Education and Training for Medical Examiner
Medical examiners perform autopsies, run clinical tests and act as expert witnesses in cases of undetermined or violent deaths. Depending on where they're employed, examiners might be required to perform duties similar to those of coroners or forensic pathologists. Becoming a medical examiner requires completing medical school followed by a postgraduate residency program.
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Medical Examiner Requirements
In order to become a medical examiner, individuals need to earn a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree. Before applying to medical school, students must first earn an undergraduate degree and complete pre-med prerequisites in chemistry, biology, organic chemistry, physics and mathematics. Since medical examiners often run forensics exams on corpses, taking forensic pathology elective courses as an undergraduate could prove useful, especially since not all MD programs offer extensive coursework in this field.
Most MD programs are set up so that students spend the first two years in classroom lectures and the remaining two years in clinical rotations working with patients. Coursework in these programs include human health and disease, anatomy, immunology, pathology, medical technologies and healthcare law. During clinical rotations, medical students spend time training in different departments, such as pediatrics, surgery, neurology and ambulatory medicine.
Upon completing an MD program, individuals might need to become licensed physicians prior to entering a residency training program. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), licensing procedures in all states involve passing an exam, such as the United States Medical Licensing Examination (www.bls.gov). This exam is divided into three different sections, including clinical knowledge, clinical skills and practical applications of scientific medical concepts.
After completing medical school, individuals who want to become medical examiners require specific training that can be achieved through a residency program related to anatomic or forensic pathology. Residency programs allow doctors to specialize in a particular field, and some residency programs can take up to seven years or more to complete. Anatomic and forensic pathology residencies take about 3-4 years and cover such topics as identification of suspicious markings or substances during autopsies, the respectful treatment of remains and common procedures during a forensic autopsy examination.
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How to Become a Medical Examiner: Education and Career Roadmap
Medical examiners are licensed physicians who possess specialized training in forensic pathology. They perform autopsies and inspect organs, tissue and bodily fluids to determine the cause of death in violent or suspicious cases. Dealing with deceased individuals on a regular basis might be a negative for some doctors, but solving questions related to unexplained deaths may be rewarding for other professionals.