Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $163,227)
This proposal represents a continuation of efforts by the King County Medical Examiner’s Office (KCMEO) to strengthen the medical examiner – coroner system by funding a second position in the forensic pathology fellowship training program in Seattle, Washington. This proposal addresses the national shortage of qualified forensic pathologists for the needs of criminal justice and public health. Forensic pathology is essential for investigation and prosecution of criminal deaths, protection of those wrongfully accused, public health and safety surveillance of unexpected and emerging hazards and threats, and to answer questions from families, communities, and media needing explanations when someone is killed or dies suddenly and unexpectedly. The medical specialty of forensic pathology requires, at a minimum, four years of medical school, three to four years of pathology residency, and one year of forensic pathology fellowship training. Requiring 16 to 17 years of advanced education, very few individuals meet qualifications to practice forensic pathology. Burdened with years of accumulated educational debt, only highly dedicated individuals choose forensic pathology with employment opportunities limited to county government positions having salaries substantially less than similarly trained medical professionals working in the private sector. Strengthening the medical examiner – coroner system demands an emphasis on attracting candidates and educating them in fellowship programs. The forensic pathology fellowship program of KCMEO has trained over 33 forensic pathologists since 1980 who practice or have practiced in cities throughout the US. KCMEO is accredited by the National Association of Medical Examiners since 1978, the longest continuously accredited office in the US. With its forensic pathology fellowship program accredited by the Accreditation Council of Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), affiliated with University of Washington School of Medicine and Washington State Patrol Forensic Laboratories, and integrated within Public Health – Seattle and King County, KCMEO has a unique, highly qualified, and proven successful training program in preparing professionals for a career in forensic pathology. Currently the KCMEO fellowship program is accredited by ACGME to offer two fellowship positions but is funded by King County for only one. In its first year of funding for the second position (2018), KCMEO recruited and graduated, in 2019, two forensic pathologists who now practice elsewhere in the US. In the third year of funding (2020) KCMEO is training two more forensic pathologists to graduate in 2022. The current proposal is the fourth year to continue funding the second position to graduate in 2023.