By Savitre “Rapture” Schaefferkoetter, Staff Writer
For the second feature of women in forensic science, I had the pleasure of interviewing an Asian female medical examiner.
She grew up in the central region of the Philippines and moved to the States in 1985. She attended medical school in the Philippines, and upon moving here, did her residency in Miami Dade County, FL, where she was invited to join the pathology fellowship program. From Miami Dade, she worked previously at a different medical examiner’s office before relocating to her current office.
A day in the life of a medical examiner, also known as a forensic pathologist or simply “doctor,” can vary. Each pathologist in the office takes turns overseeing the autopsies of the day. The decedents are picked up by the autopsy technicians the evening before, where they are kept in a temperature-controlled area. Then, the autopsies start early in the morning.
A death investigative report provided by the forensic investigator, helps the medical examiner to know what they are looking for. While the body is examined internally, the doctor is dictating her notes into a headset microphone, and the autopsy technicians are diligently collecting specimen to be used for toxicology testing. At autopsy, she needs to decide if drug testing, ethanol/volatile testing, and/or carbon monoxide testing needs to be conducted on each case.
On off days, she is filling out paperwork. She is preparing official autopsy results, going over her notes, examining histology slides, and signing out cases. The task depends on if the cause of death is known, unknown, or suspected. Some cases are placed on hold, where no testing is initially done, but the specimen is held in the long term storage for an extended period of time. Occasionally, she will go to court to testify about her findings in related criminal cases.
She is the only female medical examiner in her office, which is unusual for medical examiner’s offices. Several Floridian districts hire female chief medical examiners. She also said she feels that race isn’t an issue in the forensic pathology field. However, her career choice has shaped her life differently.
Her husband is a physician, and although their clients are different, they can still relate to each other’s careers. She has a son, to which she warns about the dangers of drugs, drinking, texting and driving, and the importance of a healthy mental state. She lives privately–she has social media outlets, but is careful not to include co-workers, as business and personal life should be kept separate. With a job as important as hers, it’s easy to see why.
I admire my friend very much, and I hope her story has shed more light on the fascinating field of forensic science and women’s role in it. Stay tuned for the next installment.
Inquiries may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or through Facebook (Savitre Geeratisoontorn Schaefferkoetter).
Featured & Article Images: Special to The Jade Times