Medical Examiner Education, Schooling and Training Program Info
Medical examiners are physicians who perform autopsies and tests to determine the cause and manner of suspicious, violent or sudden death. Medical examiners often combine the duties of coroners and forensic pathologists to investigate the circumstances surrounding and leading to death. Becoming a medical examiner requires an extensive medical education and specialized training in forensic pathology.
Education Requirements for Medical Examiners
The education process for prospective medical examiners begins with a bachelor's degree, which can be in any subject, but is often in a scientific discipline. Some colleges and universities offer bachelor's degree programs in forensic science that provide an overview of areas in forensics that medical examiners use. Prerequisite undergraduate courses for entering medical school, the next step in becoming a medical examiner, often include organic chemistry, physics and biology.
Prospective medical examiners complete medical school to earn either a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.). During medical school, students can major in branches of medicine, including family practice, surgery or pathology. The majority of medical schools do not offer coursework in forensic pathology, although some may offer it as an elective directly prior to graduation.
Specialized training in forensic pathology begins with a residency program after medical school. Forensic pathology residencies often involve 4-5 years of training in anatomic and clinical pathology followed by 1-2 years of specialized training in forensic pathology. Residency programs in anatomic and clinical pathology are supervised by licensed pathologists, often in a teaching hospital, university medical center or local healthcare institution. During this portion of residency training, students will begin to perform autopsies and learn diagnostic laboratory procedures.
Forensic pathology training is supervised by a board-certified forensic pathologist, and it usually takes place at a state, county or city medical examiner's office. Students become a member of the office's forensics team and participate in death investigations. They learn how to give court testimony, perform postmortem testing and collect crime scene evidence. Following residency training and obtaining state medical licensure, medical examiners must become certified by the American Board of Pathology (www.abpath.org).
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