UTCVM Dean Jim Thompson

New Joint College of Veterinary Medicine Program Fills Void in Forensic Community
By Jim Thompson, Dean, College of Veterinary Medicine

This fall, our intercollegiate Comparative and Experimental Medicine (CEM) program will offer the first post-graduate degree program in forensic odontology in the United States.

The newly established forensic odontology master’s degree concentration provides a solution to an unmet need in the forensic community. We are excited to announce the courses will be taught by national forensics experts Murray Marks, PhD; Mike Tabor, DDS; and Richard Weems, DMD, MS. Drs. Tabor and Weems helped identify Ground Zero victims from the 9-11 attack at the World Trade Center.

CEM is jointly administered by the College of Veterinary Medicine and the Graduate School of Medicine. It is one of only two intercollegiate programs at UT. This new concentration adds unique biomedical experts to the CEM program and broadens the scope of advanced education we can offer professionals to advance their careers. It will create a better job market for those just beginning their careers, and they will surely advance the discipline even further in the future.

Other partners in the concentration include the UT Medical Center, the Knox County Medical Examiner’s Office, the East Tennessee Regional Forensic Center, and the UT Anthropology Research Facility (“Body Farm”).

Forensic odontology is the scientific discipline of identifying victims through unique characteristics of their dental and craniofacial anatomy. Dental identification is particularly valuable since teeth, unlike DNA evidence, are virtually indestructible. Forensic odontology also aids in solving criminal cases involving bite marks, as well as assisting mass disaster identifications such as those needed after Hurricane Katrina and the World Trade Center attack.

Creating this course is another example of the Institute not only advancing academic excellence but also serving communities by providing advance-trained professionals the scientific knowledge and skills to investigate death scenes, determine victim identities, and collect essential information to document whether a crime has been committed. The concentration is designed for medico-legal death investigators, anthropologists, dentists, registered dental hygienists, nurses, biologists, crime scene specialists, detectives, and others who want formal training in search, recovery, and identification of compromised human head and neck remains, and recognition of human and non-human bite marks at autopsy.

Training for this intensive, three-semester, 33 credit-hour master of science degree involves searching scenes, recovery, identification, and processing of fresh, mutilated, and decomposed remains exposed to many post mortem environments, from surface scattered bones and clandestine burials to aquatic and thermal settings.

To learn more about this graduate program and its admission requirements, visit tiny.utk.edu/forensicOdontology.