A centennial celebration.
Author: Wecht, Cyril
Pub Date: 03/22/2011
Publication: Name: The Forensic Examiner Publisher: American College of Forensic Examiners Audience: Professional Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health; Law; Science and technology Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2011 American College of Forensic Examiners ISSN: 1084-5569
Issue: Date: Spring, 2011 Source Volume: 20 Source Issue: 1
Accession Number: 254401128

There has always been something special about the number 100 in our lives, from our proud feelings as a third-grader when our favorite teacher gave us back our spelling or arithmetic tests, or when we reached that number in our early teen savings account, or when we participated in the family celebration of our beloved grandmother's birthday. Now, all of us as members of ACFEI can join in to express our heartiest congratulations to The Forensic Examiner[R] on the publication of its 100th edition--a truly significant milestone for any professional journal, and especially so for the official publication of a relatively new, continuously expanding, innovative, and dynamic organization like the ACFEI.

Chris Powers and all of his editorial assistants, writers, and staff members are to be commended for their outstanding efforts in helping to develop The Forensic Examiner [R] into a respected, significant source of timely, interesting, and highly informative articles dealing with a wide range of forensic scientific subjects. And, of course, all the people who have taken the time to prepare erudite articles for publication in this journal since its first edition deserve thanks and appreciation from all of us TFE readers. Every national professional organization with even a modestly large membership requires its own officially recognized publication as a prerequisite for widespread recognition; as an essential mechanism for maintaining a line of communication among its members; and as a necessary component of providing meaningful, relevant educational value to its members. There can be no doubt that TFE has fulfilled these roles in an admirable and successful fashion.

The ACFEI was founded in 1992 by Dr. Robert L. O'Block. The mere idea of envisioning the creation of a new national forensic scientific entity just 19 years ago is quite fascinating to reflect upon. But even great ideas are not worth very much unless there is some substantive and productive follow-up to implement such a dream and bring its proposed objectives to fruition. With patience, fortitude, perseverance, boundless energy, and the expenditure of a great deal of time, effort, and personal financial support, Dr. O'Block succeeded against formidable odds in accomplishing what very few people in modern times have succeeded in doing--establishing a national professional organization with members from all over the U.S., and now, from several foreign countries as well. When one keeps in mind the fact that the ACFEI is only 19 years old, this achievement must be perceived as a truly remarkable phenomenon.

The field of forensic science is as old as the earliest organized civilizations in the world and as new as the most modern-day scientific technological developments. Every ancient society realized that sudden, unexpected, unexplained, violent deaths needed to be understood and dealt with in some manner. All kinds of community, interpersonal, and intra-familial problems, which concern us today in the 21st century and require some form of socially acceptable legal resolution, also had to be confronted and handled thousands of years ago. Forensic scientists would have played a key role then in helping to resolve those serious matters, just as modern-day forensic scientists do in various civil, criminal, industrial, and environmental disputes and transgressions in the year 2011. (For this reason, I consider forensic pathology to be the oldest medical specialty ever practiced! Just think about it in the context of these historical reflections.)

The critical importance and pragmatic significance of the many forensic scientific specialties and subspecialties in modern-day society cannot be overemphasized. Homicides, all kinds of sexual assault, physical and mental abuse of individuals from infancy to elderly, alcohol and drug abuse in the area of criminal law, medical malpractice, product liability, motor vehicular accidents, all kinds of personal injury cases, environmental pollution matters, insurance policy claims in the area of civil law--how could these be handled without input from well-educated forensic scientific experts?

In workers' compensation cases and industrial claims (e.g., coal workers' pneumoconiosis, asbestosis, heart attacks, etc.), the forensic scientist will often be the major player in reviewing, analyzing, and helping to objectively resolve legal disputes.

The ACFEI now has a combined membership of 20,000 members and has established 11 boards spanning a wide range of forensic scientific disciplines. The ACFEI provides continuing education credits for physicians, dentists, psychologists, nurses, accountants, attorneys, counselors, and social workers. In addition, special programs have been structured for law enforcement personnel. Included among our organization's major accomplishments are officially established relationships with the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit and the U.S. Navy. Significant publications include this peer-reviewed quarterly, The Forensic Examiner [R], and its excellent Inside Homeland Security[R], sold nationally in Barnes & Noble bookstores.

Attendance at national meetings has been increasing each year. From the initial organizational conferences in the mid-90s with 60 people, the number has jumped nearly tenfold. A steadily increasing number of highly qualified forensic scientists from several foreign countries have become ACFEI members, a further indication of the ever-increasing level of professional respect and prestige of this organization.

More than 400 universities and colleges throughout the U.S., as well as hundreds of high schools, have implemented academic programs in the overall field of forensic science and criminal justice. Several of these curricula provide the further opportunity for students to acquire master's and Ph.D. degrees in some of the forensic specialties. The incredible popularity of television programs, movies, and fiction and nonfiction books that deal with forensic science investigations is further attestation of the burgeoning interest in these fields of professional endeavor at all levels of our society. Criminal and civil attorneys and judges have become increasingly aware of the need to utilize forensic scientists in all kinds of litigation. Insurance companies, the pharmaceutical industry, and many manufacturers and product designers have come to realize that they cannot function in a thorough, effective, and competent fashion without input from appropriate forensic specialists.

The ACFEI is primed to play a leading role in this remarkable modern-day, medicolegal, societal phenomenon. The need for formally educated, well-trained, experienced, skilled, competent forensic scientists will continue to expand. Credentialing will be essential (see the February 2009 National Academy of Sciences Report regarding forensic science!) if an individual wishes to be accepted as an expert in the near future.

The ACFEI can only be as strong and nationally significant as its individual members. All of us must fully comprehend and intellectually appreciate the importance of our respective roles in various forensic scientific specialties and subspecialties. This kind of awareness can be achieved to a substantial extent through active membership and involvement in a national professional organization, which provides the opportunity to meet and work with respected colleagues, to constantly learn, and to be kept abreast of new, relevant, and important developments in a timely fashion. Attendance at regional and national conferences sponsored by the ACFEI should be a priority professional item on all our agendas, no matter how busy we are. Reading and contributing articles for publication in The Forensic Examiner[R] is a worthwhile endeavor.

Take a moment to reflect on who you are professionally; how you can utilize your education, training, and experience to the greatest extent possible; and what contributions all of us, individually and collectively, can make to society as knowledgeable, objective, well-educated forensic scientists. This is the present and future challenge for all of us.

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