Veterinary forensic pathologist joins faculty, adding unique skill set to program

Dr. Adam Stern

Dr. Adam Stern

In August, the UF College of Veterinary Medicine welcomed Dr. Adam Stern, a veterinary forensic pathologist, to its faculty, strengthening an already unique program and creating new opportunities for internal and external collaborations. Stern shared more about his background, reasons for coming to UF and what he hopes to achieve here in his new role in this Q and A with The Veterinary Page.

VP: Welcome to UF, Dr. Stern! Why don’t we start with your telling us how you happened to join the UF College of Veterinary Medicine faculty and what most attracted you about our programs.

AS: The veterinary forensics program at UF is really unique. There is already good collaboration between the College of Medicine, with its Maples Center for Forensic Medicine, and the College of Veterinary Medicine, and the administration within Vet Med sees the importance of advancing this field. That importance is not limited to assisting in forensic cases; it also includes teaching students about forensics in the classroom and advancing veterinary forensic research.

The position I have here is also unique, as to my knowledge, a similar position does not exist in any other vet school in North America. At UF, I will be able to apply my skills to help work up forensic cases. At my previous institution, I was heavily involved in forensic cases, but there was no other faculty member to allow for collaborative efforts.

VP: Could you tell us more about your background, and how you developed your interest in forensics?

AS: I received my D.V.M. from the University of Prince Edward Island and completed my anatomic pathology residency training at Oklahoma State University. I was exposed to very few animal abuse cases at OSU, but did see the need for pathologist involvement. The cases intrigued me, probably because of the “mystery” aspect of each case.  From there, I went on to Illinois, where I started a forensic pathology service and taught vet students about forensics.

VP: What are some of the more interesting cases that you have been involved in?

AS: Fire cases are quite interesting. Not only do you have to figure out, was the animal alive or deceased when the fire was burning, but there is also the added component of, was the fire an accident or intentional. Working with the fire investigators is very interesting, as several investigators thought it was quite cool to work up the animal side. Usually they are just involved with the human victims.

Some of the more memorable cases involve situations where there is very close contact between the suspect and the victim. It is with these cases that there can be transfer of trace evidence, such as blood or hair, both of which contain DNA, from victim to suspect and vice versa. In these types of cases, there is significant collaboration between the pathologist, law enforcement and DNA analysts. When DNA is recovered and these samples match each other, it is rewarding for all parties involved.

VP: How do you hope to contribute to the forensics program as a whole, and who do you feel will be your major collaborators here at the college and outside of UF?

AS: For starters, the plan is to start a forensic necropsy service at UF sometime this fall. This will be of significant value for law enforcement in Florida and surrounding states. I’m just settling in on campus, so have not met with many collaborators as of yet. Dr. Jason Byrd, an associate professor in the UF department of pathology, immunology and laboratory medicine and associate director of the William R. Maples Center for Forensic Medicine at the College of Medicine, will be a collaborator here at UF. We are starting a project involving forensic photography with the Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner’s office. We are also looking to improve photo documentation of cases involving gunshot injuries.

Another area of research will involve determination of the time of death of an animal. Time of death is estimated by a number of modalities such as temperature-based methods and entomology. I’m beginning to evaluate several nontraditional methods for determination of time since death. Time of death is an important question that might need to be answered during a forensic investigation and the more ways an investigator has to estimate this time the better.

VP: Is there anything else I haven’t asked you that you’d like to share about yourself and/or your professional goals?

AS: I want to add to the material we teach to the UF vet med students about veterinary forensics. This can be through lectures and/or wet labs. It would be nice to form a student forensic club as well.

I would also like for investigators and veterinarians to know that I am available for consultation if the need arises.

Editor’s Note: More information will soon be available at


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