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student on frontlines of covid-19 shows importance of lab science
in addition to attending class full time joseph vizzarri bms’21 also works as the deputy coroner for the delaware county office of the medical examiner. vizzarri credits usciences for amplifying his learning style to help him thrive professionally.
as the deputy coroner, vizzarri acts as the eyes and ears of the forensic pathologists when there is a death investigation. vizzarri then takes an initial “report of death,” and sometimes even has to visit the scene to conduct a more comprehensive investigation to determine potential causes of death.
“sometimes my investigation requires witness/first responder interviews, forensic photography, body examination, evidence collection, and further coordination with law enforcement,” said vizzarri. after the investigation is completed, vizzarri generates a report to provide to the forensic pathologists to aid in their process of determining the cause of death.
vizzarri explains that his coursework at usciences has prepared him to be more than successful at his job.
“usciences classes and my work have been able to efficiently compliment each other, ultimately enhancing my learning and performance in both fields,” he said. “it is not everyday that you have the opportunity to learn one thing in anatomy at 10am and by 2pm you’re looking at the same thing at work.”
the ability to learn in both a classroom environment and in the field is a fantastic opportunity that vizzarri states was made possible due to a professional interview assignment during his intro to health and medical professions course. this assignment led him into the doors of the delaware county medical examiner for the first time. not only did joseph complete the assignment, but he also got the internship.
when asked about covid-19 and the effects that the pandemic has had on vizzarri’s work, he explained that it has brought forward unprecedented experiences. “the covid-19 pandemic has definitely introduced some unique challenges to the way in which the functions of my job are performed,” said vizzarri.
the office of the medical examiner all deaths known or suspected to be due to a contagious disease constituting a public health hazard. because of this, joseph has been face to face with known covid-19 positive patients.
though the risk of infection is always there, vizzarri’s investigational work is essential to ensure an accurate record of death causes is kept. “these records ultimately become critical for tracking and statistical purposes on every level of public health,” he said. “not only does it provide numerical value when evaluating the impact covid-19 has had on the geographical region, but it allows for further analysis of components like demographics, socioeconomic status, and health prior to contraction. these records are just one piece to the puzzle in ensuring the safety and wellbeing of the residents of the county and the commonwealth.”
vizzarri decided to attend usciences because of the universities unparalleled commitment to the subject he wanted to pursue following high school, biomedical sciences. “usciences is well-established and dedicated specifically to the sciences, which was very attractive to me. living in a border suburb of philadelphia, i had a lot of choices when it came to schools, but the emphasis and magnification of science throughout the entire university made my choice a no brainer.”
upon graduation, vizzarri hopes to continue on his path to becoming a forensic pathologist. “whether it be in the face of long hours, tragic circumstances, or a global pandemic, the job i perform is much more than working with the dead,” he said. “even in death every person has something to teach us. each person at the center of every case i investigate is the story of a life and i am proud to help tell it. i hope to continue to provide a voice for the voiceless, no matter what capacity that might be.”
joseph’s work during the covid-19 pandemic as a medicolegal investigator is yet another example of how are students are #proveneverywhere.
categories: news, misher college of arts and sciences, department of biological sciences, biomedical sciences, students, career