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Department: MEPAT-Pathology
Course: 530-Forensic Pathology

Course Coordinator:
Course Faculty:
Elective Location: OTHR
Periods Elective offered: Qtr: 1,2,3,4
Min. Number of Students:Max: 1
Course Level: Clinical Elective: Counts toward 32-credit graduation requirement
Credit: 8
Visiting Student Elective: No
Open to International Students: No
Grading: H,HP, P, MP, F Narrative Evaluation
Faculty Approval: Yes

Time Commitment Percentage of time expected
Regular Hours (Mon-Fri): 8am - 5pm Inpatient Ward:
Night Call: Inpatient consultations:
Number on-call nights: Outpatient clinics:
Weekends: Surgery:
  Other: 100
Statement of Goals:
COURSE IS NOT OFFERED IN JUNE, JULY, OR DECEMBER. The student will have the opportunity to observe Harris County medical examiners perform forensic autopsies, and will gain knowledge of the process of death investigation, both from a medicolegal and clinical standpoint. The student will further understand the role, importance, and limitations of the autopsy and the importance of scene/circumstantial evidence, to which end the student will have the opportunity to attend death scenes under the supervision of forensic investigators. Finally, the student will have the opportunity to travel to the Harris County Criminal and/or Civil Court to observe courtroom testimony presented by the medical examiners. In addition, the student will have the opportunity to spend time in the various laboratory disciplines available at the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences. During this experience, the student will understand the importance of the chain of custody of evidence. Tours will include the toxicology laboratory, drug chemistry, forensic genetics, trace evidence, firearms, anthropology, and histology. This laboratory experience is typically two days; additional time may be requested based on the student’s interest. At the conclusion of the elective, the student will know how to assign cause, manner, and mechanism of death; will become aware of when and how clinicians should sign death certificates for their own patients; and will understand what deaths are required by Texas law to be reported to the Medical Examiner/Justice of the Peace.
Learning Activities
The primary activity of the student will be observation of autopsies performed by the Harris County medical examiners, observation of death scene investigations, and observation of courtroom testimony by the medical examiners. In addition, the student will be expected to attend daily 8 AM morning conference, in which new cases are assigned to medical examiners, and the previous day’s cases are presented and discussed. Attendance at additional educational conferences (e.g. neuropathology, cardiopathology) is expected, and the student will be provided with a schedule of these conferences at the beginning of the rotation. At the end of the rotation the student will be expected to prepare a presentation on a forensic topic of their choosing; the details and expectations of this presentation will be discussed with the student during the rotation. Expenses: parking is not available at the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences; thus the student may need to obtain parking. Parking at the South Extension Lot is recommended.
Evaluation Methods
The student will be evaluated on fund of prior medical knowledge and motivation to attain new knowledge regarding the skills, concepts, and disease processes being taught based on the staff members’ direct observations and interactions with the student. In particular, interprofessional collaboration and professionalism will be a key attribute evaluated during the student’s experiences during death scene investigation. The end-of-rotation presentation will provide a means to evaluate the student’s acquisition of new knowledge and search relevant literature and information technology resources. Grading system: H, HP, P, MP, F, Narrative Evaluation.
When and Where to report on first day of service:
Report to the lobby of Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences, 1885 Old Spanish Trail, Houston, Texas 77054, at 7:45 AM. Dress: business casual for conferences; bring a change of scrubs for autopsy experience.
For additional information regarding this elective contact:
Contact Name: Amanda Fields
Contact Phone: 713-796-6776
Contact Fax: 713-975-8987
Contact Location: 1885 Old Spanish Trail, Houston, TX 77054
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