A Model for Forensic Anthropology Training

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Deborrah C. Pinto
Michal L. Pierce
Jason M. Wiersema


Proper education and training are fundamental in developing a competent forensic anthropology practitioner; however, the amount, variety, and reliability of education and training that a practitioner receives during and after graduate education varies widely, resulting in knowledge gaps between practitioners. Three main issues contribute to these training-based knowledge gaps: lack of guidance from the governing bodies, limited opportunities in education and training, and differences between academic and non-academic training.

The Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences (HCIFS) Forensic Anthropology Division (FAD) has developed a comprehensive program providing practical training for postdoctoral fellows and interns. The goal is to provide introductory practical experience for interns and extensive practical case experience for fellows. The FAD received accreditation in 2015, in large part due to its training program. The FAD Training Manual was developed to guide and record trainings in accordance with accreditation requirements. Its modular format allows customization of the training program, and completion of each module is documented.

Formalized and standardized training under a quality assurance umbrella is key to ensuring trainees will become competent practitioners who will produce high-quality work. The HCIFS training program was developed with a strong quality improvement initiative and therefore is continuously revised to incorporate feedback from trainees and trainers. This template can be used by offices creating or revising their training programs to begin nationwide standardization in training within forensic anthropology.

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