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Forensic Pathology Fellowship




 Deputy Medical Examiner

 Forensic Pathology

 Forensic Pathology Fellowship

The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office is the medicolegal death investigation entity serving Cleveland and 58 surrounding suburban municipalities. Cuyahoga County has a population of 1.25 million people and comprises a geographic area of 458 square miles.

In 2017, the office investigated 6676 reported cases, assumed jurisdiction in 2952 cases, and performed complete autopsies on 1455 cases. Of the cases falling under the office’s jurisdiction, 34.9% were naturals; 5.1% were vehicular fatalities; 6.0% were suicides; 6.4% were homicides; 46.6% were accidents; and 1.0% were undetermined. The office also performed 434 additional complete autopsies for fourteen neighboring counties.

Training in forensic pathology will be a tutorial system under the direction of Dr. Joseph A. Felo, Forensic Pathology Fellowship Program Director, and with assigned supervising staff forensic pathologists. All eight pathologists on staff are board-certified forensic pathologists. This program is designed to provide one year of training in the special field of forensic pathology to individuals previously trained in anatomic and clinical pathology or in anatomic pathology alone. All training is provided in the Office of the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner.

The main objective of this training program is to provide the trainee with a broad exposure to the practice of forensic pathology from which he or she may gain solid, wide, wholesome knowledge, with the necessary skills and attitudes for this discipline. Evaluation of the trainee with the purpose of achieving these objectives will be made continually.

During this year of fellowship, the trainee will be appointed as a Deputy Medical Examiner, and will work with each of the on-duty professional staff, but will work most closely with the program director, Dr. Joseph A. Felo. The fellow will conduct a substantial number of medicolegal autopsies on routine and unique cases, and will be given substantial control of cases at all levels (naturals, accidents, suicides, and homicides), commensurate with their increasing ability. Special emphasis will be placed on autopsy technique, photographic documentation, proper evidence and toxicological specimen collection and handling, microscopic tissue analysis, and the written protocols used to document the autopsy. All of the fellow’s cases will be reviewed with the fellow by the Fellowship Program Director or other supervising Forensic Pathologists. 

The fellow will gain experience in case analysis daily during morning viewing and afternoon summary, and will participate in intradepartmental conferences that are held weekly. The fellow will participate in teaching of rotating pathology residents, medical students, and other groups as needed. The fellow is expected to answer death related inquiries from families, treating physicians, law enforcement agencies, insurance agencies, attorneys, news media, and other interested parties to develop necessary communication skills and circumspection.

The trainee is required to go to selected death and crime scenes in order to become acquainted with the type of information that needs to be accumulated, the preservation of evidence, and the importance of cooperation with law enforcement officials. Training during the year also includes toxicology experience, both on a day-to-day level and through dedicated time spent in the ABFT and ASCLD/LAB-accredited toxicology laboratory located in the same building. Dedicated time will be spent in the ASCLD/LAB-accredited forensic laboratories, also located in the same building, to survey forensic topics including serology, DNA, hair and fiber analysis, clothing and vehicle inspection, gunshot residue analysis, fire arms and ballistics, and fingerprint analysis. The opportunity to work with anthropology, odontology, entomology, and radiology expert consultants is available on relevant cases.

The forensic pathology fellow will participate in the preparation of cases for court and will attend court proceedings where a pathologist is an expert witness. The fellow will be expected to testify in court regarding the cases in which he or she participated, with appropriate guidance and supervision.

The fellow will be encouraged to participate in ongoing research by the staff and to conduct his or her own investigative work where feasible within the office. The fellow will be expected to give occasional presentations on subjects of forensic interest to anatomic and clinical pathology residents at any of the three pathology residencies in Cleveland, as well as to the general medical and law enforcement communities during two forensic pathology seminars held yearly at the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office.

All thirteen of the fellows that have completed the current structured fellowship have passed the American Board of Pathology Forensic Pathology certifying examination on their first attempt. 


Forensic Pathology Fellowship Program Director
Joseph A. Felo, D.O., Chief Deputy Medical Examiner

 Application for Fellowship