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How to Select a School with Forensic Pathology Programs

Higher Education Articles April 26, 2014

Forensic pathology refers to the study of diseases. Forensic Pathology majors are not offered by universities. A particular educational path must be developed in order to become a forensic pathologist.

Becoming a Forensic Pathologist

A forensic pathologist is a type of a medical doctor; therefore, those looking to become one must receive the kind of training medical doctors receive. Accordingly, a prospective forensic pathologist must spend four years in college, including a pathology residency and four years in medical school. The student would need to spend a year or two in a Forensic Pathology fellowship, since it is a subspecialty of pathology (the American Academy of Forensics Sciences (AAFS)).

Aspiring forensic pathologists often embark on a career path as medical examiners, concerning themselves with the effects of chemical and physical traumas on the human body. These professionals conduct an examination of anatomical and physiological evidence that they may consider suspicious.

Selecting an Undergraduate School

To seek admission to medical schools, an individual would need to earn a bachelor’s degree. A degree in the sciences is preferable. Appropriate coursework required for admission into medical schools may include a year each of general chemistry, organic chemistry, biology and physics (the University of Washington). Interested candidates should conduct research as to the specific requirements of the medical school they seek to enroll in.

Participation in Medical School

An aspiring forensic pathologist must either complete a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) degree or a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree by attending a four-year college of medicine, once the student completes his or her bachelor’s degree. Aspiring forensic pathologists must complete training in clinical and anatomical pathology with a year of residency or fellowship in Forensic Pathology (The National Association of Medical Examiners (NAME)). Alternatively, they may choose to receive 3-4 years of training in Anatomic Pathology followed by a year in Forensic Pathology followed in turn by fellowship or residency.

Fellowships in Forensic Pathology

Medical centers and university hospitals offer Forensic Pathology fellowships, with a focus on scientific death investigation. About 250-300 forensic autopsies are completed by fellows annually, apart from providing support to the medical examiner’s office and testifying in court proceedings if and when found necessary. They interact with the physical evidence, toxicology department, and research lab sections. An approved Anatomic Pathology program is required to be completed by applicants. Fellows usually receive a stipend for the work performed by them.

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