Dr. Jennifer Hammers

As a medical examiner for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Commonwealth of Massachusetts in Boston, I am responsible for all aspects of the medico-legal autopsy, including performance of the autopsy, interpretation of toxicology results, examination of investigative findings and the ultimate determination of the cause and manner of death. As part of the autopsy examination, all cases have a complete neuropathology examination.  I obtained an extra year of training specifically in the field of neuropathology following my forensic pathology fellowship in New York City, where I was offered a second fellowship year specifically examining brains and hearts from particularly difficult and complex medico-legal autopsies as part of the consult service for the five borough offices. In my daily interaction with students rotating through the medical examiner’s office and as a thesis reviewer and lecturer, I demonstrate the autopsy examination with a detailed interpretation of findings surrounding each case. This often includes a detailed neuropathology examination.

My involvement in the study of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE ) began while I was still a pathology resident. I worked with the Brain Injury Research Institute (BIRI) to contact families and obtain consent to study brain tissues in persons with past repetitive mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI). These cases included amateur and professional athletes. Currently, as a member of the board with (BIRI), we have expanded the focus of our research to include military personnel.  My role with BIRI has expanded over time from obtaining informed consent to speaking with medical examiners/coroners on potential cases and participating in gross examination of brain tissues, microscopic interpretation of histologic sections and immunohistochemical (IHC) staining and interpretation of genetic testing. Additionally, I have designed and maintained the BIRI database for the group’s work on CTE. The database contains an up-to-date listing of living and decedent participants and pertinent information, including but not limited to: personal and health information, information specific to the study and next-of-kin, physician and medical examiner/coroner contact information.

As participating faculty in this project, my educational training and professional experience has prepared me to participate in all aspects of the post mortem collection and examination of brain tissues as well as interpretation of genetic testing results and the subsequent communication and explanation of the results to both the family and the medical examiner/coroner, who may find these results of importance in determining the cause and manner of death.