Forensic Pathology

Overview

There is a growing shortage of qualified forensic pathologists in the US. The specialty was first recognized by the American Board of Pathology in 1959, and the number of physicians entering the specialty rose steadily until quite recently. It is currently the case, however, that more forensic pathologists retire each year than are trained. And while there is an overall decline in the number of hospital autopsies performed in the US each year, the number of medicolegal autopsies required continues to grow with the population.

With this in mind, the department of pathology at Wake Forest School of Medicine has undertaken to train physicians in this essential specialty. This fellowship is one year in duration and provides the opportunity to perform about 6-8 autopsies per week, including scene investigation and trial testimony when possible.

In addition to frequent opportunities to participate in in-house and local conferences and seminars, fellows will attend (at department expense) the annual meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, and are expected to author or co-author at least one paper.

Program Goals

Upon completion of the program, fellows will be able to perform a competent medicolegal investigation from start to finish on cases of homicide, suicide, accident, and natural causes; in addition, they will be able to conduct the professional and administrative operations required of a forensic pathologist and medical examiner. This program meets the training requirements for the American Board of Pathology's certification examination in Forensic Pathology.

Faculty

The Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center employs an outstanding staff of American Board of Pathology-qualified forensic pathologists. There are three such professionals on the faculty, all of whom are assigned to the Pathology Department's Autopsy Service. As primarily academic pathologists, they are particularly qualified to train a forensic fellow.

  • Prior to joining the faculty in 1992, program director Dr. Donald Jason worked for 18 years as a full-time forensic pathologist; this portion of his career culminated in ten years spent as County Medical Examiner of Atlantic County, New Jersey (which includes Atlantic City), where he ran an office covering a county the size of Forsyth County.  Dr. Jason is a member of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Medical Examiners.
  •  Dr. Patrick Lantz is well known in the forensic pathology community, having been chairman of the Pathology-Biology section of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and member of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Medical Examiners. Dr. Lantz is a member of the Board of Trustees and currently President of the American Board of Pathology. In addition to forensic pathology, Dr. Lantz has special interests and training in photography and pediatric pathology.
  •  Dr. Jerri L McLemore joined our faculty July 1, 2010.  Prior the joining us, she served as Associate State Medical Examiner in Iowa from 2003-2010.  Dr. McLemore is certified by the American Board of Pathology in Forensic Pathology and Anatomic and Clinical Pathology.

Program Details

Each forensic fellow handles 200 to 250 medicolegal autopsies in his or her year of training, and will experience on-scene investigations, including examination of the body before it has been disturbed. The Medical Center has a remarkably rich variety of cases referred from about 34 of the 100 counties of North Carolina. The office autopsy caseload includes about 10% homicides, 11% suicides, 49% accidents and 5% undetermined manner. The remaining 44% are ruled to be of natural causes.

In addition to training in the autopsy suite, the forensic fellow will receive instruction in the various branches of anthropology and odontology either at the NC Office of Chief Medical Examiner or the Virginia Institute of Forensic Science and Medicine. The fellow will also train in forensic, molecular biology, and clinical evaluation of child abuse.

The forensic fellow will attend regular weekly conferences in which recent cases are reviewed; in-hospital deaths that are medical examiner cases are presented at the pediatric mortality conference. In addition, he or she will present a lecture at the annual medicolegal death investigation seminar, attended by local medical examiners, law enforcement personnel, prosecutors, and defense attorneys.

The 2013-2014 academic year's base salary for this fellowship is $51,373.08. Fellows receive, in addition, malpractice insurance coverage, life insurance, long-term disability insurance, and hospital insurance.

Community

Winston-Salem, founded in 1766, began as a religious community of Moravians who emigrated from Europe. Their traditions are strong in the present industrial community and are particularly reflected in the considerable emphasis on the arts in community life. The city proper has 150,000 people; the county 265,000. There are four institutions of higher learning (Wake Forest University, Salem College, Winston-Salem State University and North Carolina School of the Arts), a symphony orchestra, opera and theater companies, and numerous art galleries. The area offers a variety of outdoor sporting activities, including golf, bicycling, fishing, hiking, and skiing, and Wake Forest University provides major college sports events of all types. Housing is available near the medical school, and the cost of living in the area is relatively low.

Evaluation

Formal written evaluations of fellows by the teaching staff are completed and discussed with the fellow at least once every six months. In addition, fellows are expected to submit written evaluations of the program.

Application Information

Forensic Pathology Fellowship Applications* will be accepted from MDs and DOs who will have valid medical licensure in North Carolina by the start of their fellowship year. Fellows are expected to receive appointment as a county medical examiner and designated pathologist by the North Carolina OCME.

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Additional Requirements:
 

  • At least 2 years experience in anatomic pathology in an accredited residency program;
      
  • Acceptability as a resident in the pathology department at NCBH;
      
  • Competence in the English Language;
      
  • Availability for night and weekend calls;
      
  • Ability to spend one unbroken year in the program;
      
  • Ability to meet the requirements of the American Board of Pathology for examination in forensic pathology at the end of the year; and
      
  • Ability to perform an uncomplicated postmortem examination, gross dissection, and diagnosis in two hours' time.  

Contact Information

For more information about the Forensic Pathology Fellowship, contact the program director:

Donald Jason, MD JD
Forensic Pathology Fellowship
Department of Pathology
Wake Forest School of Medicine
Medical Center Boulevard
Winston-Salem, NC 27157-1072

Tel: 336-716-2637
Fax: 336-716-7595
E-Mail: djason@wakehealth.edu             

Current & Past Fellows

  • Selly Strauch, MD, 2013-14
     
  • Christina J. Tatum, MD, 2011-12

  • Lezah McCarthy, MD, 2010-11

  • Amy D. Durso, MD, 2009-10

  • Christopher Tape, MD, 2008-09

  • Jolene R. Clouse, MD, 2007-08

  • Tyrell Tops, MD, 2006-07

  • Mira Geller, MD, 2005-06

  • Amy Tharp, MD, 2004-05

  • William F. Zaloga, DO, 2003-04

  • Maryanne Gaffney-Kraft, DO, 2001-02

Quick Reference

Forensic Pathology Fellowship
Program Director:
Donald Jason, MD JD

Tel: 336-716-2637
Fax: 336-716-7595

E-mail Dr. Jason
djason@wakehealth.edu

Pathology Department
Wake Forest Baptist Health
Medical Center Boulevard
Winston-Salem, NC 27157
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Last Updated: 11-25-2013
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Disclaimer: The information on this website is for general informational purposes only and SHOULD NOT be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice, evaluation or care from your physician or other qualified health care provider.