What a great crowd we had this past Saturday at the Franklin Marriott Hotel when the University of Tennessee and University of Alabama joined forces for a lecture entitled From the Body Farm to 9-11: New Advances in Forensic Human Identification. We had almost two hundred in attendance, which is no small miracle given the fact that it was a perfect conflict with a college football Saturday afternoon! We were fortunate to have an equal representation of people from Alabama and Tennessee. Realizing that these two schools have met on the third Saturday of October since the beginning of time (well, since the beginning of football anyway!), we all felt good to see such a healthy crowd. We had representatives from medical examiner’s offices, crime scene investigators, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, law enforcement agencies, dentists, dental auxiliaries, and interested citizens. It was a great cross section of individuals.
We were also happy to celebrate the announcement of a new post graduate program at the College of Graduate Medicine at the University of Tennessee’s Body Farm! What a perfect place to have the program. We were able to introduce our first resident/fellow, Dr. Paige Smalley, from Rome, Georgia, who began the newly launched program just the first of September. Places exist for future expansion into a master’s degree program, the first of its kind in the U.S.
I acted as moderator of our three person team of forensic speakers, beginning our day with an introduction and overview of the basics of human dental identification, how it is done, and when it is used. Dr. Bass followed with interesting cases he has conducted over the years, along with a historical perspective of the creation of the world famous Body Farm dating back to the mid/early ‘70’s. I continued the afternoon discussion with a lecture on Ted Bundy and his contribution to the science of human bite mark analysis. We also presented the first bite mark ever used in a court of law in the state of Tennessee.
Dr. Dick Weems, recently retired professor of radiology at the UAB College of Dentistry, gave an interesting and heart touching lecture of his experiences working to identify the bodies from the North and South towers of the World Trade Center. At 4:00pm on Saturday, the conference room was still filled to capacity, attesting to the interest levels from the course attendees at this captivating lecture.
The three of us, as well as Dr. Murray Marks, forensic anthropologist, compose the faculty of the newly constructed department of human identification at UTK. The only problem we now have is trying to figure out a way to convert Dr. Weems from a Crimson Tide to Rocky Top :) Until then, we will continue to have a work in progress!!!
A special thanks goes out to Tresia Henderson for photos of our project! Tresia not only got lots of good shots during the program but she also shot the back cover of our first book, Walk of Death.