Forensic Pathology

Master the technical skills needed for the practice of autopsy and forensic pathology.

You will develop a fund of general medical knowledge and focused pathology knowledge relevant to the practice of autopsy and forensic pathology. This will include an understanding of mechanism, manner, mode and cause of death, the pathophysiology of disease as it affects multiple organ systems and interacts with other disease processes. You will learn to recognize the marks of the various injuries that are important in the practice of forensic pathology.

You will learn to effectively apply your general and focused medical knowledge in the formulation of a rational clinical-pathologic correlation, bringing together clinical history, laboratory data, imaging data and prior pathology findings with the findings at death to establish the cause of death and interpret the findings at autopsy.

We will train you to perform a systematic and complete gross human dissection (with assistance from the autopsy assistant) including body cavity, brain, spinal cord and relevant limb dissection within three hours. You will master the selection of tissues for microscopic examination, trimming and orienting tissues appropriately.

You will learn to be able to review microscopic and gross autopsy findings, make appropriate diagnoses and draw correct conclusions about disease and death processes. You will be able to communicate the range of findings with clinical and other professional staff and will be able to complete the preliminary and final autopsy report within two and 60 working days, respectively.

In this rotation, you will learn to communicate autopsy findings effectively with other health-care providers in both informal and formal situations and will learn to prepare and present electronic presentation materials that concisely and accurately convey autopsy findings.

You will learn to write clear, medically rational autopsy reports that include a clinical data summary, gross and microscopic descriptions, clinical-pathological correlations and an organized outline of diagnostic findings with an etiologically-specific cause of death. You should become familiar with and sensitive to the nuances appropriate to writing about a human death, including writing about unexpected, clinically-relevant findings.

You will learn to work as an effective member of the autopsy team and will work with the autopsy assistant, other residents and attending pathologists to perform a safe and thorough autopsy, given the limitations of the permission.

You must acquire knowledge of practice and health care delivery systems and an awareness of the role of pathology in the context of the greater health care system. In particular, you will learn the roles of the autopsy and forensic examination in the delivery of quality health care. The roles include the use of the autopsy as a quality assurance tool as well as its use in clinician education and in clinical research. In forensic settings, you will learn about the role of the forensic examination in medical-legal investigations of death.

We will help you develop an understanding of the general administrative aspects of autopsy pathology practice. You will develop a working knowledge of histology processing, laboratory information systems and the management of autopsy cases from initial accessioning to final sign-out. You will learn the regulatory and medical-legal issues that surround general hospital and forensic autopsies.

You must learn to take your professional responsibilities seriously and act accordingly. These responsibilities include on-call and regular coverage of the autopsy service, autopsy record-keeping, and collection of tissues for researchers. While on forensic rotations, you should work professionally with the forensic pathologists and other individuals (e.g. autopsy assistants, medical photographers, police).

Years Taken

  • PGY-2, PGY-3 or PGY-4

Length of Rotation

4 weeks

Clinical Site

Erie County Medical Examiner’s Office at Erie County Medical Center.