LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — It’s the first program of its kind in Nevada as the Clark County Coroner’s office teamed up with UNLV to begin a forensic fellowship program.

The approval process for the program took more than a year to complete as the national accreditation will help fill an important void in the medical field.

The Clark County Medical Coroner Melanie Rouse is part of a 24-hour staff working to identify loved ones.

A job in the coroner’s office can be tough, with the need to pay attention to the fine details.

“We really have the ability to ensure that we’re writing the last chapter of somebody’s life and we’re providing closure back to families,” Rouse told 8 News Now.

She is the only coroner in Clark County and one of over 70 staff members that will help train graduate students studying forensic pathology.

With only 500 forensic pathologists actively working in the United States, at least 100 vacancies still need to be filled nationwide.

“You have many that are entering into the retirement age so that creates some challenges and the position in itself wasn’t well supported in other areas of the country,” Rouse added.

A new fellowship program with the Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine at UNLV along with the coroner’s office is working to bridge that gap.

“Having graduated here myself, there was only a handful of programs available at the time,” Dr. Kate Martin said. “I’m just thrilled to see more of these programs being offered and that I can actually be a part of that is incredible.”

Dr. Kate Martin, the associate dean for graduate medical education at Kirk Kerkorian said the goal is to have two students.

“Fellowships in general tend to be on the smaller side, residency programs are generally larger so two trainees, two graduates a year will certainly add up over time,” added Dr. Martin.

This program will do more than just fill the nationwide shortage but will help us locally.

“We want to provide these training opportunities so we not only recruit the best and brightest but also retain them here to take care of the community,” Dr. Martin stated.

The program is year-long and is for medical students entering their fifth year of residency. The first student is expected to begin training in July 2024.