Botswana has successfully managed to train a forensic pathologist through the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine (VFM), the Department of Forensic Medicine at Monash University of Australia.
The pathologist is said to have adjusted well to the demands of his profession, especially in the African set-up where the work-load is a constant challenge.
Pathology is not well known amongst Batswana who are said to have a great fear of dealing with the dead. In fact, for some the only knowledge they have about pathology is through watching the internationally famous series, Crime Scene Investigation, (CSI).
Stephen Cordner of VFM cites that the fame of the show has become a pain in the neck for real-life pathologists.
“What pathologists in the famous series CSI cover in one episode, in the real world could take pathologists up to 2 years,” said Cordner.
CSI is a series that focuses on the technology and different techniques associated with the field of forensic medicine.
In each episode, different case studies of homicide are acted out and at the end of each episode, the forensic pathologists are able to solve the mysterious cases in what the TV shows would like us to believe were days.
Cordner said that in real-life a lot is expected from pathologists because of the CSI effect, but the shortage of pathologists worldwide has ensured that CSI remains a mere fantasy.
Cordner said that investigations in the real world could take up to two years because pathologists are a rare breed worldwide and that is why they had come up with the idea of offering education and training in forensic medicine to suitable African medical graduates, the training is expected to start in July this year.
Cordner accompanied by Timothy Fisher of the Australian Federal Police (AFP) was recently in Gaborone attending the Inaugural Forum of Forensic Pathology; MedicoÔÇôLegal Death Investigations, which was attended by representatives of the World Health Organisation (WHO), the minister of Defence, Justice and Security, Ramadeluka Seretse, and the Director of Forensic Sciences in Botswana, amongst others. The forum was a first of its kind for Botswana.
“We are conducting interviews for applicants while we are here for the first two positions open in our education and training course in forensic medicine that we are to offer to 8 suitable African medical graduates.
According to Cordner, each of the 8 graduates would be enrolled and trained for a Masters of Forensic Medicine. Each would do two years of study in which one will be at home through distance education and a second year in Melbourne. All that’s required is for applicants to have a recognised medical degree, and a score greater than 7.5 in the International English Language Testing System.
VFM has been providing forensic medicine training to medical graduates from developing countries for well over 15 years. It’s partnership with the Australian Federal Police has ensured that there is funding to train a number of African medical graduates over the next four years, Botswana included.
Speaking at the Forum, the commissioner of Botswana Police, Thebeyame Tsimako, said that the relationship between the VFM and Botswana police is a confirmation of the good working relationship that has existed for years and that Botswana has benefited a successfully trained pathologist from the relationship. The commissioner also revealed that in southern Africa there has been a committee of medical doctors within the structures of the Southern African Regional Police Chiefs Co-operation Organisation (SARPCCO). He said that the organisation was responsible for promoting regional co-operation in the fight against organised crime amongst other things.
“Perhaps we should explore the possibility of including forensic pathologists as part of the sub-commitee.This way, the envisaged forum for forensic pathology will benefit from the support of the already exiting SARPCCO structures,” said Tsimako.