ASCP Lends Global Health Expertise to Puerto Rico Forensics Mission

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“Our goal is to bring ASCP’s expertise in global health and technical expertise in laboratory quality to the project,” said ASCP CEO Blair Holladay, PhD, MASCP, SCT(ASCP)CM.

The American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) joined the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors (ASCLD), the National Association of Medical Examiners (NAME) and the American Board of Forensic Anthropology (ABFA) on a recent mission to respond to ongoing challenges experienced by the Puerto Rico Bureau of Forensic Science after the hurricane in 2017.

“Our goal is to bring ASCP’s expertise in global health and technical expertise in laboratory quality to the project,” said ASCP CEO Blair Holladay, PhD, MASCP, SCT(ASCP)CM.

The mission, which was conducted between April 21 and May 3, 2019, was the most recent effort by the Puerto Rico Forensic Science Project, which began in April 2018.

Since Hurricane Maria devastated the island in 2017, the Puerto Rico Bureau of Forensic Science, also known as Negociado de Ciencias Forenses, has been improving its services for the island and managing its routine processes caused by the disaster. However, staffing shortages in the laboratory remain a major barrier.

“The facilities and staff in Puerto Rico are simply excellent. They just don’t have enough staff at this time to meet the island’s needs,” said ASCP Chief Medical Officer Dan Milner, MD, MSc(Epi), FASCP.

In late 2018, Dr. Holladay was contacted by NAME to participate in the initial discussions about the needed response to the challenges at the Bureau of Forensic Science in Puerto Rico.

Since then, Dr. Holladay, along with Dr. Milner and ASCP Board member Gregory Davis, MD, FASCP, a forensic pathologist at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, have been involved in ongoing discussions with the other organizations about the challenges in Puerto Rico and how to best assist.

Dr. Milner was selected to represent ASCP with a team of forensic specialists that traveled to Puerto Rico in late April 2019. He also conducted interviews with multiple stakeholders including pathologists, staff, federal officials, prosecutors, academic pathologists and university representatives.

“The main mission is to assist our forensic colleagues with workload and complete all available cases within the unit. In addition, we made observations as to why this may be occurring and suggestions about what to potential consider as solutions,” Dr. Milner said. “We hope to provide a fresh look through our global health perspective as well as assess processes, think about quality and consider efficiency in the laboratory.”

“It is clear that the Bureau of Forensic Science has staffing challenges at the moment; yet, there may be other actions we can help them with now to remedy this challenge, as they seek short- and long-term approaches to acquire more staff,” Dr. Milner said.

Learn more about this effort to assist the Puerto Rico Bureau of Forensic Science here.

About ASCP
Founded in 1922 in Chicago, ASCP is the world’s largest professional membership organization for pathologists and laboratory professionals. ASCP provides excellence in education, certification, and advocacy on behalf of patients, anatomic and clinical pathologists, and medical laboratory professionals. To learn more, visit http://www.ascp.org. Follow us on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ascp_chicago and connect with us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ASCP.Chicago.

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