Guest post by Dr Nicola Cunningham, Senior Forensic Physician at Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine and Emergency Physician at St Vincent’s Hospital, Melbourne.
Ever wondered what it would be like to work in a field like “CSI”?
A term as a Clinical Forensic Medicine Registrar at the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine (VFM) is as close as it gets as a doctor to navigating your way through the murky bowels of crime and experiencing the fascinating world of forensic labs, police stations and courts.
We don’t have a theme song by the Who, and we never look as glamorous at two in the morning, but we do have shiny silver cases and get to talk a lot about injuries and DNA. We meet the good, the bad and the bizarre, in a job where no two days are the same.
Clinical Forensic Medicine is a subspecialty that is very well suited to Emergency Medicine training. The work covers a range of areas including toxicology, addiction medicine, gynaecology, sexual health, psychiatry, general practice and custodial health. The work takes us to hospitals, police stations, and prisons, to name a few. When we are not out “on a job”, we are discussing clinical cases, writing up reports, and learning from our colleagues, in a unique building that houses physicians, pathologists, and other forensic specialists working in anthropology, odontology, radiology, entomology, and toxicology. Just down the corridor are the Coroners’ Courts – another rich source of education and expertise for doctors.
The ACEM has long recognised the importance of Clinical Forensic Medicine training for emergency trainees and the posts have been accredited for special skills training since 1996. Initially available for one registrar every six months, it is a rotation that has grown in size and reputation to three registrar positions in recent years. In 2016, twenty years after the first emergency registrar joined our honour roll; fifty-six emergency registrars (as well as a number of registrars from other specialities) have shared our offices and our rosters, and taken away with them many skills and experiences that will continue to serve them well throughout their careers.
Many of our ex-registrars have enjoyed the work so much, they have embarked on the Master of Forensic Medicine, or are working towards a Fellowship with the Faculty of Clinical Forensic Medicine (Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia), or have continued to work occasional shifts on the after-hours roster.
In fact, some of us have never left.
Dr Nicola Cunningham
B. Med, MForensMed, FFCFM (RCPA), FACEM
Senior Forensic Physician, Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine
Emergency Physician, St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne