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Professor discusses forensic health

Binghamton University is doing its part to educate students in the emerging field of forensic health, Mary Muscari said at a Binghamton University Forum “faculty focus” program on Jan. 14.

“The opportunities are extraordinary,” she said during the lunch event at Old Union Hall. “There’s always room for growth and new things. But we can never rest on our laurels.”

Muscari, associate professor in the Decker School of Nursing, has written or co-authored more than 100 publications and has two books on forensics coming out in March. Her Forum talk was titled “Forensic Health: It’s Not Just About Dead People.”

Binghamton has taken the lead in the topic by developing a graduate certificate program in forensic health. Courses include “Forensic Health Essentials,” which includes an overview of disciplines, evidence collection and forensic assessment; “Forensic Health of Victims,” looking at victim resources, needs and rights; and “Forensic Health of Offenders,” examining crime classifications and offender needs and rights.

Students can take the courses even if they are not interested in the certificate.

“You have different levels of people with different levels of experience being able to share all of the time,” Muscari said. “It works well. Students are always excited.”

Muscari also is developing a course on forensic pediatrics that will examine children as victims, with an emphasis on identifying issues of concern and determining what can done.

The courses, and Muscari’s talk, have helped dispel the notion that forensic health and medicine is strictly associated with death, homicide and cases that can be solved in an hour.

“When we think about the F word, what we think about right away is dead people,” Muscari said. “We think CSI and Quincy. That’s not what it’s all about, but it does bring people in. The increase in interest in forensics did result from the TV shows.”

But most forensic professionals work with the living, Muscari said, such as victims of child or elder abuse, sexual assault or aggravated assault. They also are in many community places, including schools, emergency departments and correctional facilities.

A priority for forensic professionals is to help identify warning signs of future violence in children. Muscari used a 4-year-old thrown out of day care as an example.

“He’s only 4; isn’t that cute?” she said. “It’s not going to be cute when he’s 14. We don’t think that when they are little. We have to think about these behaviors when they are small.”

Children under 12 are a “worrisome population,” for health-care providers, Muscari said.

“Yes, they are more apt to be fixed if we catch them early,” she said. “But if we don’t, they are more likely to be lifelong offenders.”

Muscari stressed that it is important for health-care professionals and teachers to receive forensics education. She hopes the future features more interdisciplinary programs and research on the topic at Binghamton.

“There is so much talent in our faculty, staff and students,” she said. “There is so much we can do and there are so many things coming down the pike.”

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Last Updated: 10/14/08