Television shows such as “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” have fascinated viewers for years because of the excitement, adventure, and opportunity to play detective from the comfort of our own home. We watch the investigators look for clues, try to understand what the medical examiner is looking for during the autopsy, and attempt to solve the case before the actors do.
Earlier this month, medical assistant program students at Minnesota School of Business-Brooklyn Center (MSB) had the opportunity to hear from a real life medical examiner instead of one on television. Dr. Lindsey Thomas, a medical examiner from Hennepin County, spoke to students in a hematology class.
Alicia Larson, medical assistant program chair at MSB-Brooklyn Center, said that the students learned a lot of information about crime scene investigation and how important it really is.
“Dr. Thomas explained to the students that without the crime scene information, many times the cause of death cannot be determined,” Larson said.
To illustrate this, Dr. Thomas told the students of a case dealing with an individual who was sniffing gas and ended up passing out in the gas container. The person died, and without the crime scene information, the medical examiner’s office may not have been able to find out the cause of death because gas will not show up on a toxicology report. Dr. Thomas explained that if their office had a sample of the substance, they could have compared it to the blood sample; however, without a sample, this would not have been possible. Thankfully, the crime scene information was available.
Dr. Thomas also spoke about collaboration with others, specifically a friend of hers who is an entomologist. She told the students about a case of a body that had been decomposing due to the weather. Dr. Thomas used information about decomposition and assumed that the body had been sitting for two to three months. After giving some of the maggots found on the body to the entomologist, though, it was determined that the body had actually only been sitting for two to three weeks. This type of collaboration can help immensely when dealing with missing person cases.
Nine to ten percent of the time, the medical examiner knows what the actual cause of death is. The rest of the time, he or she is looking at the underlying issues during the examination to figure out what could have happened, and unfortunately, this still might not be 100 percent definitive. Larson said that the students found this particularly interesting because most assume that the medical examiner is always able to figure out the cause of death.
Tyara Madzey, medical assistant program student, said, “I really enjoyed the medical examiner coming in to talk about her job. It was very informative. I loved how she showed pictures and had a story for each. Before this, I couldn’t imagine doing that job, but after being able to watch and learn from her, it made me want to research this profession a little more.”
Thank you to Dr. Thomas for speaking to our students!
For more information on the medical assistant program at the MSB-Brooklyn Center campus, please call 763-566-7777.