Editor’s Note: Last month, our post exploring Forensic Imaging received lots of interest. Beth Schrack, a technologist with a passion for advancing the field, answers reader questions about opportunities in the growing industry.
Q. How did you get interested in forensics?
In 2004, I had the opportunity to see my first virtual autopsy, led by Dr. Brian Hoey, who had been conducting them since 2001 using CT and MRI. I became very interested in it, but quickly found that there was no one else doing these studies except for Professor Thali’s group, Virtopsy, which was located in Bern, Switzerland. I made it a goal to attend one of his courses, which I did in 2010. Although I was the only American, I had the chance to speak with Professor Thali and his group about how to form a similar program in the US. Their advice: prove that virtual autopsy is a valid study that can assist or replace the traditional autopsy.
Here in America, we watch television shows and read books all about forensic studies presented in the courtroom. Yet, presently, we are still behind the rest of the world in developing this field. European countries, as well as Japan and Australia, are using post-mortem imaging in a majority of their studies. I believe that medical examiner’s offices in America also need to use imaging equipment in their autopsy suites.
Q. Why does forensic imaging deserve more attention?
With a challenging job market, I want to open the door to other opportunities for people to step outside the hospitals and become a part of something amazing – to be a part of a forensic team. There are other career avenues for technologists than just scanning. More importantly, though, is that there are over 11,000 unidentified men, women and children who are in boxes or pauper’s graves, while families grieve their absence and hope for their eventual return. I want to use 3D and PM studies to help identify these individuals and send them home to give families the closure they deserve. There are too many questions left unanswered.
Q. With new technologies emerging every day, what do you think the future has in store for Forensic Imaging?
As digital radiography continues to grow, it will obviously have an impact on forensic imaging. I also see portable units being deployed in the field, actually on site of mass disasters, crime scenes and even archeological digs. There is no limit to how useful forensic imaging can be.
In addition to new technologies, I think the future also holds a more connected community for professionals in this field. I am proud to say that from April 30-May 2, 2013, RadForensics will be presenting the 1st Annual Forensic Imaging Conference in Tunica, MS. I have been fortunate enough to pull together top professionals from associated fields to share their experiences and to mix their worlds. The conference can certainly open many doors for research and opportunity.