By Dr. Erin Golembewski, PhD
In August 2016, the University of Maryland, Baltimore Graduate School welcomed its first cohort in the Master of Science in Forensic Medicine in a new initiatives for the Graduate School to develop independent programs. This new program began as an idea at Maryland’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) and grew to a full Master of Science program spanning two continents. The OCME is the statewide agency designated by law to investigate deaths from injury, homicide, suicide, under unusual or suspicious circumstances, or when a person is not attended by a physician. Along with the medicolegal responsibility to determine cause and manner of death, OCME serves a critical public health role by identifying injury trends or potential infectious diseases that may pose risk to Marylanders. OCME also provides educational and training programs for MS Pathology Assistant Students, Pathology Residents, Medical Students and Forensic Pathology Fellows. Dr. David Fowler leads the office and is supported by a staff of two Deputy Chief Medical Examiners and fourteen Assistant Medical Examiners. The office is housed in a state of the art scientific and medical facility in the UMB BioPark which is within walking distance from campus.
One of the strengths of Maryland’s OCME is its unique dedication to academic research. Medical examiners have published many academic articles in top tier journals each year on a range of topics such as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and new emerging drug trends. This focus on research and experience training students made it an ideal collaborator for the Graduate School MS program. Students would train with top forensic pathologist and gain research experience.
Medical examiners, Dr. Fowler along with Drs. Ling Li and Mary Ripple lead the OCME side of designing the program. Although the entire OCME clinical, technical and administrative staff has contributed to make the program great. Initially, the program was exclusively a dual degree program for students from China University of Political Science and Law, one of the top law schools in China. Students would earn their Juris Masters (JD-equivalent), then begin the MS program at UMB with a number of transfer credits ultimately finishing with an JM and MS. This program is UMB’s first international dual degree program. Interest in the program was overwhelming and an additional track was developed for students pursuing only the MS degree. The program is currently exploring future collaborations with Nanjing University (China), Southern Medical University (China), and Hangzhou Medical College (China).
Since starting the MS program in the fall of 2016, forensic medicine students have studied forensic toxicology, forensic pathology, autopsy, and performed research projects. In July, 2017, the first dual degree candidate received her MS degree. The rest of the cohort will graduate at the end of the fall 2017 semester. They will pursue a variety of careers including law enforcement, medical school, medical residency, death investigation and others. All the students will present their research papers at the 6th International Conference on Evidence Law and Forensic Science 2017 (ICELFS) on August 14-16, 2017 in Baltimore.
It has been a pleasure to work with my colleagues in the OCME and the Graduate School developing this program. I traveled to China three times in three years, meeting colleagues who have turned into friends, meeting prospective students who became UMB students and appreciating Chinese history and culture.
For more information about this program, please contact Dr. Erin Golembewski.