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Medicolegal Death Investigator Chris Lea of The West Tennessee Regional Forensic Center Designated as a Diplomate by the American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators



Chris Lea, D-ABMDI, as been designated as a diplomate (D-ABMDI) by the American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators. (Photo by Thurman Hobson/UTHSC)

Chris Lea, D-ABMDI, medicolegal death investigator for the West Tennessee Regional Forensic Center (WTRFC), which is operated through the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, has been designated as a diplomate (D-ABMDI) by the American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators. According to the national website, “certification provides official recognition by an independent professional certification body that an individual has acquired specialized knowledge and demonstrated proficiency in the standards and practice necessary to properly conduct medicolegal death investigations.”

“Chris has worked at the forensic center for a year and has proven himself to be a dedicated investigator,” said Benjamin Figura, PhD, D-ABFA, forensic anthropologist and WTRFC director. “ABMDI certification is one component that helps our office maintain certification by the National Association of Medical Examiners and is recognition that Chris has gained the knowledge and expertise necessary to perform death investigations in line with national standards.”

.Medicolegal death investigators conduct forensic death investigations in their areas and serve as the eyes and ears of forensic pathologists. Obtaining the designation of “diplomate” assures that the death investigators are proficient in all areas of death investigation. It is also a national certification. Before being allowed to even sit for the examination, an individual must complete several hours of training with investigators in different areas of expertise.

“I am very proud to now add the title of ABMDI-Diplomate to my extensive training,” said Lea. “We have a great team here at the West Tennessee Regional Forensic Center and it’s a blessing to be a part of that and a member of the UTHSC family.”

Lea is a native of Brownsville, Tennessee, and graduated from Jackson State Community College with a certification as an Emergency Medical Technician – Advanced. He also graduated from John A. Gupton Funeral College and is a licensed funeral director as well. He owns Lea and Simmons Funeral Home in Brownsville with his best friend, Elliott Simmons.

Prior to coming to UTHSC, Lea served for 30 years in public safety as a law enforcement officer for the Brownsville Police Department and as a state trooper with the Tennessee Highway Patrol assigned to the Critical Incident Response Team. Lea has over 2,000 hours of specialized training and is a forensic crash reconstructionist. He has served as a certified expert witness in several judicial districts throughout Tennessee.

The West Tennessee Regional Forensic Center oversees medicolegal death investigation services for the 20 counties west of the Tennessee River that send their autopsies to the center. It is charged with applying uniform standards of investigation for all deaths, regardless of the county of origin, and maintaining investigative integrity, beginning with the scene. Karen Chancellor, MD, is the chief medical examiner.