President’s Message—December 2019

Source: Zeno Geradts, PhD, AAFS President

The 72nd AAFS Annual Scientific Meeting is approaching, so now is the time to book hotels, flights, and, of course, register for those special sessions that fill up quickly. We have 26 workshops, 6 breakfast seminars, and 2 luncheon seminars on a wide variety of interesting topics, as well as more than 1,000 abstracts accepted for Scientific Sessions. I thank all the Program Committee chairs, members, contributors, and staff for their hard work to make this meeting possible in Anaheim, CA. The pre-registration deadline is January 20, 2020, and by registering early, you can benefit from the significant savings.

The meeting theme is Crossing Borders, focusing on the following topics: International, Interdisciplinary, Inclusion, Intelligence, Innovation, and Integrity. Many of these topics have been incorporated into the presentations. Strengthening forensic science by research remains important due to the rapid changes in society and technology, and we need to learn from our experiences.

The Plenary Session will feature John Fudenburg, who will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the Clark County Coroner/Medical Examiner’s Office during the handling of the worst mass shooting in modern United States history. An emphasis will be placed on the interdisciplinary efforts of the different agencies involved and the various deployment areas necessary during a mass fatality incident. Specific attention will be given to the Family Assistance Center and the on-going mental health/wellness of responders. Thomas Callaghan will provide an overview of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI’s) Next Generation Identification and Facial Recognition Programs, along with the FBI’s Rapid DNA expansion of the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) into the booking station. Dave Reichert will share his observations on human trafficking from the perspective of a 34-year career officer who gathered intelligence as the lead investigator in the Green River Serial Killer case, ultimately bringing justice to the families of the 49 confirmed victims. The program will conclude with a shared learning opportunity for the attendees and speakers.

At the mid-year meeting of the Executive Committee in August, many decisions were made, and I thank the Board of Directors (BOD) for approving those. The BOD approved the Awards Committee recommendations that Betty Layne DesPortes (Jurisprudence) and Iain Pretty (Odontology) will receive the Distinguished Fellow Award at the 2020 Annual Business Meeting and that Christophe Champod will receive the Lucas Medallion at the 2020 IAFS Triennial Meeting in Sydney, Australia. The BOD approved the Humanitarian and Human Rights Advisory Council’s nomination of Duarte Vieira to receive the AAFS HHRRC Clyde Snow Award at the 2020 Annual Business Meeting. The BOD agreed upon the opioid advocacy planks. Past President Dan Martell presented the Cuban Society of Legal Medicine’s request to be included as an AAFS Association Academy, which was unanimously approved. Our Consortium of Forensic Science Organizations (CSFO) representative and Past President Ken Melson, together with many others, worked on efforts for additional funding for forensic science. The testimony on behalf of the AAFS and CSFO from Matthew Gamette before the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology in September, Raising the Bar: Needs in Forensic Science, informed the House on the rising needs in forensic science.

The American Academy of Forensic Sciences Humanitarian and Human Rights Resource Center (HHRRC), funded in part by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) and chaired by Past President Doug Ubelaker, received $50,000 to promote the application of contemporary forensic science and forensic medicine principles to global humanitarian and/or human rights projects requiring special assistance. At the humanitarian forensic action program in Portugal in November, I represented the AAFS and there was much interest in the activities of the Center and the AAFS, as well as using digital and big data techniques for assisting investigations on missing persons.

Our digital communication is important; many of the documents that the BOD approves are online and I am happy that the new AAFS website should help to bring us into 2020 with a state-of-the-art website, providing easier navigation and extending the outreach of the AAFS to the world.