Women’s History Month: AAFS Celebrates Patricia J. McFeeley, MD, 1999-2000 AAFS President

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Source: Nancy Jackson, AAFS Director of Development and Accreditation

This month, we recognize and honor the many achievements of the female American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) Past Presidents to celebrate National Women’s History Month. Of the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields, forensic science is the most subject diverse, encompassing all of the other fields within the various disciplines of forensic science. The first three AAFS Presidents were toxicologists and a forensic document examiner. We now highlight the fourth female AAFS President, who was also the first female forensic pathologist to hold this title.

Patricia J. McFeeley, MD

1999-2000 AAFS President

Patricia J. “Patty” McFeeley holds an MD from the University of New Mexico (UNM) School of Medicine where she completed her residency in Pathology in 1972-73. She then completed her residency in Pediatric Pathology at Denver Children’s Hospital in 1973-74 and her Forensic Pathology Fellowship at the UNM School of Medicine in 1976-77.

Dr. McFeeley retired as Assistant Chief Medical Investigator after more than 30 years with the Office of the Medical Investigator (OMI) at the UNM School of Medicine, where she is Professor Emeritus of Pathology. Her tenure at the OMI resulted in New Mexico’s OMI being among the best medical examiner’s offices in the country. She is widely regarded as eminently gracious, one of the best in her field, and an effective consensus builder.

In 1979, Dr. McFeeley was elected into Academy membership during the presidency of June K. Jones, the first female president, and, in 1999, Dr. McFeeley became the fourth female president of the AAFS. She has served on several committees, including the Awards Committee, the Nominating Committee, the Membership Committee, the Editorial Board of the Journal of Forensic Sciences, the Executive Committee, and as a trustee of the Forensic Sciences Foundation Board of Trustees from 1992 to 2000. In 2011, she received the Distinguished Fellow Award.

Dr. McFeeley’s longtime service and teaching interests include pediatric pathology, specifically child abuse and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). She participated in the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Cooperative Epidemiological Study of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Risk Factors in 1980 and has continued this effort by speaking nationally and internationally on the investigation, diagnosis, and risk factors of SIDS. Dr. McFeeley was active in the establishment and growth of the child fatality review system and maternal death review teams in New Mexico, serving as co-leader of the Child Fatality Review (CFR).

Dr. McFeeley’s research also included elder abuse and neglect issues. Her invited presentation, in collaboration with a Department of Justice attorney and an academic geriatrician to the National Academy of Science Committee on Elder Abuse and Neglect, resulted in a chapter in the book Elder Mistreatment:  Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation in an Aging America published by The National Academies Press in 2002. Dr. McFeeley has been nationally active in raising the consciousness of the medical (especially the medical examiner/coroner) communities concerning this issue. She was a co-investigator in a grant funded by the United States Department of Justice to investigate the role of forensic science in the identification and future prevention of mistreatment deaths in long-term care facilities.

Dr. McFeeley has contributed to the research endeavor at the OMI and UNM as a collaborator. She was closely involved in the initial identification and description of the pathologic features of Hanta Virus Pulmonary Syndrome and was an essential collaborator in a large National Institutes of Health/Department of Health and Human Services (NIH/DHHS) grant studying breast cancer epidemiology in New Mexico Hispanics.