Two medical students in the forensic medicine preceptorship program and a forensic pathology Fellow at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) presented their research at the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) Annual Scientific Meeting in New Orleans last month.
Having UTHSC affiliates at the event promotes the university as an academic institution where students can pursue careers in forensic science from their first year in medical school.
“Identity Crisis: The Case of a Wormian Bone Interpreted as a Traumatic Skull Fracture,” was the topic of second-year medical student Shelley Choudhury’s presentation. Wormian bones, also known as intra-sutural bones, are developmental abnormalities of the cranium. On occasion, they can be mistaken for traumatic fracture in the pediatric population. This distinction has strong consequences for allegations of child abuse, and this case represents an interesting intersection between forensic pathology, hospital imaging, incidental findings, and claims of child abuse.
Reflecting on her preceptorship experience, Choudhury said, “The most rewarding part was getting an overall perspective of what happens to our bodies after death. In medicine, we focus so much on keeping the body and mind alive and well but have no concept of what happens to our patients once they pass away. Having that perspective in addition to getting to see with my own eyes the internal effect that various disease processes have on our tissues, made for a unique and singularly amazing experience.”
Lindsey Anne Grisham, a second-year student in the College of Medicine, was a presenter at the meeting and a participant in the preceptorship program. Grisham discussed, “Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) -Related Fractures and Their Differences from Fractures Due to Blunt Force Trauma.” It is often difficult to differentiate what injuries were caused by trauma itself, as opposed to resuscitative measures (CPR). The presentation looked into if there was a difference in fracture pattern between mechanical and manual CPR. Additionally, researchers examined if there was any difference in internal organ injury. Ultimately, they were trying to determine if they could differentiate those injuries caused by blunt force trauma from those caused by CPR.
Grisham reflected on her preceptorship experience sharing, “Having the opportunity to do this preceptorship and work in the medical examiner’s office helped me not only understand what pathology entails, but also helped me understand how to determine the cause of death. I also learned just how sensitive and resilient our bodies can be. Most of all, to appreciate every moment of life.”
Kevin Jenkins, MD, MBA, MHSA, has been a forensic pathology Fellow at the WTRFC since July 2016. Dr. Jenkins, an alumnus of East Tennessee State University James H. Quillen College of Medicine, who completed his residency at the Vanderbilt Medical Center, presented on “The Implementation of a Quality Improvement (QI) Program for Death Scene Photography in a Medical Examiner Office.”
“This project measures performances related to meeting National Institute of Justice guidelines for photographic documentation of death scenes,” said Dr. Jenkins. “The data was used to implement a focused training seminar emphasizing internal factors such as the content captured in photographic documentation, and external factors such as identifying environmental conditions that impact photographic documentation.”
Upon the completion of his fellowship, Dr. Jenkins hopes to continue with the WTRFC as a medical examiner.
The AAFS is dedicated to the application of science to the legal system and has membership of over 7,000 representing all 50 states, Canada, and 70 other countries. The organization’s meetings draw more than 4,000 individuals who present various scientific papers and posters.
“Attending the AAFS meeting is a great experience for UTHSC students interested in pursuing forensic science,” said Benjamin Figura, PhD, D-ABFA, forensic anthropologist and director of the West Tennessee Regional Forensic Center (WTRFC). “It demonstrates the breadth of the field, allows them to meet and make contacts with professionals from around the world, and exposes them to current research, which they can then bring back to UTHSC.”
About the Forensic Pathology Fellowship and Preceptorship Program
UTHSC and WTRFC recently began a Forensic Pathology fellowship in which pathologists will receive training in forensic pathology leading to board eligibility in that medical specialty. There is also a two-month preceptorship for two medical students during their summer break between the first and second years of medical school. Now in its third year, the program has will have several important goals:
- Participating students will gain in-depth experience in normal gross anatomy with daily participation in autopsies at the center.
- Aspects of human disease will be studied daily in a “real world” environment, including natural disease processes, as well as unnatural deaths (homicides, suicides, accidents).
- As time and interest allow, students will be encouraged to attend at least one death scene under the guidance of one of the Center’s death investigators.
- Each student will, under the guidance of a preceptor, be expected to carry to completion a small work of scholarship that will culminate at a minimum in a poster presentation worthy of presentation at a national meeting.
The program is from June 1-July 31, 2017 with a stipend of $1,600 per month, paid hourly. Interested students are asked to submit their CV and a one-paragraph statement of interest by email to Erica.Curry@shelbycountytn.gov no later than March 15. Up to five students will be chosen for personal interviews, and offers will be made by March 29.