Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $124,862)
Located in Conroe, Texas, the Montgomery County Forensic Services Department (MCFSD) provides autopsy services for Montgomery County, which was ranked eighth in the United States for growth from July 1, 2020 – July 1, 2021. With this type of explosive population growth comes many things, including an increased burden on the death investigation system.
The MCFSD has a current full-time staff of ten employees, including three board certified forensic pathologists. Approximately 1000 autopsies and external examinations are performed each year in the current facility which has significant storage and office space constrictions. Previous attempts at National Association of Medical Examiners (NAME) accreditation were delayed due to facility constraints, drastically increasing caseloads and the COVID pandemic. A new facility is scheduled to open in the fall of 2022, which will alleviate facility related accreditation problems.
Given the current caseload, in order to achieve NAME accreditation, the office will need to utilize locum tenens forensic pathologists. In 2020 and 2021, the office managed 1010 and 1069 cases, respectively, up from 846 cases in 2019. The increase in cases has been managed with the addition of a third forensic pathologist; however, we have now surpassed acceptable numbers for NAME accreditation (less than 325 cases per pathologist) even with three pathologists. Utilizing locum tenens pathologists would allow our office to return to acceptable caseload numbers, maintain the required turnaround times for reports and obtain the accreditation we seek. Determination of hiring a fourth full-time forensic pathologist versus continuing the use of locum tenens will be made at the end of the grant period. MCFSD currently has two medicolegal death investigators working towards certification and funding is requested to help achieve this. The current goal for the office is to achieve NAME accreditation by the end of the grant period and ABMDI certification of two death investigators.
NAME accreditation of the MCFSD will ensure the citizens of Montgomery County that the postmortem examinations performed continue to follow professional standards and performance criteria and that certified individuals perform death investigations.