Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $175,502)
There is a critical shortage of board-certified forensic pathologists in the United States. Forensic pathologists are physicians who have completed additional medical specialty training in autopsies and death investigations, as well as generalized training in courtroom testimony, criminalists, toxicology, and other forensic science-related specialties. Death investigations performed by medical examiner offices are vital to criminal justice by investigating violent deaths. Of the 2.6 million deaths annually, medical examiner offices investigate nearly 500,000 cases in approximately 2,400 jurisdictions. Many communities lack adequate personnel to perform these autopsies due to the shortage of board-certified forensic pathologists.
The purpose of this grant application is to secure funds for the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office (MCMEO) to train one Forensic Pathology Fellow, to help address the inadequate supply of forensic pathologists. The MCMEO is fully accredited by the National Association of Medical Examiners (NAME), and its forensic laboratory is fully accredited through the American Board of Forensic Toxicology. The office has a complex mix of cases that creates a comprehensive learning opportunity for someone entering the forensic field, and the office has partnerships with the Medical College of Wisconsin Affiliated Hospitals and the Wisconsin Department of Justice. These partnerships expose the fellow to all aspects of death investigation and the criminal justice system.
Each year the office investigates approximately 9,500 cases and assumes jurisdiction in approximately 3,400 cases. Of these 3,400 cases, approximately 55% are natural deaths, 32% are accidents, 6.5% are homicides, 4% are suicides, and 2.5% are ruled undetermined. The five staff forensic pathologists perform autopsies on about 40% of these cases. The office serves as a regional resource, generating an additional 500 to 600 autopsies from other jurisdictions. This amounts to approximately 1,800 autopsies annually. The MCMEO is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) to support two forensic fellowships. In the last thirteen years under its current Fellowship Director, all trainees who have completed fellowship at the MCMEO have passed their forensic boards, as certified by the American Board of Pathology. All successful fellows have transitioned to careers in forensic pathology, staffing offices in Florida, Arizona, Wisconsin, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, North Carolina and Washington, D.C. The anticipated outcome of this grant application is to successfully train an additional forensic pathologist which will address the critical shortage of forensic pathologists, and support the criminal justice field in the United States.