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A day in the life of a forensic pathologist

The Heroines of Pathologist Assistance MS

Here are two very different women from very different times, who both had (and have, in the case of Nicole) a passion for all things pathology. However, the second lady here has been added to generate a discussion on how she is expressing her passion.

Myrtelle Canavan

Myrtelle May Moore Canavan (1879 – 1953) was an American physician and medical researcher. Canavan was one of the first female pathologists and is best known for publishing a description of Canavan disease in 1931.

Canavan studied at (Michigan) State Agricultural College (now Michigan State University), the University of Michigan Medical School, and Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania, where she received her M.D. in 1905.[2]

In 1905 she married Dr. James F. Canavan, and two years later she was appointed assistant bacteriologist at Danvers State Hospital in Massachusetts

This is where she met Elmer Ernest Southard, Bullard Professor of Neuropathology at Harvard Medical School, who encouraged her interest in neuropathology. 

In 1910, Canavan became resident pathologist at Boston State Hospital. In 1914, she was appointed pathologist to the Massachusetts Department of Mental Diseases. Canavan was also an instructor of neuropathology at the University of Vermont.

After Southard's death in 1920, Canavan became acting director of the laboratories of the Boston Psychopathic Hospital (which later became the Massachusetts Mental Health Center). 

From 1920 until her retirement in 1945, she was an associate professor of neuropathology at Boston University and curator of the Warren Anatomical Museum at Harvard Medical School. She added more than 1,500 specimens there and also improved record-keeping. 

However, her official title was "assistant curator", because of objections to a woman heading the museum, and she was never appointed to the Harvard faculty. Canavan died of Parkinson's disease in 1953.

Nicole Angemi

The pathologist assistant Nicole Angemi recently came under fire for posting hundreds of photographs from autopsies online, including pictures of dead fetuses.

Nearly half a million people follow Nicole Angemi's Instagram, which features images of mangled bodies, horrific injuries and other atrocities.

Most of the shocking photos were taken by Angemi without permission of the deceased relatives, which infuriated people online.

The graphic pictures - many too grisly to be published here - include an adult man having his face slowly torn off during an autopsy, a man who has been stabbed in the head and several miscarried and aborted babies.

Angemi works in a hospital in New Jersey, and claims she posts the pictures online to educate people.

But one person wrote online: “I'm all about bringing science to the public, but if I scrolled across a photo of my father's autopsy on your Instagram, or if my children scrolled across their mother's dead body, you better believe lawyers will be coming out.”

Another said: “When my mom died she donated her body to science. My biggest fear was that her body would be exploited and objectified. I am disgusted by what this woman is doing.” 

One shocked man commented: “What's controversial is the fact that she is posting medical photos of dead infants, dead people and specimens without any regard to the family.” 

Meanwhile, another said: “As a person who has seen a couple of autopsies in my medical school, which affected me a lot, I can't believe it that someone is able to be so detached from humanity to be able to do this for self-promotion.”

Others called for Angemi to be fired, saying she was breaching people's privacy.

The tattooed pathology assistant, who told Philly Mag that she only feels empathy for the dead person and their family for 'a second' before moving on, says she posts the pictures online to educate people. “To me, this is all about education. It's not about exploiting anybody. I just want to show women you're normal, this happens to everyone, it's totally normal,” she says.

Angemi has 491,000 followers on Instagram, but has had her profile deleted a few times because of the nature of her photographs.

She says some of her peers have told her the images are inappropriate and should only be viewed by medical professionals, not the public, Angemi says: “If someone wants to see what an autopsy looks like, why can't they have access to that?”

Women Are Pathologists

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drrobertedinger@gmail.comSkype: DrRobertEdinger

MClSc candidate, Pathologists' Assistant