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Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward
on tissues that are available upon autopsy without the permission of next of kin, lack of funding, and lack of space. Historically, the consent issue derives from the fact that forensic autopsies are carried out for medicolegal purposes and thus do not require permission from the next of kin. But without this permission, research that utilizes tissue from medical examiner offices does not take place. The time constraints for the performance of medicolegal autopsies make finding families and obtaining consent difficult. Many projects consist of epidemiological reviews that while of interest are not basic science.
Some U.S. universities may administer some forensic pathology fellowship programs, while others may include forensic pathologists within their departments of pathology. In these instances, the forensic pathologist usually supervises a departmental autopsy service that performs hospital and forensic autopsies. A university connection usually provides the university with the opportunity to rotate pathology residents and medical students through an ME/C office for a brief period, usually several months, and provides exposure to forensic pathology as part of an overall education program for medical students or as required by ACGME for training residents in general pathology. Even in universities that have a department of forensic science, research is limited to the forensic science disciplines, and little or no research is devoted to forensic pathology or forensic medicine. In some cases, there may be collaborative, ongoing epidemiological activities, such as when forensic pathologists work with members of departments of trauma surgery to develop statistical studies or when a forensic pathologist presents data at surgical or pediatric death review conferences. Of the many impediments to academic research in forensic pathology in the United States, the most significant are the lack of understanding of forensic research challenges, the lack of a perceived need and national goals, the lack of grant funding of any kind to support research, the lack of forensic pathology researchers, and the lack of recognition for efforts directed to forensic pathology research within the university community. Grant funding drives research, but virtually no funding is available to encourage departments of pathology to make forensic pathology research a focus, and there is little tradition of collaboration between academic and forensic pathologists.
Translational research bridges the gap between basic science discoveries and their practical applications. In the case of forensic pathology/medicine, this means taking basic science research knowledge to the autopsy table.58 Given the large numbers of autopsies performed in the