Injury prevention, unexplained deaths and doll houses

A/Professor Lyndal Bugeja from the Department of Forensic Medicine recently attended the 2019 Injury Summer Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. Convened by the Johns Hopkins Centre for Injury Research and Policy, the three-day course was a fantastic opportunity to consolidate knowledge around injury prevention and apply new tools developed by Centre.

The event was held at the Maryland Medical Examiner’s Office, and delegates heard from Chief Medical Examiner Dr David Fowler about the strengths of the medical examiner model of death investigation. Here in Australia we use a Coronial model of death investigation, which is quite different.

Lyndal and fellow participants also toured Scarpetta House, a death investigation training facility donated by author Patricia Cornwell and named after her most famous protagonist, Dr Kay Scarpetta. The facility is used as a training ground for forensic investigators, and death scenes based on real events are recreated for trainees to interact with.

The Maryland Medical Examiner’s Office also houses the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death, a series of recreated murder scenes in miniature that have helped to further forensic science. These highly detailed dollhouse-style dioramas were built in the 1930s and 1940s by forensic pioneer Frances Glessner Lee, and are 1:12 replicas of real crime scenes that were used for training.

Lyndal also spent a rewarding afternoon with Emeritus Professor Susan Baker. Professor Baker was the inaugural Director of the Johns Hopkins Centre for Injury Research and Policy and spent much of her early career being mentored by Dr William Haddon, widely regarded as the father of modern injury epidemiology. She has also spent a great deal of time working with the Maryland Medical Examiner’s Office examining trends among injury deaths to identify opportunities for prevention.

The final highlight was visiting the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing to meet with Professor Jacquelyn Campbell, a leading expert on domestic violence homicide. This meeting was an opportunity to test the study protocol developed for Lyndal’s DECRA fellowship on using predictive modelling to prevent family homicide (project in progress).  Professor Campbell was generous with her time, her ideas and willingness to serve as a key international collaborator on the study.

Lyndal said of her experience, “I would highly recommend the Injury Summer Institute. A/Professor Carolyn Crumsty-Fowler and Professor Andrea Gielen have developed an engaging and practical course that is participant centred. They provided a number of opportunities to meet with the rest of their faculty members as well as other academics at Johns Hopkins. I’ve come back to Monash with renewed inspiration.”


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