Autopsy and Forensic Pathology

Mission Statement

It is the mission of the Autopsy and Forensic Pathology Center of Excellence to perform autopsies for all of the contracted UPMC Hospitals as well as any patient that is under the care of a UPMC Physician when death occurs. The autopsy service provides invaluable resources to the physicians and family members of deceased patients, helping to determine the cause of death and any coincident diseases, reviewing and evaluating potential missed diagnoses or previously uncovered findings, as well as creating an atmosphere of open dialogue between caretakers and family members to discuss health care issues and assist in grief management. The Autopsy and Forensic Pathology Center of Excellence also works closely with community agencies such as Medical Examiner/Coroner Offices and Funeral Homes to ensure that timely and accurate services are provided in a compassionate and consistent manner.

Decedent Affairs Services

The Decedent Affairs Service, housed in the Department of Pathology, is a multi-department coalition of practitioners whose mandate is to coordinate and support all aspects of postmortem care for UPMC patients and their families. The service includes members from Nursing Staff, Intensive Care Medicine, Pathology, Social Work, Security, Patient Transport, Pastoral Care, Health Information Management, Center for Organ Recovery & Education (CORE), among others. Meetings are held monthly to review processes and implement beneficial changes.

Research Activities

The Autopsy and Forensic Pathology Center of Excellence supports ongoing research activities such as Alzheimer disease (in collaboration with the Alzheimer Disease Research Center), interstitial lung disease (in collaboration with the Simmons Center for Interstitial Lung Disease), breast cancer (in collaboration with the Institute for Personalized Medicine) as well as a number of other focused research projects. All research projects are overseen by the Committee for Research and Clinical Training Involving Decedents (CORID).

Teaching and Training Activities

The Autopsy and Forensic Pathology Center of Excellence is actively and vigorously engaged in teaching at UPMC, Pitt Medical School and the University of Pittsburgh. Pathology residents are required to complete autopsies as part of their board examination criteria. Residents often choose to pursue Autopsy and Forensic Pathology as a career. The autopsy service is heavily involved in teaching during the 2nd year medical school Cardiovascular Medicine block. In collaboration with Pitt Medical School the autopsy service also hosts a popular 3rd/4th year medical student elective. Working with the Student Pathology Interest Group at the medical school, the autopsy service has created a 1st/2nd year medical student Autopsy Discovery Project that produces scholarly activity and poster presentations at a meeting each spring. In association with various undergraduate programs at both the University of Pittsburgh and Carlow University, the autopsy service provides internships for pre-health science students and others interested in how autopsy intersects with the public. One such activity recently led to a publication at the Atlantic.

Donation to Science

Patients and their family members are often interested in "donating their body to science" or otherwise contributing to the advancement of science and research after death. Working with the Humanity Gifts Registry as well as other agencies, the Autopsy and Forensic Pathology Center of Excellence can provide many options for patients or families wishing to pursue this process.

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Contraction band necrosis seen in acute myocardial infarction