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Q&A with Forensic Pathologist, Thomas Young, MD

CriminalJusticePrograms.com spoke with Dr. Thomas Young, forensic pathologist and owner of Heartland Forensic Pathology, LLC. He is the former Jackson County Medical Examiner and was the chief death investigator for metropolitan Kansas City, Missouri. He has testified in court more than 385 times.

Below Dr. Young talks about the realities of a career in forensic pathology and some of the issues future forensic scientists should be aware of.

Q: What is your current position and what kind of training did it require?

I'm a board-certified, forensic pathologist, which basically means that I'm a medical doctor. I went through medical school, which is four years long, and I also did a four-year residency in anatomical and clinical pathology. On top of that, I did another year of training in forensic pathology.

Q: What is forensic pathology? How does it differ from other forensic science specialties?

Most of the other forensic science specialties do not necessarily involve medical doctors. When I say "forensic," I'm talking about [Short Code Error: type value must be either online or ground]. They have an idea. They're talking about getting more accredited training and accrediting more crime labs, but they have not really put their finger on the underlying problem. And until they do, we're going to continue to have problems in the field.

Q: What do you see for the future of forensic pathology?

I am always hopeful. I don't know that the answer is going to come from the scientists. I'm hoping that in time, the attorneys, judges and courts figure out the problems with forensic science. I am optimistic, but right now it's pretty discouraging.

Q: As a teacher of forensic pathology, what do you think students need to look for in their education to help them prepare for the field?

I was the director of a training program in forensic pathology. I encourage students to be very skeptical about some of the stuff they're being taught. There is a lot of misinformation. People think that they know how to do this, and the problem is: who's to tell them they're wrong? Somebody gets sent to jail, and everybody thinks that's the end of the matter. I encourage students to be very, very skeptical about things; look at everything very critically because things are not always the way they seem.

Q: Any other particular recommendations for aspiring forensic pathologists? Is this a career path that you would recommend for them?

I have no regrets. I love what I do. It's not going to bring me fame and fortune, but I think I was made to do this. I think I am making a contribution, and I'm very excited about what I do. If somebody is going to go into this field, they have to have their eyes open, and they have to know what they're getting into. They have to realize that not everyone is going to be just patting them on the back for doing a good job. They're going to get a lot of resistance. They have to be kind of tough.

***If you are interested in forensic pathology, you might also be interested in:
Forensic Science Degrees
Forensic Psychology Degrees
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