What is a Forensic Pathologist?
Forensic pathologists are specialized pathologists who examine the bodies of those who have died suddenly or unexpectedly to find out their cause of death. Budding forensic pathologists can start indulging their interest in the subject even in high school or college by focusing on science classes and even taking online classes in forensic science. Beyond high school and undergraduate education, the forensic pathologist career pathway involves attending medical school to obtain a medical degree (Doctor of Medicine or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine), and completing a residency program in anatomic pathology or anatomic and clinical pathology. This is then followed by a fellowship in forensic pathology, where doctors get specialized training in forensic medicine. Fellowships typically last one year.
There are a number of universities that offer forensic pathology fellowships. Below, some of the most well-known medical schools in the U.S. are summarized so that aspiring forensic pathologists can make the ideal choice for their careers.
Best Colleges for Forensic Pathology
University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is one of the most highly regarded medical schools in the U.S. The one-year forensic pathology fellowship program at UNC is offered in conjunction with the Office of the Chief Medical Officer and fellows conduct their work under the supervision of the Chief Medical Examiner. Trainees typically perform 200-250 autopsies and manage their own cases, which can include scene investigations and court appearances if necessary. They are also expected to attend a national forensic pathology meeting and a forensic anthropology course during the program.
University of Washington
The University of Washington in Seattle is known for its highly reputable medical school and is home to one of the top forensic pathologist colleges in the country. The forensic pathology fellowship at UW is a one-year program and requires trainees to primarily carry out autopsies and medicolegal examinations. At least 200 forensic autopsies must be performed over the course of the year. Trainees are also expected to assist medicolegal death investigators in scene investigations. Additionally, opportunities to attend in-house education conferences, courtroom trials and conduct research are provided.
University of Michigan
The department of pathology at the medical school at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor offers a one-year pathology fellowship made available to two trainees to train them in all areas of forensic pathology. The trainees are required to carry out around 350 autopsies and participate in death scene investigations. The training also includes courtroom testimony, toxicology, anthropology and criminalistics. Managerial and administrative techniques are also introduced.
University of Texas Southwestern
The University of Texas Southwestern Medical School often features in the higher echelons of medical school rankings and offers two forensic pathology fellowships per academic year. The fellowship program requires trainees to particularly focus on death investigation. Fellows are also expected to perform 200-250 autopsies during the program. The training is highly integrated with the Medical Examiner's office and Criminal Investigation Laboratory as well as UT Southwestern's forensic pathology department.
Top Schools for Forensic Pathology
The following table features more top medical schools for forensic pathology:
|College/University||Location||Notable program feature|
|Saint Louis University||Saint Louis, MO||Forensic pathology fellows conduct up to two autopsies per day under the supervision of a senior pathologist.|
|University of Alabama, Birmingham||Birmingham, AL||One-year forensic pathology fellowship program is offered in collaboration with the Jefferson County Medical Examiner Office, which examines around 450 accidental deaths and 150 homicides each year.|
|Indiana University||Indianapolis, IN||Forensic pathology fellows perform approximately 250 autopsies and spend time at the Indianapolis/Marion County Forensic Laboratory and Indiana State Police Laboratory.|
|Emory University||Atlanta, GA||Forensic pathology fellows conduct around 250 autopsies over the one-year program and take part in approximately 75 scene investigations.|
|University of New Mexico||Albuquerque, NM||The one-year program requires fellows to complete rotations in areas that include toxicology, anthropology and forensic odontology.|
|University of Connecticut||Farmington, CT||Fellows work as junior-level examiners and perform autopsies on all types of death and undergo rotations in areas such as forensic science, toxicology, crime scene unit, anthropology and scene investigation.|