The Crestiad

Cedar Crest College newspaper since 1923

The Truth About Forensic Pathology

By Gabrielle Johnson

Medical Examiner Dr. Samuel Land visited Cedar Crest on September 16 to give a presentation on Forensic Pathology.  Land is a part of the Forensic Pathology Associates in Allentown, and has been certified by the American Board of Pathology in Forensic Pathology, as well as Anatomic and Clinical Pathology.

Land, who knew from a young age that he wished to enter a medical field and decided in his teens to pursue forensics, spoke of the many challenges one can face while pursuing a specialization in forensic pathology, as well as the many benefits, and detriments, one finds after attaining the position.

Land’s work during high profile cases often ends up center stage, having been featured in magazines across the country. He is also friends with famous writer Patricia Cornwell, who often consults with him on the science behind her crime novels.

The reaction to his work isn’t all positive though. He, as well as anyone in his field, often must testify in court in order to prove the validity of his work.

“It’s not just about proving they did the crime,” said Land, “you need to prove that you proved they did the crime properly.”

During his speech he stressed that the pay was low compared to other medical professions, saying those who were looking for money should cast their gaze towards something like dermatology instead, but joked that the most frustrating thing about his work was not being able to watch procedural dramas on TV.

“I’ve only seen one episode of CSI,” Land told his audience, “I ended up yelling at the television.”

Other than discussing the many nuances of the field, Land also covered some of the cases he has worked on and the commonalities between them, such as the contents of the dead’s stomachs, jokingly speculating that everyone must go to McDonald’s before they die. Despite the grim topic, Land was cheerful and entertaining, filling his time with both information and anecdotes.

“Nothing good ever happens after 2:30 am. If someone comes to you and says ‘Hey watch this’ and it’s after 2:30, leave before you become a witness.” Land said during a discussion on estimating Time of Death.

Cedar Crest is one of a handful of colleges with undergraduate and graduate forensic science programs that have been accredited by the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission. It also hosts the annual Cedar Crest College Forensic Science Symposium, led by students in the Forensic Science Student Organization, which has drawn professionals in the field nationwide.

“It’s a great field for women,” Land said in a personal interview after his presentation, “more women are finishing their fellowships than men.” Being a career that largely involves helping others, but does not hold the acclaim of other altruistic professions, it is no surprise that women are becoming the forefront of this growing field.

Is Forensic Science for everyone? Certainly not. It’s not difficult to find students on campus that came for the forensic science program before drifting towards another field of study.

“You need to get into it as more of a calling,” Land said. “It’s physically demanding, emotionally demanding, mentally demanding, but it’s so much fun.” For Land, and others in the Forensic Science field, the benefits of the job far outweigh the negatives. They enjoy their jobs, and the sometimes strange lives the job produces, and are satisfied with the somewhat morbid career choice.

“Try to enjoy life because you never know when you’re not going to get the chance to enjoy it anymore”, Land said, bringing his presentation to a close with a piece of advice students from any major can follow.

Interested in learning more about the Forensic Science program at Cedar Crest? Click here for more information.

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This entry was posted on September 23, 2013 by in 2013, News and tagged .
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