Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $175,449)
This proposal represents continued 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, surveillance of hazards and threats to the community, and to answer questions 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. Furthermore, burdened with years of accumulated educational debt, only highly dedicated individuals choose forensic pathology with employment opportunities limited to county government positions having salaries less than similarly trained medical professionals working in the private sector.
For many reasons, 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 30 forensic pathologists since 1980 who practice or have practiced in cities throughout the United States. 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; filling the second position depends on BJA funding. Since 2019 KCMEO has trained and graduated five forensic pathologists, three of whom were trained using federal funding. Furthermore, of the two fellows committed to start training in July 2022 and graduate in 2023, one is funded by BJA. The current proposal is to continue the same plan to recruit and train two forensic pathology fellows to graduate in 2024 using BJA funding for the second position.