted. Dad had custody of the kid, but Mom had her on weekends. I talked to her and she insisted that nothing had happened, and she seemed as happy as any other child.

"The guy probably would have been arrested that night. But Kay examined the girl, and she concluded it was a dermatology-type disease that appears like massive bruising. The other doctor was furious at me for letting the girl go home with her dad. If Kay hadn't been there, this guy conceivably could have ended up in prison. She's done more to help make our cases and to set us straight than anyone I know."

Young doctors could do no better than to emulate Kay Rauth-Farley.
"She's got the most integrity of anybody I've ever known," says Wendy Dutton, a forensic interviewer who has worked with Rauth-Farley since 1992. "She's straight-up, honest, and you know where you stand with her at all times."

Rauth-Farley's son views his mother through a different prism.
"My mom had a day named after her, okay?" says Michael Farley, a recent Brophy Prep graduate, referring to a proclamation in May from Governor Jane Hull. "Steven Seagal got a day, my mom got a day. How many moms get their own day? My mom is exceptional."

Those in her inner circle also know how exceptionally stubborn Rauth-Farley can be. Says her mother, Betty Rauth, "Kay once told me, 'You can make all the suggestions you want [about child-rearing], but I may not take them.'"

Rauth answers quickly when asked if she challenged her daughter on that point: "Wouldn't think of it."

Rauth-Farley's daughter, Megan: "My friends all ask me, 'Why do you have to get home by midnight? You're almost 20 years old.' I tell them, 'Trust me. You don't want to fight with my mom when she thinks something should be a certain way.'"

Rauth-Farley will leave the Valley soon to join her husband of 22 years, Mark, in Missouri. (Her successor at St. Joseph's Hospital will be Kathy Coffman, a New Jersey pediatrician.) A golf professional who now works for Karsten Manufacturing, Mark Farley moved back there months ago.

"Mark has moved three times for me since we got married," she says. "Now it's time for me to move for him."

Rauth-Farley is thinking about a half-time job with a Kansas City hospital, as she insists to family and friends that she wants to "slow down" for a while.

Her husband doesn't buy it.
"She's still a go-getter in a field where people burn out," says Mark Farley. "When I tell people what she does, it's like, 'She does what with kids?' She's in this taboo area. I couldn't do her job--I'd be in jail for killing someone who beats up their kid. I don't know how she does it."

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin