Oosterhoff, Andrew - Forensic Pathologist

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[edit] Forensic Pathologist

[edit] General Overview

A forensic pathologist, also known as a medical examiner, is a highly trained physician who determines the cause of death of a corpse. This is typically for an individual who has died suddenly or suspiciously. Responsibilities include performing autopsies, reviewing medical histories, analysing crime scene evidence, and listening to witness testimonials[1]. Further, a forensic pathologist can be a witness in court trials based on their results or as an expert witness. In Canada, forensic pathologists work under regulations of the Coroners Act[2].

[edit] Duties

Responsibilities of a forensic pathologist include performing autopsies, which requires them to examine the body of a deceased individual. An autopsy may be restricted to a specific organ or region of the body. Autopsies are performed to determine the cause of death, for legal purposes, and for education and research. A forensic pathologist may also reviewing medical histories. The medical history of an individual includes information of every past medical intervention. Other duties include analyzing crime scene evidence and listening to witness testimonials[1]. Further, a forensic pathologist can be a witness in court trials based on their results or as an expert witness.

[edit] Typical Workday

Much of the typical work of a forensic pathologist includes performing autopsies and testifying in court. A pathologist may be required to attend the scene of a crime in order to examine a body and this requires that they are constantly on call. Shifts could be unusual and if criminal activity occurs, there is a likelihood of overtime hours. In Canada, pathologists perform approximately 6,000 coroner-ordered autopsies each year. Many of these autopsies occur in Forensic Pathology Units located in major cities such as Toronto, Hamilton, Kingston, London and Ottawa[2].

[edit] Educational Requirements and Other Qualifications

Psychology only creates background education for steps towards this career and further education would be mandatory for this field of work.

[edit] Medical Degree

After receiving a bachelor's degree in another field, pathologist hopefuls would be required to obtain education in medical school. Many medical schools offer a three or four year doctor of medicine (M.D.) degree[2].

[edit] Residency

In Canada, anatomical pathology is a five year residency as required by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. Anatomical pathology teaches valuable skills such as consultative functions, managerial functions, cell and tissue responses, types of microscopy, and coding for diagnostic information. Residency training programs are offered at several schools, such as Dalhousie University[3].

[edit] Forensic Pathology

After completing anatomical pathology, students must complete a year of forensic pathology. McMaster University and University of Toronto are the only two schools that offer a program that is a Forensic Pathology Fellowship with the accredited Royal College of Physicians.

[edit] Related Skills, Interests, and Abilities

In order to obtain this career, an individual has to have self-discipline and motivation. This is required to get though the multiple years of education required to obtain this job.

Communication skills are important for this job because a forensic pathologist frequently communicates with a legal or medical professional and they need to clearly and effectively give their reports. A forensic pathologist should be interested in travelling because they may have to cross the country or province in order to participate in different trials if chosen as an expert witness. Further, a pathologist needs to possess the ability to detach themselves from their work. At the end of the day, they need to leave their emotions at work and not bring them home because it would have detrimental effects on their family life. A successful pathologist has to be aware of the immense trauma and stress on the families of victims[4].

[edit] Relevance of Psychology Undergraduate Degree

Although far more education is required to become a forensic pathologist, there are elements of an undergraduate degree in Psychology that are relevant to this job. An undergraduate degree in Psychology may develop an interest in the human medical sciences. Many Psychology courses discuss immunology, genetics, and neurology. All of these are important in a pathologist’s career. Further, specific courses such as Forensic Psychology or Violent Predators, courses offered at Brock University, may be relevant to forensic pathology because of the theories, concepts, and research from the fields of psychology, sociology, criminology and criminal justice that social scientists employ to understand and respond to violent criminals. Other courses which look at neural mechanisms, hormones, behaviours, and neuropsychopharmacology would also be helpful.

[edit] Salary Potential

Starting annual salary for a forensic pathologist in Canada is about $60,000 per year. On average, a forensic pathologist would make about $81,000 per year; however, salaries of forensic pathologists can extend upwards towards $191,000 per year. This range can be explained by level of education that an individual has and the experience that they obtain over years in the career[4].

[edit] Job Outlook

There is constantly a demand for forensic pathologists because of the level of education required by these individuals. This demand may increase further because of the deaths of 'baby boomers' in the near future. Further, there is always a shortage of these professionals and the need will always be there as long as there is crime[4].

[edit] Notes and References

  1. 1.0 1.1 American Academy of Forensic Sciences. Retrieved from: http://www.sfu.ca/~ganderso/forensic_science.htm
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Corrections. Retrieved from: http://www.mcscs.jus.gov.on.ca/english/DeathInvestigations/Pathology/pathology_main.html
  3. Residency Training Programs. Dalhousie University. Retrieved from: http://pathology.medicine.dal.ca/
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Canadian Association of Pathologists. Retrieved from: www.cap‐acp.org
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