National Center on Forensics Community-Focused Webinar Series

National Center on Forensics Community-Focused Webinar Series


In this webinar series, the National Center on Forensics (NCF) and FTCOE collaborate to deliver educational sessions based on specific needs identified by NCF research with community members. The NCF, funded by the National Institute of Justice, works specifically with death investigation professionals to develop educational content to meet identified needs. Through surveys, focus groups, and working groups, educational topics that are timely, pan-applicable, and practical are suggested, developed, and provided as a resource for the community, presented by experts in the field. 

The forensic workforce community is facing a crisis with less than half of the forensic pathologists needed to cover the US available, as well as increasing tensions, stress, and challenges in communicating every day and during crisis situations. Many counties have a limited caseload and cannot recruit full-time or permanent staff. Thus, a transient workforce of forensic pathologists, who cover multiple counties or move about the country filling gaps, has arisen. Experts in negotiating and organizing a transient workforce will present the challenges of utilizing these vital resources, the benefits and outcomes of recruiting temporary support, and best practices in fulfilling medical death investigation service goals. Other systems have organized themselves as a hub and spoke model where the limited availability of a forensic pathologist is kept centrally (hub) while individual counties or offices utilize alternative personnel for the initial investigations who are trained medical death investigators (e.g., the State of Virginia). How this was done, what it entails, the impact it has had, and the lessons learned will be presented. Lastly, recent political, pandemic, climate, and immigration-related crisis have impacted the short-staffed medical death investigation workforce where communication and keeping the public’s trust have been paramount. How to best communicate with the public, the media, other government officials, etc. is a valuable skill for forensic experts who work in high volume, high scrutiny environments. The lived experiences and best practices in this context will be discussed by seasoned experts. 


Modern Death Investigation: Hub and Spoke Models for Adequate Workforce 
This webinar occurred on November 7, 2023
Presenter: Dr. William T. Gormley

This webinar describes the history, structure, and operations of the Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. The system includes four regional offices staffed by forensic pathologists supervising over 100 appointed Local Medical Examiners. Decedents requiring autopsy are transported to a regional office, while most external examinations are performed in the community by appointed Local Medical Examiners. 

Transient Workforce in Forensic Pathology: Challenges, Rewards, and Best Practices 
This webinar occurred on November 16, 2023
Presenters: Dr. Laura D. Knight & Melanie Rouse

A roadmap to successfully utilizing contract forensic pathologists, also known as locum tenens, will be presented by a Chief Medical Examiner and a Coroner with extensive experience in employing these useful contractors to perform forensic autopsies and other professional tasks in today’s environment of increasing caseloads. Topics will include the forensic pathologist workforce shortage, scheduling, budgeting, fee structures, and different business models for the use of locum tenens forensic pathologists in busy Medical Examiner and Coroner offices. 

Expert Forensic Communication: Best Practices and Common Pitfalls 
This webinar occurred on November 28, 2023
Presenters: Julie Bolcer & Shivonne Hutson

A world in crisis and a 24/7 media cycle demands consistent, clear, and effective communication from organizations tasked with death investigation and related responsibilities. Two seasoned professionals will share their experiences reaching diverse stakeholders and engaging the public in the vital work of the largest medical examiner’s office in the country. 

Related Resources

Funding for this Forensic Technology Center of Excellence webinar series has been provided by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.

The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this webinar series are those of the presenter(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Justice.

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