Forensic Death Investigation Symposium: Education, Training and Certification Programs for Death Investigators

This breakout group discussed education, training and certification programs for death investigators. Group members examined coroner qualifications and training in Ohio. They also explored certification programs in St. Louis, Mo., and forensic pathology training in the Polk County, Iowa, Medical Examiner's Office.

The group — which contained forensic pathologists, coroners, investigators, toxicologists and anthropologists — identified a strong need for improved communication, increased collaboration and outreach, and greater educational opportunities for the forensic death investigation community.

Participants made the following recommendations:

  • Develop multi-disciplinary courses to educate medicolegal death investigators on the importance of allied disciplines.
  • Create standards for forensic anthropology degree programs.
  • Develop a scientific working group for death investigation.
  • Fund existing forensic pathology fellowship programs; develop new programs.
  • Establish leadership and management programs to train medicolegal death investigation administrators.
  • Offer student loan forgiveness for those serving at least two years in a coroner or medical examiner's office.
  • Create innovative recruitment programs.
  • Conduct outreach and organize the coroner community.
  • Develop regional training programs for coroners.
  • Provide incentive funds to encourage training.

We need a unified system of medicolegal death investigation, no matter the titles, said O'Dell Owens, a coroner and president of the International Association of Coroners and Medical Examiners. This system would then require standards and increased training. But money drives everything, Owens added. There must be a way to increase funding so the field can have better training.

Date Created: June 15, 2011