Quite a Task!
As part of their accreditation (one-year fellowship) at an approved medicolegal facility, trainees in forensic pathology are required to carry out between 200 to 300 autopsies.
With the rise in the popularity of TV crime shows such as CSI
, the branch of forensics has suddenly come into the limelight. Many people are now aware of such a branch, courtesy the shows, have a general idea of what forensics are, and know how important they prove to be while investigating a crime. Forensic pathology is concerned with aspects like autopsies, DNA sampling, etc.
Overview of This Field
Forensic pathology is a branch of pathology which is concerned with the study of diseases within a legal context. A forensic pathologist examines the cause of death or injury so that it can be used as an evidence during a trial. Their role requires them to perform autopsies, and they have to work in coordination with investigation officers to gather evidence from the scene of crime. If you are an aspiring forensic pathologist, then you should prepare yourself for a rigorous education. On an average, it takes around twelve years to become a forensic pathologist.
Top Colleges for the Study of Forensic Pathology
The United States has some of the best medical schools in the world. There are many countries where forensic pathology has not been identified as a separate specialty from pathology, and pathologists often come to the US to gain some experience. Here's a list of some of the best institutions that offer you with a better chance to learn the essentials in this field.
University of California, San Francisco
The Department of Pathology at this university is one of the best institutions in forensic pathology and offers numerous courses to aspiring students. The institution has operations based at Parnassus Heights, the Mt. Zion campus, San Francisco General Hospital & Trauma Center, and a research campus at Mission Bay.
New York Medical College
This institution offers students an opportunity to study forensic pathology, but the competition is pretty steep as they enroll only nine students on a yearly basis. The institution has two residency training centers: Westchester Medical Center and Saint Vincent Catholic Medical Center.
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
This is one of the premier institutes for studying medicine. It offers courses on anatomic pathology, with a major focus on autopsy, cytopathology, and surgical pathology. The training program at John Hopkins is extensive, and students are given training in various clinical pathology fields.
Ohio State University, Columbus
This university has a pathology residency program in which forensic pathology is taught as a subject. It also has a pathology fellowship for students who have completed their M.D. program. The students are given a chance to study research works conducted in pathology at the Franklin County Coroner's Office and the Ohio State University Medical Center, with which its pathology department works. The program has a duration of four years, and students are taught anatomic and clinical pathology.
University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
Established in 1851, this institution is believed to be among the best medical schools in the country. The course offers a fellowship in forensic pathology along with a four-year training in anatomic and clinical pathology. Students also study related courses like microbiology and cytopathology as a part of the course. Students get to perform autopsies, toxicology tests, attend crime scenes, and learn investigation-related techniques like determining time of death, preserving evidence in a legally-correct manner, etc.
University of Florida
This university not only offers a residency program in forensic pathology, but also a Master's degree in Forensic Science for those who want to work with the police department, as a medical examiner, in crime labs, the pharmaceutical industry, or even as science teachers. It is located in Gainesville, Florida.
Michigan State University
The Forensic Science Program of this institution covers subjects like forensic science, law, and criminal justice. The program is divided into three major topics: forensic chemistry, forensic anthropology, and forensic biology. It also offers a variety of courses that can be pursued after a person obtains his/her license as a forensic pathologist. This university is located in East Lansing.
University of Wisconsin, Madison
This institution has a pathology program in which it offers forensic pathology as one of its subjects. The program takes in only 18 residents at a given time. This makes studies easier as it provides greater communication among the residents, and also a better interaction with the faculty.
The Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine of the Temple University's School of Medicine offer a residency program in anatomic pathology, with specializations in forensic pathology or autopsies. This university is based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
University of Southern California
The Keck School of Medicine here is considered to be one of the best in the country. The school has a four-year program in anatomic and clinical pathology. Forensic pathology is one of the numerous specializations that this course offers. The residents obtain practical training from the Norris Cancer Hospital and the institution's University Hospital, as the pathology department works with these two institutions for the same.
The biomedical forensic science program offers many areas of study along with forensic pathology; for example, DNA analysis, analysis of bloodstain patterns, criminal laws, etc. Some of the areas where graduates can work are defense agencies and even state and federal laboratories. This university also has a Master's program in forensic pathology that has a duration of two years.
Indiana University - Purdue University, Indianapolis (IUPUI)
IUPUI ranks somewhere at the top when it comes to their forensic pathology program. The faculty at its Department of Pathology consists of expert medical practitioners. The highlight of this program is that it includes providing services of forensic pathology to the community, which is undertaken by the students as well as the faculty.
The competition is very stiff, and you need to excel in your undergraduate years to get admission to these colleges. Some other colleges for studying forensic pathology are as follows:
University of Washington
New York University
University of Michigan
University of California, Los Angeles
Virginia Commonwealth University
Wayne State University
University of California, Davis
University of Missouri, Columbia
University of Cincinnati, Main Campus
The University of Tennessee
Forensic Pathology Career - FAQs
1. What subjects should one choose to become a forensic pathologist?
If you are interested in a career as a forensic pathologist, then you should choose science, mathematics, and English in your high school. You should focus on your written and oral skills as a forensic pathologist needs to write clear reports and stand as a witness in courtrooms. In college, you will have to choose courses that meet the requirements of a medical school. Chemistry, biology, and physics are some of the core subjects, while applicants should also have strong knowledge of anatomy and physiology. In medical college, you will spend most of the time in patient care and doing an autopsy-pathology rotation early on, which will give you an insight on forensic pathology.
2. What attributes are required from a good forensic pathologist?
Forensic pathologists have to often face certain challenging situations, such as dealing with murders, suicides, accidental deaths, and for this, they need to have a tough character. Forensic pathologists work very closely with law officers, so it is necessary that they have strong communication skills.
3. How does being a forensic pathologist compare to being a physician?
Most of the forensic pathologists play a major role in ensuring that justice is done and there is immense job satisfaction in this profession. The job will give you a first-hand account of stories that make local or national headlines, and you will be working on different types of cases. There are some disadvantages as well: (i) Physicians with the similar years of training get paid better and have lesser job pressure. (ii) Another aspect of being a forensic pathologist is that there will be times when you would be urgently needed to assist investigation authorities, so working hours can become irregular.
4. What is the job outlook and average salary like?
Like every other healthcare field, the employment outlook for forensic pathologists is very promising with job opportunities expected to grow faster than average. The compensation that forensic pathologists receive is fairly competitive with average salaries in the range of $80,000 to $120,000. The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) is one of the biggest employers of forensic pathologists. The best cities to work are New York, Los Angeles, and Miami.
Forensic pathology is one of the most exciting branches of medicine. If you aspire to tread this path, you should know that it takes a lot of hard work to become one. To enhance your prospects in this field, you should put in extra efforts so that you are selected in one of the top colleges.