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Pathology Section

The Suffolk County Office of the Medical Examiner is staffed by 7 full-time forensic pathologists: 5 Deputy Medical Examiners, one Deputy Chief Medical Examiner, and a Chief Medical Examiner. The pathologists are from diverse backgrounds, having trained at offices such as the Dade County (Miami, FL) Medical Examiner, Bexar County (San Antonio, TX) Medical Examiner, Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP), and the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME), as well as having worked in various Medical Examiner and Coroner jurisdictions including the New York City OCME, Nassau County Medical Examiner, City of  Philadelphia Medical Examiner, Maricopa County (Phoenix, AZ) Medical Examiner  and counties within the states of West Virginia, Indiana, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Michigan, Delaware, and South Carolina. This rich assembly of forensic pathologists has allowed for the development of subspecialty expertise, covering gunshot wounds, sudden natural death, pediatric forensic pathology, and diving incidents. Pathologists work closely with medical forensic death investigators- physician's assistants specifically trained in medicolegal death investigation and certified by the American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators (ABMDI). Additionally, pathologists respond to all homicide scenes within Suffolk County as well as circumstances of suspicious death.

In addition to their daily duties of performing medicolegal autopsies, Medical Examiners participate in postautopsy briefing sessions with detectives of the Suffolk County Police Department Homicide Command, in pretrial preparation with assistant district attorneys from the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office, and in actual court testimony in criminal courts in Riverhead and Central Islip, NY. They also assist in providing education and training to pathology residents from the Stony Brook and Winthrop University Pathology Departments  and to medical students, physician assistant students, Emergency Medical Technicians, nursing students, and undergraduate students considering a career in forensic pathology or another specialty in forensic science. Some of the Medical Examiners also lecture to medical students and residents at Stony Brook University Hospital and have presented lectures to Suffolk County EMTs about various subjects in forensic pathology. Medical Examiners also play an active part in the Suffolk County Community Outreach Drug Awareness program, “The Ugly Truth," a multidisciplinary presentation to parents of preteen children emphasizing the importance of primary prevention and of being engaged sufficiently with their children in order to remain in tune with their milieu. The Medical Examiners' component of this program is crucial in that it underscores the importance of the toll that the opioid epidemic has taken on the families of addicts, including the profound reality of autopsy findings and identification of deceased family members at the OME.

Histology Section

The Suffolk County Office of the Medical Examiner houses its own histology laboratory, supervised by a senior laboratory technologist with over 20 years of experience in histotechnology. The preparation of microscopic slides for the Medical Examiner is crucial in cases that warrant histopathologic (microscopic) confirmation of gross pathologic diagnoses, as well as ancillary information relating to dating (timing) of injuries. Special histologic stains and immunostains are performed by histotechnologists at Stony Brook, but the majority of neuropathology is processed on site at the SCME.

Medical Forensic Investigation

All deaths reported to the Medical Examiner are investigated by Medical Forensic Investigators (MFI)- registered physician's assistants. The extent of the investigation into a reported death is highly variable and depends on the individual case. Some cases can be investigated over the telephone, while others require in-person scene investigation by an investigator. Medical Forensic Investigators respond to the homes of deceased persons as required on a fairly routine basis, regardless of whether the death eventually becomes a medical examiners' case.

Law enforcement and the District Attorney’s Office rely on Medical Forensic Investigators (Medical Examiner personnel) to draw blood from DWI (driving while intoxicated) suspects on an emergency basis within two hours from the time of arrest, twenty-four hours a day.  The results from the toxicological analyses performed on these blood samples become evidence at the trials of those charged with DWI-related crimes. 

Medical Examiners (MEs; forensic pathologists) perform postmortem examinations on decedents and provide testimony for criminal, civil and grand jury proceedings.  In addition, Medical Examiners are actively involved in teaching Stony Brook pathology residents who are required to rotate through the medical examiners office as part of their post-graduate training. Additional teaching duties include instruction to Winthrop Hospital pathology residents, medical students from Stony Brook School of Medicine and West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine, and undergraduate students from Hofstra University, University of New Haven, University of Hartford, and Iona College.

Our Medical Forensic Investigators and Medical Examiners have actively participated in County-wide disaster preparedness. The Suffolk County Office of the Medical Examiner (SCME) is an active partner in the Regional Catastrophic Partner Team.  The SCME has taken the lead for the County by accepting the responsibility of providing the logistics and management of dealing with large numbers of deceased individuals in the event of a mass fatality incident (e.g., pandemic flu), thereby relieving the hospitals and other health care institutions of tasks too overwhelming for them to manage. Toward this goal, the Supervisor of the MFIs has trained and amassed extensive experience in such catastrophe management programs beginning with the TWA Flight 800 disaster in 1996. He has continued to remain an active participant in county-wide disaster drills and tabletop discussions, as well as attending extramural seminars and conferences relating to mass disaster management. 


The following workload statistics reflect all cases reported to the SCME and the resulting disposition of those cases.

Non-Jurisdiction Cases –Deaths that are reported to the Medical Examiner’s Office but are ultimately determined not to fall under the jurisdiction of the Medical Examiner and do not require Medical Examiner involvement.

Cremation Clearances – All cremations performed on decedents in Suffolk County require review and clearance from the Medical Examiner’s Office.

Certified Cases –Deaths reported to the Medical Examiner’s office that do fall under the jurisdiction of the Medical Examiner; however, a forensic examination is not required.

WORKLOAD

Year Cases Reported Autopsy Examinations Forensic External Examinations Non-Jurisdiction Cases Cremation Clearances Certified Cases
2013 5,391 1,090 232 922 3060 87
2014 5,519 1,050 237 894 3205 125
2015 5,850 1,085 253 888 3426 199
2016 6,249 1,256 311 1118 3425 138
2017 6,357 1,249 285 1045 3667 102
2018 6,596 1,203 340 1123 3833 98
2019 6,827 1,184 358 1215 3964 104

The total cases are based on date reported to the office. Other column totals are based on date of examination.

Consultant Services

List of all consultants


Anthropology

Dr. Kristen Hartnett-McCann is a board certified forensic anthropologist who has been working with the SCME since 2014.   Dr. Hartnett-McCann has assisted with numerous scene recoveries of both buried and surface skeletons, working alongside SCME Investigators and Suffolk County law enforcement.  She provides the office with determinations of human vs. nonhuman remains, and differentiates forensically significant skeletal remains from prehistoric, historic, ritual, and teaching skeletons.  In addition, she assists the Medical Examiners in making identifications of unknown individuals by evaluating the skeleton and establishing a biological profile (age, sex, ancestry, and stature).  Frequently, she examines skeletal trauma and pathology to aid in the determination of the cause of death.

Radiology

The SCME utilizes the forensic radiology consultation services of Dr. Mark DeSantis, who is a full-time radiologist at the Northport VA Medical Center. Dr. DeSantis’s expertise is sought primarily when a decedent’s body is not identifiable by conventional means of visual recognition and when other scientific means of identification, such as fingerprints and dental records, are not readily available. The forensic radiologist is able to derive clues from relatively subtle features on plain radiographs, such as remote fracture calluses, tendinous calcifications, and other degenerative changes, as well as anatomic alterations occurring following surgical procedures. In circumstances where positive identification cannot be established scientifically through fingerprints or dental records, forensic radiology is potentially useful for providing scientific identification.

Forensic Odontology (dentistry)

The Suffolk County OME utilizes the forensic odontology consultation services of 5 forensic dentists:

  • Lillian Nawrocki, DDS, DABFO (Chief Forensic Odontology Consultant)
  • Cynthia Brzozowski, DMD, DABFO
  • Rich Serchuk, DDS
  • Phyllis Ho, DDS
  • David Lynn, DDS.

These individuals assist the Office in a variety of activities, which include positive identification of decedents; in analysis of suspected bite marks; and in participation with mass disaster drills. Their expertise is invaluable in the identification of many deceased individuals who, by virtue of injuries they have sustained or postmortem changes, are not identifiable by standard means of visual recognition. While forensic biology (DNA analysis) is the first means of identification that comes to mind by most people, the reality is that DNA identification requires several days to weeks of processing to achieve a positive “match”. In contrast, identification by forensic odontology which involves comparison of antemortem dental records and radiographs (i.e., when the decedent was alive) with postmortem features, usually can be accomplished within a few days – which clearly benefits the decedents’ families in making their funeral arrangements. As the forensic dentists operate on a rotating schedule, one of them is always available for consultation, often on the same day that the decedent is brought into the OME. Their expertise is a major asset to the timely release of decedents to their families.

Diving\SCUBA

Suffolk County Government

H. Lee Dennison Bldg

100 Veterans Memorial Hwy
P.O. Box 6100
Hauppauge, NY 11788

Riverhead County Center

County Road 51
Riverhead, NY 11901