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Medical Examiner Courses and Classes Overview

Most prospective medical examiners take elective courses in pathology or forensics while earning their medical degrees. Residents also conduct research later in their tenure and work in a medical examiner's office.

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Essential Information

Individuals interested in becoming medical examiners must first pursue a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.). After earning a medical degree, graduates who wish to become medical examiners must undergo further training through a residency in pathology. Residencies often last four years, and include rotations in various areas of pathology, such as neuropathology and hematopathology. Medical examiner training includes topics like:

  • Cell and tissue response to injury/illness
  • Natural and non-natural causes of death
  • Blood and bone marrow abnormalities
  • Performing autopsies
  • Human Disease

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List of Common Courses

Pathology Course

This course studies the responses of tissue and cells to injury and illness. Students learn to recognize the inflammation process, normal and abnormal tissue growth and the effects of diseases on multiple organ systems. Topics include immunology, molecular changes and responses to environmental factors.

Forensic Pathology Course

Students are introduced to medicolegal aspects of medicine. They visit out-of-hospital death scenes and observe autopsies. They also might assist with sample preparation and develop their knowledge of legal medicine and autopsy guidelines. If privacy rules permit, students will attend court sessions, observing forensic pathologists as they testify in court. Students also explore toxicology and forensic biology laboratories as they process samples from death scenes.

Clinical Pathology Course

This course requires students to spend several weeks observing and assisting with work in laboratories. They spend time in hematology labs and blood banks, learning technical skills associated with drawing blood, testing blood smears and examining bone marrow aspirates. They also work in chemical laboratories, testing blood and tissue samples for abnormalities.

Forensic Neuropathology Course

Students observe examinations of brains and spinal tissue associated with unexplained deaths. They learn to recognize neurological conditions that may be the cause of death in forensic cases. If circumstances permit, students may attend court and death scenes to observe medical examiners.

Forensic Pathology Clerkship Course

Students serve as pathology assistants and fellows in a medical examiner's office, developing their skills as officers for autopsy services. They learn the duties associated with the work-up of autopsy results and the final sign-off for medical examinations. During a clinical clerkship, students might participate in autopsy table conferences.

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