Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $175,500)
The severe shortage of forensic pathologists has become a crisis in communities throughout our country, which the opioid epidemic and COVID-19 have only exacerbated. As a result, we developed a high-quality forensic pathology fellowship at the Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine (WMed). The team, comprised of seven forensic pathologists, two forensic anthropologists, a forensic toxicologist, and multiple death investigators, leads the forensic pathology training program. The WMed provides their fellows with best-practice training and opportunities to become leaders in forensic pathology. Since the start of the program in 2020, they graduated one forensic pathologist who has now joined our faculty and a second will graduate and begin practicing forensic pathology in Florida in July of 2022. Forensic pathology fellowship programs accredited by the Accreditation Council on Graduate Medical Education and operating in medical examiner’s offices accredited by the National Association of Medical Examiners require funding to train future forensic pathologists and WMed is no exception. While most medical specialties receive funding for residencies and fellowships from Medicare and occasionally Medicaid, forensic pathology often requires funding from other sources. The shortage of forensic pathologists is exacerbated when fellowship positions lack funding sources. Funding for the fellowship allows the WMed to maintain the operation of the program. Advancing equity is a commitment that requires sustained efforts and leadership. WMed's ability to address potential inequities and barriers to equal opportunity is more robust than most institutions. The students WMed will be recruiting will soon benefit from the medical school’s focus on recruiting students from disenfranchised groups who often face barriers to higher education, an initiative backed by a $300 million gift to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion. The gift is earmarked for scholarships to reduce financial barriers for future doctors and allow the medical school to recruit more diverse student cohorts. The WMed's communities are underserved, but more than simply training more individuals, the institution prioritizes training individuals committed to serving underserved populations. Being physically based in a medical school allows the WMed access to new medical students each year; the fellow along with the practicing forensic pathologists are provided with multiple opportunities to promote forensic pathology among the medical student body. In conclusion, in addition to training additional forensic pathologists, access to the students and their exposure to forensic pathology will result in a higher-than-average number of students pursuing forensic pathology as their career choice.